Sif's Golden Hair
Asgard was the home of the gods. And today, everyone who lived there was cross with Loki. He was always doing pranks, and they were doing more and more harm. The gods were worried that his mischief would cause something terrible to happen - something that could not be put right.
Loki’s brother Thor was the god of thunder. He had married the goddess of the harvest., a creative and kind goddess called Sif. She had wondrously long, thick, golden hair that flowed down her back like a field of corn.
Sif was even more important than Thor and his thunder because without a harvest, of course, no-one has food. She made the crops grow on earth, growing long, heavy ears of corn to keep humans well fed and happy. She travelled the whole world to make sure that wherever people cared for their land, she could protect them against cruel winds, cold and winters.
I mentioned Sif’s beautiful thick hair. She was very proud of it, and kept it healthy and shiny. Thor loved her hair, too, and even boasted about it when he was drinking his godly beer, call mead. Three times a day, at morning, noon and night, Sif would comb her wondrous hair with a jewelled comb. Every morning, she would wash it in pure sparkling streams, and lay it out in the sun to dry on a rock. Because with hair as thick as hers, it took quite a while to dry.
One day, Sif was sitting on a bank of soft moss outside her house in Asgard, drying her golden hair in the sun. And she fell asleep. It’s easy to go to sleep in the sun when you’re not doing much. It’s especially easy if another god puts a sleeping spell on you.
Loki looked at Sif’s beautiful golden hair while she slept under his spell. He knew how much Thor loved that shining hair, and how much it meant to Sif. And he was jealous that they loved each other so much that they would protect one another and were best friends. You see, Loki was lonely because his tricks stopped people from trusting him. That meant that while people were nice to him, it was often only because they didn’t want him to be horrible to them. Loki didn’t have any real friends, because he had tricked them all for his own pleasure.
So, in his jealousy of Sif and Thor’s happiness, Loki did a terrible thing. He took out the biggest shears he could find and he cut off every strand of Sif’s shining hair. Then, while she lay sleeping, happily unaware of this terrible act, he ran away.
Later that day, when Thor got home, he couldn’t see Sif anywhere! He called out, but she didn’t answer. He went to all the Gods and Goddesses’ palaces but she was nowhere to be found. Then, from behind a rock, he heard someone whisper.
“Thor! Thor!” He turned, and hiding in the darkness, was Sif. She had a veil over her head and her face was covered with tears. “Cover your eyes!” she said, “Don’t look at me! I just want to say good-bye - I’m going to go to Svartheim and live with the Dwarves where my ugliness will not upset them.”
Thor was aghast. “We love you and want you here! What can be so awful that you think we would not want to look at you?”
“This!” said Sif and she pulled off her veil and showed him her head . Where her beautiful hair had one been, now she was completely bald!
Now, is Thor known for his gentle mood or his terrible temper? You guessed it: his terrible, thunderous temper! "Who did this to you?" he bellowed. "I am Thor, the strongest of all the gods, and all the powers of the gods will get you back your beautiful hair. Come with me." And he took Sif’s hand and led her to see the other gods.
Even though Sif’s veil stopped the gods from seeing Sif’s hair was gone, the anger in Thor's eyes told the gods that something terrible had happened. He told them what. The gods murmured to one another: “It must be Loki -- no one else would do something so shameful.”
Thor heard this and said, "Loki has hidden himself, but I shall find him and I will slay him.”
“No no no," said Odin, the Father of all the gods. “There’s no slaying here, thank you very much! I shall tell Loki to come here. Then you must make him bring give Sif back her golden hair.”
“Hmph” grunted Thor who was red with rage. “I’d like to kill him! Tho’ I suppose, when I think about it, I know that it wouldn’t help Sif”.
“Control your anger, Thor. I will call the Call, and even Loki must come!”
Odin’s Call was terrible to hear. Everyone had to stop what they were doing and come to him. Even Loki. Loki saw at once that everyone knew what he had done, but he denied it: “Where is your proof?” he said.
“Do not lie, do not avoid the truth,” said Odin. “You have done Sif and Thor a great wrong, and you must repair it!”
“Well, I can’t grow hair!” joked Loki. No-one laughed. Odin solemnly said again “You must put this right,” and Loki saw that he would. He used his quick mind to find a way to restore Sif’s golden hair. "I shall do as you command, Odin All-Father," he said. His mind turned to the other lands where Elves, Dwarves and People lived. Perhaps they could solve the problem ?
