The old norse myth involving Freyja and dwarves. Following is a discussion of its meanings
|This is a commonly known norse myth. Mostly taken from Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, I have used a few other sources in my discussion later. I claim no ownership over the myth itself, as this is an ancient legend which can't be owned. I was merely a translator from one of the original texts.
The Necklace of the Brisings
The night was almost over; the sky was green and grey in the east, and snowflakes were ghosting around Asgard.
Loki and only Loki saw Freyja leave Sessrumnir. Her cats slept undisturbed by the hearth; her chariot lay unused; in the half light she set off on foot towards Bifrost. Then the Sly One's mind was riddled with curiosity; he wrapped his cloak around him and followed her.
The goddess seemed not to walk so much as drift over the found. She glided through sleeping Asgard, her hips swaying as she made her way over the rainbow that trembled and danced around her.
The snow veils of Midgard beneath were dazzling in the rising sun. Dreaming of gold, lusting after gold, Freyja cossed a barren plain (and Loki hurried behind her). She picked her way across a twisting river, silenced by ice; she passed the base of a great glacier, chopped and bluish and dangerous; and at the end of the short hours of daylight she game to a group of huge rounded boulders, jostling under the shoulder of an overhanging cliff.
Freyja found the string-thin path that led in and down. Her eyes streamed from the cold and her tears fell as a small shower of gold in from of her. The path became a passage between rock and rock and she followed it until it led into a large and dange cavern. There the goddess stood motionless; she could hear water dripping into the rock pools and the movement of a small stream coursing over rock; she listened again and then she heard the sound of distant tapping, and her own heart began to beat faster, to hammer with longing.
The goddess sidled through the dismal cave. The sound of the tapping, insistent yet fitful, grew stronger and stronger. Freyja stopped, listened again, moved on; at last she stopped, eased her way down a narrow groin, and stepped into the sweltering smithy of the four dwarfs, Alfigg and Dvalin, Berling and Grerr.
For a moment Freyja was dazzled by the brilliance of the furnace. She rubbed her eyes, and then she gasped as she saw the breathtaking work of the dwarfs -- a necklace, a choker of gold incised with wondrous patterns, a marvel of fluid metal twisting and weaving and writhing. She had never seen anything so beautiful nor so desired anything before.
The four dwarves, meanwhile, stared at the goddess -- she shimmered in the warm light of the forge. Where her cloak had fallen apart, the gold brooches and jewels on her dress gleamed and winked. They had never seen anyone so beautiful no so desired anyone before.
Freyja smiled at Alfrigg and Dvalin and Berling and Grerr. "I will buy that necklave from you," she said.
The four dwarves looked at each other. Three shook their heads and the fourth said, "It's not for sale."
"I want it," said Freyja.
The dwarves grimaced.
"I want it. I'll pay you with silver and gold -- a fair price and more than a fair price," said Freyja, her voice rising. She moved closer to the bench were the necklace was lying. "I'll bring you other rewards."
"We have enough silver," said one dwarf.
"And we have enough gold," said another.
Freyja gazed at the necklace. She felt a great longing for it, a painful hunger.
Alfrigg and Dvalin and Berling and Grerr huddled in one corner of the forge. They whispered and murmured and nodded.
"What is your price?" asked the goddess.
"It belongs to us all," said one dwarf.
"So what each has must be had by the others," said the second, leering.
"There's only one price," said the third, "that will satisy us."
The fourth dwarf looked at Freyja. "You," he said.
The goddess flushed, and her breast began to rise and fall.
"Only if you will lie one night with each of us will this necklace ever lie round your throat." said the dwarves.
Freyja's distaste for the dwarves -- their ugly faves, their pale noses, their misshapen bodies and their small greedy eyes -- was great, but her desire for the necklace was greater. Four nights were but four nights; the glorious necklace would adorn her for all time. The walls of the forge were red and flickering; the dwarves' eyes were motionless.
"As you wish," murmered Freyja shamelessly. "As you wish. I am in your hands."
Four days passed; four nights passed. Freyja kept her part of the bargain. Then the dwarves, too, kept their word. They presented the necklave to Freyja and jostled her and fastened it round her throat. The goddess hurried out of the cavern and across the bright plains of Midgard, and her shadow followed her. She crossed Bifrost and returned in the darkness to Sessrumnir. And under her cloak, she wore the necklace of the Brisings.
Close of the non-original text.
The story continues with the antics of Loki, the Sly One, and Odin's jealously of the dwarves. What I gave this myth for was some background on the Brisings necklace. Many people have discussed where the necklace came from, and what it's meaning is. For that matter, were it could have aquired the name "Brisings". The necklace is called the brisingamen. It is contested whether the word Brisings comes from a tribe or family, or if it comes from the Old Norse word brisingr, meaning fire, used to discribe the brilliance of the ornament. Most scholars contend that it is indeed a necklace, although the word men in Old Norse could refer to either a necklace or a belt. A reference to the "Brosinga mene" in the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, quite clearly states a necklace. On the other hand, in Greek mythology, Aphrodite, Freyja's parallel goddess, recieves a belt from her husband Hepheastus, a mishappen god much like the norse dwarves. He was the god of the smith and created the belt to make Aphrodite even more appealing, just like the necklace did for Freyja. It seems likely that there is a connection of these two myths, possibly resulting from a more ancient previous myth, which sprouted both stories. The refrence in the poem Beowulf may actually have the norse myth at it's source, where the O.N. word men was interpreted as as a necklace. Current day scholars have recognized the connection between the Beowulf reference and the norse myth, but have tended to say that the myth was formed after that reference. It is also stated that, while never recorded specifically before Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, it's mentioned in earlier works, also questionable whether it referrs to a necklace or a belt. For instance, the tenth-century poet Ulf Uggason has one stanza mentioning the Brisings ornament in his poem Husdrapa;
Quick in counsel, Bifrost's
keeper strives with the wonderous
subtle son of Laufey
at Singastein, for the necklace:
wins the son of eight and
one mothers the brising' -
neckring: known I make it
now to you in the poem.
Once again, the mention of the brising' neckring is unclear as to the exact type of ornament it is.
I'd be happy if anyone could offer suggestions or other comments on this work. I've looked extensively for any other scholars to draw the connection between Freyja and Aphrodite in this myth, though many have seen the simularities between the two goddesses and their representations. I look forwards to any input you have!