Young Folks' Treasury: Myths and Legendary Heroes HTML version

The Apples Of Idun
Once upon a time Odin, Loki, and Hoenir started on a journey. They had often traveled
together before on all sorts of errands, for they had a great many things to look [pg 81] after,
and more than once they had fallen into trouble through the prying, meddlesome,
malicious spirit of Loki, who was never so happy as when he was doing wrong. When the
gods went on a journey they traveled fast and hard, for they were strong, active spirits
who loved nothing so much as hard work, hard blows, storm, peril, and struggle. There
were no roads through the country over which they made their way, only high mountains
to be climbed by rocky paths, deep valleys into which the sun hardly looked during half
the year, and swift-rushing streams, cold as ice, and treacherous to the surest foot and the
strongest arm. Not a bird flew through the air, not an animal sprang through the trees. It
was as still as a desert. The gods walked on and on, getting more tired and hungry at
every step. The sun was sinking low over the steep, pine-crested mountains, and the
travelers had neither breakfasted nor dined. Even Odin was beginning to feel the pangs of
hunger, like the most ordinary mortal, when suddenly, entering a little valley, the
famished gods came upon a herd of cattle. It was the work of a minute to kill a great ox
and to have the carcass swinging in a huge pot over a roaring fire.
But never were gods so unlucky before! In spite of their hunger, the pot would not boil.
They piled on the wood until the great flames crackled and licked the pot with their fiery
tongues, but every time the cover was lifted there was the meat just as raw as when it was
put in. It is easy to imagine that the travelers were not in very good humor. As they were
talking about it, and wondering how it could be, a voice called out from the branches of
the oak overhead, "If you will give me my fill, I'll make the pot boil."
The gods looked first at each other and then into the tree, and there they discovered a
great eagle. They were glad enough to get their supper on almost any terms, so they told
the eagle he might have what he wanted if he would only get the meat cooked. The bird
was as good as his word, and in less time than it takes to tell it supper was ready. Then
the eagle flew down and picked out both shoulders and both legs. This was a pretty large
share, it must be confessed, and Loki, who was always angry when anybody got more
than he, no sooner saw [pg 82] what the eagle had taken, than he seized a great pole and began
to beat the rapacious bird unmercifully. Whereupon a very singular thing happened, as
singular things always used to happen when the gods were concerned: the pole stuck fast
in the huge talons of the eagle at one end, and Loki stuck fast at the other end. Struggle as
he might, he could not get loose, and as the great bird sailed away over the tops of the
trees, Loki went pounding along on the ground, striking against rocks and branches until
he was bruised half to death.
The eagle was not an ordinary bird by any means, as Loki soon found when he begged
for mercy. The giant Thjasse happened to be flying abroad in his eagle plumage when the
hungry travelers came under the oak and tried to cook the ox. It was into his hands that