Loki went to see the Dwarves who lived in Svartheim. Down, down, through the winding passages in the earth he went, and he came at last their forges where they worked hot metal, like blacksmiths. They worked with hammers and tongs to beat metals into many shapes.
One was making a spear that would hit whatever it was thrown at. The spear was called Gungnir. Another was making a boat that could sail on any sea, but that could also be folded up so that it would go into one's pocket. The boat was called Skidbladnir.
Loki had a plan. He praised their work and made massive promises of things that the dwarves longed for, that only the gods of Asgard could give. The dwarves’ eyes were wide with the praise and the promises when Loki said, cunningly,
“You’re all good at this, but I bet none of of you could hammer gold into threads so fine they’d looked like hair. And even if you could, you could never make it as fine as Sif’s hair!”
Just as Loki had hoped, the dwarves were keen to show off their skills. They took up a bar of fine gold and flung it into the fire. Then they hammered it into threads as fine as the hairs of your head. But that was not enough. They had to be as fine as the hairs on Sif's head, and these were finer than anything else. They hammered the threads, again and again, until they were as thin as fine could be and as bright as sunlight.
When Loki took up the threads of gold, they flowed from his hand to the ground. He continued to praise and promise, praise and promise and even though they were usually unfriendly and suspicious, Loki charmed them so much that he when left them, he took the golden hair, Gungnir the magically accurate spear and Skidbladnir, the magic folding boat that could travel on any sea.
Loki was heading back home to Asgard with his magical objects when a fresh idea popped into his head. He knew that he would pass the cave where two brother-dwarfs lived, called Brokk and Eitri. He’d already got a few nice things - he wondered f they had anything he might like for himself.
When Brokk and Eitri saw Loki, they saw he was carrying three marvellous treasures: the golden hair, the ship and spear. They stared: these were amazing, and they were jealous at how well they had been made. This was just what he wanted them to feel.
“You couldn’t make anything this good,” he said.
“Yes, we could," said Eitri said bluntly.
“Yeah, right,” said Loki, rudely.
"We could," Brokk said.
“Go on, then, show me.," Loki demanded.
"Why should we?" asked Brokk.
"To prove to everyone that you two are the best," Loki said. “In fact,” he added, “I’ll bet my very own head against yours that you could not possibly make three treasures as good as these.”
The brothers immediately accepted the challenge. They thought that this was a chance to get rid of pesky Loki once and for all, and also get these wonderful treasures!
So Brokk and Eitri set to work. They told Loki to stay in the hall so he couldn’t interfere. Brokk began piling wood into the furnace, to make a hot fire to melt the metal, while Eitri place a lump of gold into the fire. He began hammering the gold into long, very thin pieces of gold wire. Next he placed a length of pig’s skin on the fire. He said to his brother, "Pump the fires as hard as you can. Whatever happens don’t stop until I’ve finished and pulled the treasure from the fire."
So Brokk pumped the bellows as hard as he could. The fires grew white hot. Sweat pored down his face - but he did not stop. But then, a tiny fly appeared from nowhere and bit him! It really hurt but he ignored the pain and kept on pumping. Finally, Eitri pulled out a boar - wild giant pig - with a hairy bristle of gold all the way down its back. Their first creation was done.
Next, Eitri fetched a second block of gold, much larger than the first, and placed it on the forge. Brokk pumped the bellows until the heat made the gold soft and bendy. The fly came back and landed on Brokk’s neck. It bit him twice, but Brokk refused to let go of the bellows. He kept on pumping as his brother instructed. And Eitri pulled out the second treasure from the fire: a gold arm-ring. The second creation was done.
Finally, Eitri placed a large chunk of iron on the forge and told Brokk to pump the fires until the iron was white hot. Brokk did as he was instructed while Eitri hammered and pounded the iron, reshaping it over and over. For a very long time they pumped and hammered until they ached from the pain, but they did not stop. The fly returned a third time and settled right between Brokk’s eyes and bit him on both his eyelids! Blood poured down Brokk’s face and into his eyes, blinding him. He couldn’t see what he was doing and for just the smallest moment, took his hand off the bellows to brush the fly from his forehead and the blood from his eyes.
