"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself."-Brad Cameron

Friday, January 18, 2013

“Dude, There’s Something Wrong with Your Horse”- The Tale of Sleipnir

I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say that I consider myself first a writer, and second a teacher. If I had the choice, I would spend my day developing characters and weaving their lives into myth-filled stories. But alas, one must continue to pay the bills while the hope that the already published works continues to sell. Nevertheless, it has been through my teaching profession that I have discovered a source of inspiration that helps me tell my stories. For that, at least, I am thankful.

Several years ago, soon after I took a new position as a high school English teacher, my department chairperson told me that I would be teaching a new elective class for juniors and seniors. The class was Mythology. I looked straight at her, and in my most confident voice answered, “Absolutely. Not a problem.” After she left, I sank into my chair, raked my fingers through my hair, and looked imploringly at my new colleagues. “Mythology?” I said. “That’s like Zeus, right?”

Despite my misgivings, I took to the new assignment like a mad man, soon discovering that yes, there was a Zeus, but there was also an Odin. As soon as I discovered that, a glorious new world suddenly opened up for me. My imagination took over and I immediately began inventing stories that would combine the myths of the ancient Norse to some form of Urban Fantasy. In the end, I came up with The Zeke Proper Chronicles.

The first story to capture my imagination was “The Building of Asgard’s Wall”. Simply told, the myth relates the events surrounding the Aesir gods’ desire to defend themselves more thoroughly against the Frost Giants by building a huge stonewall around their city. As luck would have it, a solitary figure, riding his massive workhorse, happened to show up one day, crossing the rainbow bridge, and asking to speak with the gods; his message was urgent but simple: “I,” he told them, “will build your wall. But I must have eighteen months in which to do it.” Nevertheless, his price for completing the work was high. His first demand was the hand of Freyja, most beautiful of the goddesses. Next, he demanded the sun and the moon. Odin, the All Father and leader of the Aesir, spat out his answer with disdain. “Your demands are impossible. That will be the end of it!”

Loki stepped forward after Odin’s outburst, calming is angry voice with his soothing, slippery tongue, urging the gods to reconsider the proposal. “Tell the builder that the wall must be built within six months. If he does it he may receive his demands, but if he doesn’t, he forfeits them all.”

Grudgingly, the gods considered Loki’s idea and presented the counterproposal to the builder. “Impossible,” the builder replied. “It cannot be done in six months!” Then he looked again at the beautiful face of Freyja. His intense longing for her provoked his answer.

The next morning the builder and his horse began their arduous work of gathering the heavy rock, the horse pulling the massive weight behind him, piling it in great mounds. As the days passed, the gods were astonished to discover how quickly the builder worked, fearing that he might indeed accomplish his task, forcing them to honor their agreement and award the builder his demands.            

The eyes of the gods turned angrily upon Loki. Odin strode across the palace floor and gripped Loki firmly by the shoulder. “This is your fault!” he shouted. “We must find a way out of this contract.”

“I swear,” Loki answered, “I will make this right. I will see to it that the builder loses his wager.”

In the waning light of day, as the builder looked upon his nearly completed task, he hummed to himself, already basking in the treasures that would soon be his when his job was done. Then came the soft, inviting whinny of a beautiful mare that stood within the shade of a small copse. The builder’s horse turned to see the mare and was at once struck with desire. The horse tore away from its reins and its master and ran toward the mare. The builder ran after, shouting and cursing. All night the two horses frolicked in the woods while the builder tried to follow, tripping over roots and tree trunks in the half-light. However, it was too late. The time to fulfill the contract had past. Without his horse the builder’s hopes were dashed.

A number of months passed before Loki the Shape Changer appeared again in Asgard. When he did he brought with him a colt. This colt, however, was quite unusual. It had eight legs. Loki named it Sleipnir.

Odin admired the horse. Loki said, “Take it. He is yours. I bore him, now he shall bear you. On this horse you can go wherever you want. He’ll gallop over the sea and through the air, thereby carrying you across the nine worlds as no other animal could.”
-Brad Cameron

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