Goddess Idunn

Idunn was the goddess of immortality. In her possession were magic apples, unknown where they came from, but especially edible and wonderful. These apples were the basis of the immortality of the gods – the bodies of the gods are more perfect than those of humans, dwarves and giants, but they were not indestructible. Their longevity and youth were due to the goddess Idunn and her apples.

Goddess Idunn and Thiazi

One summer morning, Odin, Loki, and the god-brother of Odin Hönir set out for Midgard to explore unfamiliar areas. Hönir, who consulted with Mimir and judged the Vanirs in the council of Asgard, was silent; Odin was bold, and Loki, with the vision of a cunning man — the three of them, after walking all day got hungry and just found a herd of oxen.

Loki slaughtered one of the oxen, while Odin and Hönir prepared and lit the fire. Hungry, the gods already were tasting the tender meat, but the meat never got done. Odin guessed that there is interference here and called on the meddler to come forward.

An eagle flew in and landed on the branch above them, declaring that it was him that is interfering. And the meat will not be roasted unless he ate first.

Loki and Idunn, (1911) John Bauer

The gods accepted and the eagle descended to the prey and began to bite it. He ate a shoulder, then another, pricked half a thigh – he had a big feast, and the gods couldn’t stand it anymore. Loki jerked the eagle with his wand, and he creaked and flew up, but the wand protruded from the eagle and Loki hung from the wand. The eagle descended and dragged Loki to the ground, rocks and thorns until Loki’s thighs and feet were covered all in wounds.

Loki asked the eagle to let him go, but instead the eagle plucked a glacier with his body, and Loki screamed in pain. The eagle told him that this torture would stop only if he promised to bring him the goddess Idunn along with her apples. Loki had no choice in this situation, and ended this torture with his promise to outwit the goddess Idunn.

A week later, Loki appeared before the goddess Idunn, who was walking with a basket of magic apples. Loki said he found another tree on the other side of the Bifrost Bridge, which also has magic apples, and she may be interested in picking them, having them, and comparing them. Idunn walked cautiously with him – she knew that Loki should not be trusted, this is the god of mischief and cunning, but she still wanted to see the other apples.

Idunn crossed Bifrost with Loki, but as soon as she set foot on the other side, the eagle came down and grabbed Idunn and her basket all the way to Jotunheim. Loki suspected the eagle that he was a giant, and so he was – the giant Thiazi, it was Thiazi who kidnapped Idunn in the kingdom of Jotunheim – The Kingdom of the Giants.

The gods noticed Idunn’s absence and fear gripped the gods and Asgard. Without the Idunn’s apples, the gods began to weaken, to fall away, to resemble emaciated beings in no way resembling their fresh shell from before; skin and bones, sunken eyes, loose hair, sagging skin; their eyesight weakened, their hands trembled. Exhaustion took away the divine splendor and gave it irritability, untaimness, jealousy – as if something had drained them of all strength.

Because of all this divine plague, Odin convened the council of the gods at Gladsheim Palace. Everyone were recalled except the god Loki and the goddess Idunn. Everything was clear about Loki – he was involved in some way when he didn’t show up. They had to find Loki to find out what was going on.

The exhausted gods went in search of Loki and found him dozing in a field. They captured him, tied him up and dragged him to Odin. Loki told them everything – about the eagle, about Thiazi’s threat and then about Idunn’s surrender to the giant. The gods were not satisfied – why he betrayed the goddess Idunn to the giant, when he himself is the god of cunning and deceit. Odin threatened to rip Loki apart for this betrayal, spread his chest and ribs like wings, just like “his friend the eagle.”

Sculpture of goddess Idunn, Herman Wilhelm Bissen, 1858

However, Loki ordered – the goddess Freya had to give him her cloak of falcon feathers and would bring Idunn with the apples back. Freya gave him her cloak, and Loki noticed that Freya was already completely bald, and to annoy the gods before he left, he noted that she was no longer so beautiful.

Wrapped in a cloak, he turned into a falcon and flew to Trimheim high in the Jotunheim mountains. Meanwhile, the goddess Idunn curled up in a ball, waiting for her captor, the giant Thiazi, to return, but in time Loki turned her into a walnut, grabbed her with his falcon claws and flew back to the gods. However, Thiazi returned, saw that someone had stolen the goddess and flew down after the falcon. The Eagle Thiazi was more powerful and soon caught up with the falcon Loki and almost caught up with him.

Odin saw everything from his throne Hlidskjalf and ordered the gods to set fire quickly. The emaciated gods harnessed themselves as much as they could with their trembling hands, made a big fire; and just in time whe the eagle almost grabbed the falcon’s prey, and the fire blazed and burned the giant to ashes.

Loki escaped the fate that might befall him from the giant, brought the walnut to the gods and cast his magic spells – the beautiful goddess Idunn with the apples was transformed from the walnut and so hope returned among the exhausted gods.