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In the beginning was Yawning Gap: to one side of it was the Place of Fog and Mist; to the other side was the Place of Fire. Ginnunga Gap, Niflheim, Muspellsheim--these were in the beginning. Yawning Gap filled up with chill streams flowing from the Place of Fog and Mist; the heat from the Place of Fire turned the chill streams into mist; out of the mist was formed two beings--Ymir the ancient Giant, and the cow Audhumla.
Ymir stayed by Audhumla and drank her milk. Giants and Giantesses came from his feet; the race of Giants multiplied. Then another race appeared. One day Ymir saw Audhumla breathe upon a cliff of ice and lick with her tongue the place she breathed on. As her tongue went over and over the place the Giant saw that a figure was being formed. It was not like a Giant's form; it was more shapely. A head appeared in the cliff and golden hair fell over the ice. As Ymir looked upon the being that was being formed he hated him for his beauty.
Audhumla, the giant cow, went on licking the place where she had breathed. At last a man completely formed stepped from the cliff. Ymir, the ancient Giant, hated him so much that he would have slain him then and there. But he knew that if he did this Audhumla would feed him no more on her milk.
Buri was the name of the one who was formed in the ice-cliff. Buri, married to one of the Giantesses, had a son. His son, Bur, married to Bestla, daughter of the Giant Bolthorn, had three sons: they were the first of the Aesir, the first of the Gods.
Their names were Oithin, Hönir, and Lothur. For a time they lived in peace with Ymir and his children. Then as the children of Bur multiplied and the children of Ymir multiplied there was war between them. The ancient Giant was slain. So huge was Ymir that his blood when he was slain poured out in such mighty flood that his sons
were all drowned in it, all except the Giant Bergelmir. He was in a boat with his wife when the flood came; they floated away on the flood to the place that came to be called Jotunheim; from them the race of Giants came, and in that place the race of Giants lived.
Now Oithin and his brothers and his sons took the body of Ymir--the vastest body that ever was--and they flung it into Yawning Gap, filling up the great chasm with it. They dug the bones out of the body and they piled them up into mountains; they took the teeth out and they made them into rocks; they took the hair of Ymir and they made it into grasses and forests of trees; out of his hollow skull they made the sky.
Oithin with his brothers and sons did more than this. They took the sparks and the clouds of flame that blew from Muspellsheim and they made them into the sun and moon and all the stars that are in the sky. The sun and the moon were drawn by horses: the sun by Arvak and Alsvith, the Early-waking One and the Fleet One. When Oithin lighted up the world with the sun and the moon, the Giants who were born of Bergelmir and his wife were very wroth: they found two of the fleetest and fiercest of the mighty wolves of Jotunheim, and they set them to follow Sol and Mani, the sun and the moon. And ever afterwards Sol and Mani were pursued by the wolves out of Jotunheim, the place of the Giants.
Oithin, Hönir, and Lothur then made the race of men: Ask and Embla were the names of the first pair made; the Gods made them out of the ash and the elm-tree. Oithin gave them soul and motion, Hönir gave them sense and feeling, Lothur gave them warmth and colour. The Gods made a world for themselves and a world for men. Asgarth was the name of the world they made for themselves; Mithgarth was the name of the world they made for men. And, lest the Giants should come out of Jotunheim and destroy Mithgarth, the Gods set as a fence around it an eyebrow of Ymir's. Out of the flesh of Ymir Dwarfs had come. The Gods made a world for them also: Svartalfaheim, a world that is under Mithgarth.
There was a tree that spread its branches through all the worlds and that had its roots in three of the worlds. That tree was named Yggdrasil. One of its roots was in Asgarth, one was in Jotunheim, and one was in Niflheim that was the World of the Dead. The root that was
in Niflheim was beside a well. Therein was the dreadful serpent, Nithogg: Nithogg gnawed for ever at the root of the World Tree, wanting to destroy it. And Ratatosk, the squirrel, ran up and down Yggdrasil making trouble between the eagle that was at the top of the tree and the serpent that was below. He went to tell the serpent how the eagle was bent upon tearing him to pieces, and he went back to tell the eagle how the serpent planned to devour him. Beside the root of the tree in Jotunheim was a well guarded by old Mimir the Wise. Whoever drank out of this well would know all of the things that are to come to pass. And beside the root that was in Asgarth was another well: the three sisters who are the Norns guarded it, and their names were Urth, Verthandi, and Skuld--Past, Present, and Future; they took the water of the well and watered Yggdrasil with it that the Tree of the World might be kept green and strong. This well was called Urda's well. Two swans were on the water of it; they made music that the Dwellers in Asgarth often heard. On the branches of the tree four stags grazed; they shook from their horns the water that fell as rain in Mithgarth. And on the topmost branch of Yggdrasil, the branch that was so high that the Gods themselves could hardly see it, was perched the eagle that the serpent was made to fear. Upon the beak of the eagle a hawk perched, a hawk that saw what the eyes of the eagle could not see.
In Asgarth there were many halls: there was the one that was called Glathsheim, built by the golden-leaved wood, Glasir: here Oithin and the twelve who were his peers had their high seats, and here the banquets of the Gods were held. Here Oithin, the Father of Gods and men, would seat himself, a blue mantle upon him, and a shining helmet shaped like an eagle upon his head. He would sit there, not eating at all, but drinking the wine of the Gods, and taking food from the table which he gave to Geri and Freki, the two wolves that crouched beside his seat. Then there was Vingolf, which had high seats for Frigg, the wife of Oithin, and the Goddesses. There was the hall Heithskjolf, that was roofed all over with silver: from it Oithin could look out upon all the worlds. There was Fensalir, where Frigg sat spinning with golden threads; there was Breithablik, where Baldr the Well-beloved lived with his fair wife, the young Nanna; there was Bilskirnir, where Thor and his wife, Sif, lived. And there was the hall in which
those who were heroes amongst men lived and feasted when they had come to Oithin after their deaths in battle: that hall was named Valhall.
Between Asgarth and Mithgarth there was a bridge that was called Bifrost, or Rainbow. It was the strongest and the most lovely of bridges. Upon it was a ruddy gleam that came from the light of a fire that burned always to prevent the Giants from crossing it. Bifrost was to break when the Giants made their way across it and the battle ensued that was to end all things. Heimdal guarded the bridge. He never slept; he was able to hear the grass growing on the ground and the wool of sheep growing upon their backs. He had golden teeth. He could see before him or around him, night or day, for hundred of miles. His dwelling was called Himinbjorg, the Mount of Heaven. One day he would take up the horn that was under the root of Yggdrasil--the Gjallar-horn--and blow upon it. And the sound of the horn would tell the Gods and the Heroes that the Giants were crossing Bifrost and the battle between the Gods and the Giants--the battle that would mean the end of all things--was beginning.
The Aesir had settled in Asgarth and had prevented the Giants destroying Asgarth and Mithgarth. Other foes assailed them. The Wanes came against them and destroyed their seats. Oithin made peace with the Wanes. He gave hostages to them and took hostages from them: Hönir he gave to the Wanes; Njorth he took from them as a hostage. Then there was peace between the Aesir and the Wanes: they joined together; together they opposed the Giants.