A Norse myth
In Asgard, the land of the mighty Norse gods, all inhabitants – gods and goddesses – were eternally beautiful and ageless. Of course, Odin, the father god who couldn’t care less about his looks (he even gave up an eye in exchange for some wisdom) was an exception. The secret to the good looks of the gods of Asgard was the Golden apples that Idun, the goddess of spring, gave them. An apple a week from Idun’s enchanted orchard kept them youthful, happy and healthy.
Our story begins on a day when Odin and Loki, the trickster god, set off on a trip to Midgard, the land of the humans. All day the two gods wandered idly through Midgard and by the end of it were tired and hungry. Seeing some oxen grazing in a meadow, they decided to make a meal of one of them. So they killed an oxen and Loki, who is also the god of fire, got one going to roast the meat. The fire burned bright but, try as they might, the meat that they turned over and over, refused to cook.
“What’s with your fire, Loki? Why doesn’t the meat cook?” asked the father god. “Looks like there’s someone trying to play a prank.” He looked at Loki closely to see if it was the mischief maker, trying to have some fun at his expense, but Loki looked exasperated himself.
“Ha, ha, ha... your meat is getting cold instead.” The laughter and the voice came from the branches of a large tree and the two gods looked up to see a giant eagle. That was no ordinary eagle, the gods knew.
“Yes, I’m not just some eagle from Midgard.” The eagle seemed to have read their thoughts. “Just give me some of that meat you’re cooking. Then I’ll let you get on with the roasting.” Loki looked at Odin who gave his consent. After all, no one wanted to waste time arguing over food. Soon enough, the meat was cooked – crisp, golden and sizzling.
Just as Odin was going to grab a juicy looking piece of thigh, the giant bird swooped down and tore off two generous bits of shoulder and swallowed it, all in double quick time! Before the others could even react, it took off with two more large pieces – both choice thigh portions.
Loki picked up a large log of wood (left of the fire they’d made) and struck the bird with it. But what followed was most unfortunate. Loki found himself stuck like glue to the end of his stick and the eagle soared up carrying him along!
Once it crossed a rocky mountain, the eagle swooped low and poor Loki was dragged through hard terrain and huge rocks, getting the battering of his life! “Ooouch!! Aww… Stop this now! ’’ he screamed. The eagle dropped to the ground and turned to Loki.
“Greetings from Jötunheimr... I’m Thjazi and if you think you’re the only shape shifter around here, you’re mistaken.” It was Thjazi, one of the frost giants. No wonder the meat was cold, thought Loki. “All right, you’ve proved your point. And to be fair, we’ve given you a very large share of our supper. Now let me go!”
“Ha! Not so easy, my friend! There’s a price to be paid if you want out. I’ll give you seven days. Get me Idun and her golden apples by then.” Loki was stumped. The frost giant was driving a hard bargain. Asgard couldn’t possibly trade Idun and her golden apples. But did he have a choice, really? He was badly bruised already and every part of his body was aching. “Agreed!” he said finally.
“Good boy! Now swear a solemn oath that you’ll do as promised,” Thjazi still had him in his grasp with the log of wood. Loki did as told and the eagle flew away on its mighty wings, leaving him lying there on the rocks.
Loki sighed and began walking towards the place where Odin and he had set up their barbeque. When he got there, Odin was still eating. “What was with that eagle? “asked Odin. “Oh, forget that greedy bird! Let’s eat in peace now,” said Loki, not really looking the father god in the eye.
The next morning they decided to return to Asgard as there seemed to be nothing exciting to do in the land of men anyway.
Loki knew he had exactly seven days to trap Idun and hand her over to the giants. For that he knew he had to befriend the sweet-faced, gentle goddess first. “Operation Golden Apple,” he whispered to himself, smiling as he waited for his weekly visit to Idun’s orchard. Fortunately for him it was the very next day after they got back to Asgard. He would surely be able to deliver well before his seven- day deadline, he told himself.