Building Ásgarðr citadel and Sleipnir’s conception

 

From the very start of the war between Æsir and Vanir, “brotinn var borðveggr / borgar ása: broken was the border-wall / of Æsir’s fort,” as Völuspá 24 tells. Now, this war was ended, and the Æsir were busy creating humankind’s world (Miðgarðr) and building their own residence in Ásgarð and Valhöll (Dead warriors’ hall).

Giants could see here an opening and let show their inborn aggressiveness. The gods feel the need to reinforce Ásgarðr defenses. Arrives then, as by wonder, a ‘worker’ who proposes them a deal by which he would rebuild the broken wall into three ‘terms’, i.e. in one and half year. His conditions are that, in case of success, he will get Freyja as a wife, and the goddess Sun and the god the Moon besides. The gods are indignant but Loki suggests them accepting the deal with the proviso of reducing to 6 months the duration of the work, which seems impossible to achieve, as the gods believe. They also require that “Skyldi hann af engum manni lið þiggja til verksins (Should he ‘of no humanassistance receive during the work).” The workman accepts this condition provided he can get help from his steed. This request looks doubtful to the gods but Loki explains that this stipulation is obviously harmless. Here are the terms of the contract: notice that this ‘worker’ never tells that he is not really human and the gods will realize later that he is a Giant. Everyone, this worker and the gods, know that a giant in Ásgarð would be immediately put to death.

They quickly become aware of their mistake because this powerful steed is able to move enormous stone amounts and the building of the wall proceeds very quickly, unnaturally quickly. Time flows away, and while six months nearly elapse, the wall is almost completed. The Æsir assume that Loki is not innocent in this matter and they seriously threaten to kill him if he does not solve to their liking this issue. Loki promises to do everything he is able to in order to stop the worker’s progress, and save his life.

In the evening, while the worker is at fetching some new bulks of stones, he and his steed meet a mare in heat. She drives the steed wild with desire and the worker stays alone. He understands that he will not succeed in completing in time his task. This drives him into a ‘Giant frenzy’ that makes obvious his Giant nature, now clearly recognizable. The gods are then fully entitled to consider the contract as broken by the worker and they call Thórr who settles the matters with this Giant..

After some time, Loki delivers an eight legged foal, Sleipnir, that will become Óðinn’s horse. There’s a good reason Loki is called a ‘shape changer’!