Gunhar and Frighildr



A nordic fable of vanity, virtue and eventually love.

Frighildr Aelfsdotter sat by a clear, cool spring-fed pool pulling her horsehair brush though her long golden mane. A child of a Disir and an Aelf, her luminescent skin shone like the sunlight at midday. Her large wide-set eyes were the hue of cobalt in the rain. The fingers wrapped around her brush were long and slim like her slender neck perched upon milky white shoulders holding up her head like a glorious crown jewel. To say that Frighildr was a beautiful young woman was to say that the sun rose in the sky during the day. Rather her radiance shown with the brilliance of a thousand suns and her voice was the little trill of a laughing brook.

She was rather proud of her beauty, and why not? She was in fact the product of near perfection being the spawn of a lesser god in her mother, who was herself the result of an Aesir and a mortal union, and another divine creature in her father who was the descendant of a long line of Aelves. Most days she could be found here by her favorite spot near this little pool, combing out her golden locks, her tiny bronze freckles only serving to enhance the perfection of her complexion.

This day, as she sat by the pool, an elder approached, all wizened and bent over an ancient gnarled cane. He adjusted his weathered rags that hung rather poorly upon his frame and asked of her, "Hello my daughter, would you kindly ladle up for me some clear sweet water in a little cup?"

Frighildr drew herself aback and said in return, "Can you not see, strange sir who stands by my chair, that I am busy combing the locks of my golden hair?"

The old man stood a little bit straighter and asked again of the gorgeous golden girl, "My dear, my sweet, today we meet upon a clear, cool spring. My throat is parched for long I've marched; please won't you offer me drink?"

Once more the lovely girl turned away with nary a kind word saying, "Please sir, do move on and leave me ought. For I have many more strokes to pull and little time for naught."

At last the elder, looking far less aged and standing tall and firm, the cane now changed into a fine and stylish walking stick, asked one last time of Frighildr, "I beg of you, my darling child, your demeanor for to save, for lest you offer me sweetly mild, the consequence will be grave."

She turned and faced the now young man and, as though seeing him for the first time gave pause. "Alas! My dear sir, but my stroke count is dear, and your presence near me has become most drear! Who art thou, sir who accosts a young girl, in the heart of the wood while she tends to her curls?"

In a stern manner with a stoic face, he replied, "I am Lohki Odinsson and I came this way, my intent to pass on through. I paused when I saw you as though drawn to your side, but your honor has truly failed you. Your pride in your beauty, and your diffidence to others, not even to offer an old man a flagon. For this, I you curse, 'til you repent your heart, to the form of a huldur; a girl and a dragon."

Within mere moments, Frighildr began to change. Her glorious hair, once gold as the sun, began to turn darker and her cobalt eyes to gray. Her once luminous skin began to harden and scale and her back and legs grew thick and long until at length and with great pain, she turned into the form of a dragon, from the torso on down and that of a drab, woman from the breasts up. Uttering screams of pain and rage, she thrashed about in a vain search for her tormentor. But Lohki Odinsson had long since continued on his way, disappearing into the dense mist like a draugar.

. . .

Gunhar Drekisbane wrapped a meaty hand around the pommel of his great axe. Flexing his massive arms, he wrenched the mighty weapon from the neck of the now-dead dragon at his feet. Raising it once more above his rust-colored, braided mane, he brought it down with a sound swish and a solid whack and cleft the head completely from the dragon's body. The dragon's head rolled for several spans until at last coming to rest against a moss-covered rock. After removing the heart, for his own purposes, he picked up the head and stowed it in a sack on the pommel of the saddle of his great horse.

As he was cleaning up his tools and weapons, a bent old ancient man, stooped over a gnarled cane approached from the mist that shadowed the road. He called out to the little old fellow, "Ho, there! Old father, come take a seat. My fire is warm, and I have here fresh meat."

The old man sat down and helped himself to two full portions of dragon heart and a flagon of mead. "My son, many thanks, for your heart is true! A boon I would offer if choose one you do."

