The Norse gods live in Asgard. All of them, with the exception of Odin, are young, beautiful and handsome. Odin is the exception as he has a long beard, (he would look much younger if he shaved it off.) But none of the gods shave, maybe because they all look too young to grow a beard…. How come? you might well ask, given how long they have lived in Asgard? The answer lies in Idun, and her Golden Apples.
One day Odin, the father of the Norse gods, and Loki, the Norse god of fire and mischief, left Asgard to see what was going on in Midgard, the Land of Men. They trekked all day in the mountains, and by nightfall, they were definitely hungry. They saw some cows grazing, and they decided to kill one and have a few steaks. Odin jointed the beef, and Loki got the fire going. This was no trouble for him, even though the wood was wet, as he was the god of fire. Soon the meat was cooking over the fire. But there was a problem: the fire was hot, the meat was there, – but for some reason, it would not cook. Try as they would, and they did try, their dinner remained raw.
“Hmph,” said Odin. “There’s trouble about.”
In the light of the fire, they saw a shadow of a huge bird. They looked up and saw a huge eagle. “That’s no eagle,” said Odin. The bird laughed “No, I am no eagle and your meat will not cook unless you agree to give me what I want.” The gods were tired, cold and hungry so they agreed, and at once the meat began to sizzle: how good it smelt! But just as they were about to help themselves, the eagle swooped down and grabbed the best bit with his beak. He gulped it down – no chewing for him – and took another piece. “No, you don’t,“ said Loki, and he shoved a great log at the bird, trying to beat him off. But instead, the eagle grabbed the log and Loki found himself stuck fast on the end of it. He could not let go! Now the eagle flew low, so that Loki was terribly bashed and bounced about by rocks and branches as they flew over the ground. Finally, the eagle put him down. “I am the Giant Thjasse,” he said “and you’re not the only one who can change shape. You will never be free unless you agree to get me Idun’s golden apples. Do you?”
Loki hesitated: Thjasse wasn’t really asking for apples, he was asking for what the gods in Asgard prized above all, eternal youth and beauty. What would his punishment be if he stole that? But he was tired of being bruised and dragged about, so he agreed. Thjasse flew off screeching “Keep your word or you’ll have me to deal with!” Loki brushed himself down thoughtfully, and went back to join Odin, who was already tucking into his steak.
The next day, Odin and Loki returned to Asgard. Loki meant to keep his word, and he began by making friends with Idun, keeper of the Golden Apples. This wasn’t hard, as Idun was good-natured and sweet like her apples! Loki started by telling her about his travels: he had plenty of funny and interesting tales to tell. Every time he went to get his own apple – for all the gods ate them once a week – he cemented his relationship with Idun by telling her something interesting or making her laugh. One day, he said “Idun, these are wonderful apples, but they’re second best, I have seen better.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t believe me? ” replied Loki. ” Come and see for yourself.”
“I think I will,” said Idun.
“Why don’t you bring your own apples?” said the crafty Loki. “Then you could really compare them.”
Idun went to fetch her wondrous apples. She kept them in a golden basket, just the right size, with a handle studded with rubies. It was so pretty!
Loki and Idun set off for the gate out of Asgard. Loki looked up. He saw a huge shadow in the sky – he knew what that meant. All of a sudden, Idun shivered. “I don’t think I want to come today,” she said, “maybe another time.”
“A walk outside will do you good,” said Loki and he took her by the arm and they went through the gate.
Idun screamed, and no wonder. The eagle-Thjasse swooped down for his prize, Idun and her apples. Poor Idun was flying through the air, with Thjasse’s huge claws closed tightly round her waist without scratching her. “Careful with those apples,” he screeched, and poor Idun screamed again. She was going to be held prisoner in Thjasse’s cold and gloomy castle.
At first no-one in Asgard noticed Idun had gone. It’s true, she wasn’t there for the usual apple ceremony, and at first, she wasn’t really missed. Then things changed. The goddesses, except for Sif who had a magic golden Cap, now had one or two grey hairs. Odin, who was the oldest and the father of the gods, got backache. And they all got a few little wrinkles, crow’s feet, smile lines, that sort of thing. They were not happy about it: if they were gods, they had to be immortal. Besides, like everyone else, they wanted to be young and beautiful.
The gods held a conference. All agreed that it must be Loki’s fault. Odin put out a call for him, and he appeared in the Council Chamber. The gods looked daggers at him. “Alright, alright, I did it,” said Loki. “I was forced into it. But I’ll get her back, if you help me. You will have to help me disguise myself as a falcon.”
This was not a problem, and shortly after, Loki flew out of Asgard disguised as a falcon. He flew on and on until he reached Thjasse’s castle. Idun was walking sadly about the ramparts, – with her jewelled basket. Quickly, Loki turned her into a nut, clutched it tight with his claws, and soared high back towards Asgard. It was lucky he had a good start, for soon Thjasse came home. How he roared when he saw that Idun and her apples were gone! He guessed what had happened, changed at once into an eagle, and flew off, spurred on by anger and fury. Loki flew as quickly as he could, but it is the eagle that rules the skies, and little by little Thjasse gained on him.
Everyone in Asgard was watching, fearful. Would Loki get back in time? The gods rushed off and laid great fires on the walls. Almost fainting with exhaustion, the falcon flew over the wall and fell to the ground. In an instant the fires burst into flame and Thjasse was burnt and died. At once, Loki recovered his true form, and so did Idun, who wobbled to her feet, and handed round her Golden Apples. Youth and beauty returned to Asgard!
If you want to listen to the Audio – the copyright belongs to me, Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore, – you can go to this link