After the great war between the Aesir and the Vanir, the wall around Asgard was destroyed by the clash of the gods. No one took on the difficult task of rebuilding the wall until the builder arrived. This mysterious figure rode alone on a magnificent stallion, and when he reached the Bifrost Bridge, Heimdall, the guardian of the bridge, asked him what he was looking for and what is he doing here.

The stranger explained that he was coming to rebuild the great wall around Asgard. The gods gathered at Gladsheim Castle and listened to the stranger’s proposal. The builder continued his proposal with outragous claim: to build the wall for eighteen months, provided that the beautiful goddess Freya became his wife, and to make his reward even fairer, he asked for both the Sun and the Moon. Thus, the prize will be triple: Freya, Sun and Moon.

Loki and Svadilfari, (1909) Dorothy Hardy

What insolence, what impudence, what demands! They drove out the stranger to talk to the gods. However, Loki, being a god of cunning and deceit, began to persuade the gods to accept the condition: the mason would build the wall, but on such an incredible condition that he could not fulfill it. Loki suggested that if the mysterious mason failed to build the wall in the allotted time, he would get nothing, because the mason’s claim was so unheard of – it was impossible in such a short time to build the wall. Therefore, when the time is up and the wall is more than half raised, they will finish it and the builder to be banished as lost the bet.

They called the builder, set the conditions, agreed and went to work. The builder was extremely strong and skillful. He lined up huge stones, building a huge wall around Asgard, as if with ease. The gods began to worry about the flawless execution of such a large-scale work. He could compete with Thor in strength.

However, the gods noticed that the mason helped himself with his beautiful stallion Svidalfari. He harnessed the stallion, it dragged huge stones, the mason arranged them. Time passed, weeks, months – the wall rose stronger and more impressive than ever.

The wall almost reaching the gate. The gods got scared, gathered, sat down to talk. The builder will fulfill the condition, and will have to take Freya, the Sun and the Moon. How to give Freya to Jotunheim, to destroy the air and the heavens to give the Sun and the Moon. Odin blamed Loki for the failure of this bet and threatened him with terrible punishments. Then Loki swore that he would find a way and win the bet, he would not be defeated by the skill of the builder. With cunning and dexterity he will win.

An illustration of Odin riding Sleipnir from an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript

Loki noticed that the stallion Svidalfari was actually a great help to the builder. It occurred to him to transform into a beautiful female horse and seduce Svidalfari. Far from the wall he was lured, the stallion followed. The builder shouted for Svidalfari to return, but the stallion did not turn.

The builder was so angry, he lost his temper and took on his true form – a huge giant. He accused the gods of deception, and that the gods should get what they deserved. However, the gods were also angry – for such a deception, a giant to deceive the gods and threaten them, had to pay with his blood. Thor landed his hammer on the giant’s head and smashed it. His skull shattered and he ended up in Nifelheim.

Loki disappeared – no trace, no news, nothing. Several months have passed. Finally he appeared with a small horse that followed him everywhere – the eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Odin liked the foal very much and asked for it. Loki gave the horse to Odin on the condition that he never ask him where it came from. Thus Sleipnir grew into the strongest and fastest horse, Odin’s faithful stallion.