Myth Embodiment: The Marriage of Njord and Skadi

The Marriage of Njord and Skadi occurs in the Skáldskaparmál, in the second part of the Prose Edda, which includes many other myths. This myth follows the Theft of Idunn’s Apples, so It is helpful to be able to go back and discuss the events from that myth, as they trigger much of the action that occurs later in the marriage of Njord and Skadi. (You can find a full translation of Skáldskaparmál, from the Prose Edda, here.) A good modern retelling of the Theft of Idun’s Apples can be found here.

Here’s a summary of the Theft of Idunn (or, The Theft of Idunna’s Apples):

Odin, Loki and Hœnir were out journeying. Hungry, they came across a herd of oxen, killed one, and started cooking it. However, it refused to cook. The jotun Thjazi, disguised as an eagle, offered to help make the fire cook properly if they left him have some of the ox as well. They agreed. The food was finally cooked and Thjazi flew down and started devouring the ox. Realizing that the eagle would eat the their entire meal, Loki hit it with a staff. The staff stuck to the eagle and to Loki’s hand, and the jotun flew back toward Jotunheim, dragging Loki behind him and bumping him on trees and boulders as he went. Loki realized he had been tricked and offered to do whatever Thjazi required of him. Thjazi tasked him with going back to Asgard and stealing Idunn and her apples of Immortality  for him.

Loki went back to Asgard with Odin and Hoenir. He lured Idun out of Asgard with tales of a new kind of apple tree, and Thjazi, in eagle form, swooped down and carried her off. Eventually the gods began to age, and they noticed that Idun and her apples of immortality are missing. When they found out that Loki was the last one who was seen with Idun, they threatened him with bodily harm until he agreed to get her back. Loki borrowed Freya’s falcon cloak and flew to Jotunheim. He found Idun, changed her into a walnut, and flew back with her, with Thjazi hot on his heels. As Loki flew back into Asgard, the rest of the Aesir sent up a huge fire wall, which Thjazi then flew into and died.

This is the point where The Marriage of Njord and Skadi picks up. Their story runs as follows:

Skadi, an accomplished hunter, learns that her father, Thjazi, has been killed by the Aesir. She packs up her weapons and storms up to Asgard’s walls, demanding retribution. The gods offer Skadi her choice of the hand in marriage of any of the Aesir present. She agrees to this but also demands that one of them must make her laugh. None succeed at this until Loki ties his balls to the beard of a nanny goat and hilarity ensues. At that point, even Skadi has to laugh.

However, the gods put a restriction on how Skadi was to chose her husband. She was only allowed to see his feet. She chooses the whitest, brightest feet, assuming that those feet must belong to Baldur, Odin and Frigga’s son and Asgard’s shining glory. Instead, she ended up with Njord, god of the sea and commerce, father of Freyr and Freya. They first went to live at her father’s home in Jotunheim. However, the howling of the wolves and the wind were too loud for Njord to sleep, and after nine nights they left. Next they went to his home at Noatun, but Skadi could not sleep there for the crying of the seagulls, and flashing of the sun on the waves irritated her. They parted amicably, and agreed to live separately, each at his or her own hall, and to visit regularly.

(It’s worth noting that in the the Wooing of Gerd, Skadi considers Herself Freyr’s stepmother and She is the one in that myth who tasks Skirnir with finding out why Freyr has fallen into a deep depression.)

Possible points of discussion:

Did Skadi have the right to demand weregild for her father’s death? The Aesir seem to think so.

What was Skadi’s relationship with her father? Did she have roles and land of her own or just that of her father?

Why did the Aesir offer a compromise instead of attempting to defeat Skadi?

Why did she want Baldur? And is there some kind of symbolic meaning to the fact that she had to choose her new husband by his feet?

What were the Gods thinking as she examined their feet? Excited at the prospect of being married to a strong jotun woman, or freaked out?

What would have happened if she ended up choosing a different God? Say, Thor?

What else drove Skadi and Njord apart? What do Freyr and Freya think of their new stepmother?

 

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