The fly flew out of the room into the outer hall where it immediately transformed into Loki!! He had turned himself into a fly to spoil the dwarves’ work. He sat down drank some mead, waiting for the dwarfs to return. He was very pleased with himself. If he won the bet, he’d get rid of these annoying brothers for ever and get to keep all their fine creations.
Back in the forge, Eitri pulled the iron creation from the fire. But he cried out in anger. He held a powerful iron hammer in his hand, but the handle was obviously too short! When he’d been distracted by the fly, something had gone wrong. But although he was disappointed, he believed that the hammer was not entirely spoiled. In spite of its small handle, it was still the most powerful weapon that anyone had ever created. He called it Mjollnir.
The brothers went to Loki and gave him the ring, the boar with the golden hair and the hammer. "Take this ring, this hammer and boar and give them to the gods as gifts from my brother and myself," Eitri said. "My brother, Brokk, will go with you, so we can claim your head when they say that our gifts are better than the hair, the spear and the boat.”
Loki and Brokk went on their way and finally reached Asgard. All the gods were waiting. Loki immediately began telling the gods of his journey to Svartalfaheim and bragged how clever he had been to use the dwarves’ greed and envy of the gods and against each other to get his six gifts.
Brokk listened to Loki and said, “Enjoy this moment while you can, before I take your head from you.”
"What do you mean, Brokk?” asked Odin. So Brokk told Odin about the bet. So the gods agreed that Odin, Thor and Frey would decide which gifts were the best.
Loki began the presentation. First, the spear. "This spear is for you, Odin," Loki said. "It is named Grungnir and when you throw it, it will always hit its mark." Odin took the spear and examined it carefully.
Loki then turned to Frey and gave him the boat, Skidbladnir. "This is the most remarkable ship," Loki said. "You can fold it small enough to place it in your pocket, and yet it’s big enough to hold an entire army, armed to the teeth. As soon as you hoist its sail, it will sail over water and sky and never fail to find enough wind to propel it. Frey took the boat and examined it carefully.
Finally, Loki turned to Sif. "My third gift is for Sif." He presented the long, flowing strands of gold hair to Sif. "Place it to your head and it will take root and grow as if it were your own hair.” Sif took the hair and did as Loki said. As soon as she placed it to her head, the hair took root and it was as if she had never lost her long, flowing hair. Everyone cheered.
Then Brokk stepped forward. "I bring you a gold arm-ring," he said. "It is a gift for the all-wise Odin. It is known as Draupnir and it is not merely a ring made of gold. Every ninth night, eight additional gold rings will drop from it.”
Brokk next turned to Frey. “This golden boar is named Gullinbursti. He has the power to run faster than any horse, and will never grow tired. He can run over land, sea and air, but there is more. Because his hair is made of gold, wherever he runs, even at night or in the darkest caverns, he will always take the light of the sun with him, for his golden hair will shine like the sun.”
"My third treasure is for the mighty Thor," said Brokk. "It is a hammer and its name is Mjollnir. Within it is the power of the thunderbolt. Nothing can break it and no weapon is as powerful as this hammer."
Thor took the hammer and raised it. It took all his strength to lift it. "It will hit its target every time you throw it," Brokk said. "And it will always return to your hand, not matter how far you throw it. When you are not using it, you can make it small enough to hide in your shirt or pocket." All the gods stared at the hammer. Never had they seem such a weapon possessing such powerful magic. "There is only one small flaw,” Brokk said. "Its handle is too short, but I think it makes it easier to throw. After all, no art is ever perfect!” Thor smiled.
It was easy to say who had won. Mjollnir was the most important gift of all because could defend Asgard against any attack by the giants.
"Then I will have Loki’s head, just as we agreed," Brokk aid.
“But my head is useless to you! I will give you its weight in gold," Loki said.
"I have all the gold I need and more," Brokk said. "I want your head."
"Then catch me if you can!” cried Loki as he ran away as fast as he could, with his magic flying shoes. Before Brokk could even turn, Loki was far away, to live another day and cause more trouble…
- How do you think Sif felt when she found her hair was gone?
- Why did she want to leave Asgard and live with the dwarves underground?
- How did Thor reassure her?
- Do you think Loki would have put things right if no-one had asked him to?
- Was everything as good as before for Sif?
- What did Loki make? What skills of his own does he have? Can he do anything by himself? Is he creative?