The Myth Behind the Gard: Rider of Edda, and the Giant's Stairway

Edda is not a location but the name of two manuscripts that are the primary sources of Norse Mythology: The Prose Edda and Poetic Edda.

Within these texts, wolves are often depicted as steeds for magical beings like witches, giants and trolls. In the Poetic Edda, Freya and the giantess Hyndla ride wolves on their journey to Valhalla. While the Eddas normally depict Valkyries as riding horses or swans, the Rök Runestone from the archaeological record depicts Valkyries riding wolves.

Wolves have a variety of depictions in Norse mythology, from monsters like Fenrir to more benevolent ones as Odin's companions Geri and Freki. Fenrir is one of Loki's children and is foretold to consume and kill Odin during Ragnarok. Fenrir also meets his fate during Ragnarok when Tyr punches Fenrir down his throat, choking him but also sacrificing his hand in the desperate maneuver.

Odin's wolves, Geri and Freki, both are synonyms for 'ravenous' and/or 'greedy'. Odin is said not to eat food and survive on wine alone, so any food from his table is thrown to Geri and Freki to consume. Accompanied by two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, it is theorized that Odin employs these animals as part of a symbiotic relationship. Being depicted as one-eyed, forgetful, and uninformed; the two ravens, who traveled the world and returned to Odin to report information and secrets, shored up this shortcoming. Geri and Freki conversely represent a grounding of primal and warrior culture, as the global spread of the Viking diaspora later in history gave way to more agricultural and mercantile means sustenance over the stereotypical warrior culture that is most often romanticized in present-day depictions.

Jotunheim is the land inhabited by giants, or Jotun. It is separated from Asgard by a river called Ifingr. Many struggles between the gods of Asgard and the giants, also known as Jotun, take place at Jotunheim; from the kidnapping if Bragi's wife Idun, to Odin's loss of his eye, as well as Thor's battle with several giants.

Jotunheim separates Asgard and midgard via a giant wall, which symbolically represents the separation of 'civilization' in Asgard and the 'Wilderness' in Jotunheim. As such, Jotunheim is depicted as a forested mountainous region that is locked in a state of perpetual winter.

A part of the Scandinavian Mountain range called Jotunheimen is located in Norway and was named so in the 1860's as direct inspiration from the Jotunheim of Norse Mythology. Home to all of the highest mountain peaks in Norway, it is a popular destination for hikers and mountain climbers.

Geologically, Jotunheimen was originally  composed of a massive plateau of rock that eroded away leaving the mountainous structures that remain today. The pattern of erosion on the layers of rock in some areas of the mountain range leave a natural staggering that takes on the appearance of steps. There are also both wooden and stone man-made stairways that are famous for their length in the preserve as well.


Bragi Finds his Muse Part 9: Rider in the Storm

The bite of the eternal winter swirling at the foot of Jotunheim felt marginally diminished at the side of the mysterious wolf rider. The relatively calm winds  surrounding him revealed a throng of undead followers armed with worn shields and spears listlessly marching in the glowing skeleton's wake.

'They follow because they are lost, but I do not know the ways to Valhalla or Folkvagnir any more than they do. The Valkyries were once our guides, but the mortal realm has distracted them from their duties ever since Ragnarok passed. Now it is only the familiar scent of those ethereal lands that pulls my steed homeward.'

'We have to get to the stairway. Think you can make a detour?' Despite the hearty godsblud that flowed through his veins, the exceptionally cold air still sunk deep enough under the skin to rattle Bragi's bones.

'There is no need, it is along the way. Everything is if you travel long enough.' The rider looked wistfully ahead through a tattered eye-patch.

'We're a little pressed for time, any chance we can expedite things?'

'Apologies, the undead are not accustomed to urgency. not quite the same for us.' The rider clicked his tongue and spurred his mount into an enlivened pace.

'How long have you been dead?' Bragi arched an eyebrow. He somehow felt a strange familiarity with the rider that he could not place.

'There is no way to be sure. Memories of our past lives are but distant shadows that fall away with each step. I only know that Geri here has been with me since my journey began.' The rider affectionately stroked the undead wolf's matted fur.

'Geri? That was the name of one of my father's hounds!'

'Oh? What an interesting coincidence! You know, I vaguely recall having a few boys myself. You might even remind me of one, I think. What I would give to talk to them one last time.' Bragi strained to imagine what flesh would have looked like upon the rider's bony appearance.

'Who knows...maybe I know him. If you like, you can tell me what you would have wanted to say, and if we make it back I could try to find him and let him know.'

'That is a gracious offer, but that would be difficult considering I cannot even remember who I was. I can only recall that I was...somebody. Somebody knowledgeable yet ignorant to what mattered most, wise yet forgetful of what was important. I filled myself with drink to the point that I am now left hungry for life. With only one eye, I lacked the perception of depth needed to recognize the treasures that were my children. Being somebody, I made the mistake of thinking that I could always make up the time I had lost with them. But now…now I cannot even recollect what I had missed. Only that it is an emptiness that I still carry with me.'

'I un-..I mean: I'm sure they understand that you meant well in your own way, that you only did what you thought was best given the circumstances.' Bragi struggled to maintain his composure.

'I could have been better. But it doesn't matter now, it is already too late to tell them what I wanted them to know.' The skeleton clenched his jaw in a forlorn expression. His wolf whimpered, sensing his riders suffering.

'I have a feeling they already know.'

'I wish I shared your optimism! You really do remind me of someone though, perhaps I will remember before I arrive in Valhalla. As for your journey, the steps are just ahead: may you find what you are looking for at the top of the mountain.' The rider gave Bragi a somber salute before disappearing into the storm.

The immense stairs loomed ominously above Bragi and the others. 'How are we going to climb this? Each step is practically a wall!' Pan's lamb tried to stack his bones into a climbable chain but fell dismally short.

'Ere, ave nae tried dis, baht lessus see ow far ah kin taek ye!' Leif heaved a few breaths before exerting himself with all his might. Leif grew until he was able to fit Bragi and the others into his palm. Leif gingerly climbed the steps with a teetering gait, unaccustomed to balancing at that size. 

As Leif ferried Bragi and the Muses up the stairs, Xin approached Bragi looking out over the frosty mountain.

'Do I have to say anything?' Bragi gave Xin a side-eye.

'Don't be like that! I mean-you don't, but I'd still like to hear it from you.'

'Maybe you turning wasn't a mistake. Maybe it kept us from making one.'

'Possibly, but wouldn't you rather have it be our mistake to make?'

'So you agree that it would be a mistake then?'

 I'm not psychic, but I can feel how you feel. There's always that chance. There's always a choice. It's not one only one of us can make.'

Yes I can. I'm not psychic either, but I've been where you are. I'm saving you- us, the pain of going through the same thing.'

'You don't really believe that. It just would be convenient for you if you did. I'm not asking you to decide right now, I'm just asking you to be honest with me, and be honest with yourself.'

'Auhrite ya tossers, save yar wee quarrel far ahfter da shew. Dis saunter's got yer jo maxi good'n knackered!' Leif deflated with exhaustion as he reached the top of the stairs. The winds at the gate were no less forgiving than at the base. Instead of a blinding wall, the winds draped over a foreboding red glow churning from beneath the frozen slabs of stone.

The earth split open to birth a trio of flaming entities dripping in molten placenta. Two of the beasts shook out their horns and brayed volcanic breaths before hauling immense axes into their grips. The third creature whipped her liquefied hair, leaving a sizzling streak of liquid rock to split Bragi's Party. The bull-headed creatures snorted a scoff and kicked back their hooves as they set their footing for a charge.

'Flames Take You!'

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