The Apple of Life from the Garden of Iðunn

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Iðunn is the Norse goddess tasked as being the keeper of the golden apples that maintain the eternal youthfulness of the gods.

Since the gods are not immortal, the apples are considered to be very precious.

The Apples of Life come from the garden of Iðunn.

Iðunn (also Idun, Idunn or Ithun) is the wife of the Norse god Bragi, who is the god of poetry.

Since the gods are not immortal, the apples are considered very precious.

(How to pronounce Iðunn <Listen here> or <here-click blue triangle to listen>
/ˈɪːðʏn(ː)/  
: -ɪːðʏn – Sounds like: Eh-dun or Edun or Eden.

Iðunn is introduced in the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning as Bragi’s wife and keeper of  apples bitten into by the Æsir gods when they begin to grow old and they then become young again, which is described as occurring up until Ragnarök. In the Saga, Gangleri (King Gylfi in disguise) points out that the gods depend greatly upon the goddess Iðunn’s good faith and care. With a laugh, High (who was showing him Ásgarðr, home of the gods) responds that misfortune once came close to the Æsir.

The goddess Iðunn was abducted by Þjazi the jötunn (giant), who used Loki to lure Iðunn and her apples out of Ásgarðr.

It all started one day when the three Æsir gods, Óðin, Loki, and Hœnir, were walking across Miðgarð.  Yes, yes, the same three troublemakers behind Andvari’s cursed gold and magical ring. <Read about it here>

Anyways, at the end of the day they came upon a herd of oxen. Famished, Loki slaughtered one of the oxen while Óðin and Hœnir built a fire to cook it. After roasting the meat for what seemed like a very long time, the meat was just as raw as when they put it in the fire. It simply wasn’t cooking.

A large eagle (the jötunn Þjazi in disguise) perched in a tree observed all this and proposed a bargain. If the Æsir would let the eagle eat first, the ox would be cooked.

Seeing no alternative, the three Æsir gods agreed to the eagle’s bargain. The eagle then swooped down and snatched the lion’s share of the ox from the fire and began to eat greedily.

loki_and_thiazi

Loki was so angry at the theft of their evening meal that he rammed his staff into the eagle’s body.

Loki hit an eagle (the jötunn Þjazi in disguise) with his staff. Loki’s staff then becomes stuck to the bird and Loki is pulled further and further into the sky. Angry, the eagle (Þjazi) then flies low (nap-of-the-earth) and gives Loki the ride of his life.  The eagle flying low, hit and dragged Loki’s dangling body across everything he flew past. Loki’s legs and feet banged against stones, gravel, cliffs, and trees as he was dragged across the landscape.

Beaten and bruised, Loki feels that his arms might be pulled out from his shoulders. He shouts and begs the eagle for a truce, and the eagle responds that Loki would not be free unless he made a solemn vow to have the goddess Iðunn come outside of Asgard with her apples.

Loki accepts the eagle’s, whom now revealed himself as Þjazi, conditions and returns to his friends Odin and Hœnir.

At the time Þjazi and Loki agreed on, Loki lures the goddess Iðunn out of Asgard, telling her that he had discovered some apples that she would find worth keeping. Being ever more convincing, Loki told Iðunn that she ought to bring her own apples with her so that she may compare them with the apples he has discovered.

Iðunn falls for it and follows Loki outside of Ásgarðr to compare her apples to the ones Loki claimed to have seen. Þjazi then arrives in eagle form and snatches up Iðunn and her eski of apples. The jötunn Þjazi in eagle form flies away with Iðunn and takes her to his home, Þrymheimr.

Idunn is carried off by tiazi. Art by Lemuren.
Idunn is carried off by tiazi (Þjazi). Art by Lemuren.

It didn’t take long for the Æsir gods to notice that Iðunn was missing as they began to age without her apples.

The Æsir gods assemble at a Þing where they ask one another when Iðunn had been seen last. The Æsir realize that the last time that Iðunn was seen was when she was going outside of Ásgarðr with Loki. They seize Loki and threaten with him death and torture, coerced him into rescuing her.

Loki borrows the goddess Freyja’s magical cloak of falcon feathers so he could transform into a falcon and fly to Þrymheimr to liberate Iðunn from the jötunn Þjazi.

Arriving at Þrymheimr, Loki discovers that Þjazi is out at sea in a boat and that Iðunn is home alone. Loki turns her into a nut, holds her in his falcon claws, and flies away with her towards Ásgarðr as fast as possible.

Þjazi comes home and discovers that Loki has rescued Iðunn and gives chase in the form of an eagle.

When they reach Ásgarðr, the Æsir gods see Loki as a falcon flying with a nut, as well as the pursuing eagle. The gods bring out loads of wood and build a huge bonfire. The falcon flies over the fortification of Asgard and abruptly drops down by the wall. The eagle swooping down, misses the falcon and is unable to stop and goes into the bonfire built by the gods.  The eagle’s feathers catch fire and the jötunn Þjazi falls within the gates of Asgard. The Æsir gods then swiftly kill jötunn Þjazi.

The goddess Iðunn with her apples are safely returned to Ásgarðr and the Æsir gods are able to regain their lost youth and fruity immortality until Ragnarök, when the gods do battle and Surtr burns the worlds with his flaming sword.

How do you like them apples?

Idun by Kathamausl
Idun by Kathamausl

Interesting Parallels:

Norse: Access to the apples in the garden of Iðunn ceased by a flaming sword.

Judeo-Christian: Access to the apples in the garden of Eden ceased by a flaming sword.

Additionally: A great deceiver uses her and the apples to change the status quo.

 

In the poem Hrafnagaldr Óðins (“Odin’s raven-galdr”), also called Forspjallsljóð (“prelude poem”), Iðunn is identified as being of elven and as being the youngest of the elder children of Ivaldi.

Stanza 6 reads:

Dvelur í dölum Dwells in dales
dís forvitin, the curious dís,
Yggdrasils frá from Yggdrasill’s
aski hnigin; ash descended;
álfa ættar of elven kin,
Iðunni hétu, Iðunn was her name,
Ívalds eldri youngest of Ívald’s
yngsta barna. elder children.

 

The Sons of Ivaldi are the dwarf brothers who made Skidbladnir, the ship of Freyr, and the Gungnir, the spear of Odin, as well as golden hair for Sif to replace what Loki had cut off. Amongst other things, they also created Gullinbursti (the boar of Freyr), Draupnir (the ring of Odin), and Mjolnir (the hammer of Thor).

The goddess Iðunn is the sister of the famous smiths, the Sons of Ivaldi.

Sources: 

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Article by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing


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