"My life, it is full and my vocation a pleasure. There is little I need, neither comfort nor leisure."

The not so old man looked at him with a more discerning eye, sizing him up like a prize bull. At length he continued, "A challenge then sir, if thou would but be willing. A dare for your heart or your spirit a chilling. A were-dreki haunts in the moors down the way. Wouldst thou travel thence, for to save or to slay?"

Gunhar looked the man up and down, only now noticing his fine manner and attire, "Who art thou sir, who brings me this news? I know many a man, nay with such fine shoes. Are you spirit or god? I am mortal man only. And my single desire, to no longer be lonely."

Then the man turned to Gunhar and made his full presence known, "I am Lohki Odinsson and I have come far, I've travelled by day and twilight and by star. I met a vain maid whose heart lacked a kind thought and I left her a huldur 'til penance she's sought. The challenge I give you Gunhar of the strong thews, find blood or find love, the choice up to you!" Then, as swiftly as the mist brought him in, he disappeared and was not seen from again.

. . .

Lohki Odinsson watched from his perch in the palace of Asgardr to see how his scheme would play out. In Midgardr below, among a certain fen, a young man of great stature with a pure, giving heart, dismounted his horse to make camp and prepare for the night. There not being a good source of dry wood, he opened his saddle and brought out a small brazier into which he placed a few chunks of his precious charcoal. There he lit a tiny fire with which to roast a hare and warm his mead.

A rustle in the brambles near to his position revealed a young woman, plain of face with dun-colored hair and clothed in very loose skirts in order to cover her lower body. Gunhar rose from his seat before the brazier and addressed the young stranger at the edge of his camp, "Come forward my lady and rest your feet and have a bit of hare. I haven't more than food and drink, but what I have I'll share." Frighildr looked from him to his horse. She noted how the horse was heavily and sturdily built. This was more than just a mount for a man, this horse was used for battle. The man, himself was obviously war-like in both build and manner, but she could sense a softer manner in his heart.

Her own anger and aching pain began to ease as she tarried there with him. She accepted his offer of food and drink and enjoyed his company and as the evening wore on, she soon found herself drawn to young Gunhar. His handsome face covered in thick red braids for mustaches and beard. His great broad chest and thickly muscled thews. His easy-going, gregarious manner which made him both approachable and affable company.

For his part, though Frighildr appeared a plain girl, never-the-less, he found comfort in her presence. But he soon realized who she was after not long conversing with the wild woman. For occasionally, the remnant of dragon tail that would not hide itself when her manner was calm, slipped out without her seeming notice. He rose from his seat beside the now cold brazier and turned to his horse to fetch another blanket from the saddle. As his hand brushed the sword that rested in its sheath there in the saddle horn, Frighildr jumped up in alarm, her form almost instantly changing to that of the great wyvern, "Ho there, young man! Stay your hand and dare not draw that sword! For though I bear this monstrous form, no harm for thee I ward."

He stayed his hand upon the blade and drew the blanket in its stead. And turning toward the dragon now standing in his midst, he offered it to her for warmth. This act of utter kindness from a stranger, whose clear intention was to slay her kind, snapped the anger and the coldness in her heart. She cried out, begging Odin Allfather for forgiveness for her vanity, her anger and her lack of empathy and Lohki, in his high-borne chair gave out a shout of dismay as he felt his curse break.

The murk diminished and Frighildr cried out as the curse left her body. And as she fell toward the ground from the instant pain of transformation, Gunhar swooped in and caught her to keep her from harm. In his arms, the weight of her dragon form eased and the tail disappeared. Her scaly skin softened to the luminescent luster it once had and her dun-colored hair returned to its former golden hue. And when he pulled back the hood that covered her face, his eyes beheld a most beautiful bronze-freckled face with cobalt eyes and skin of milk and honey. And the Allfather blessed their happy union and Freyja blessed her womb.


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