When last we left the Mead of Poetry, it was in the hands of the two murderous dwarfs, Galar and Fialar, who had made it with the blood of the first poet, Kvasir.
The dwarves had become emboldened by their murder spree, and went on to attract the attention of the great giant, Suttung, after killing his brother, Gilling, and Gilling’s wife.
Word of these deeds got out– mostly because Galar and Fialar were kind of vain and spent a lot of time bragging about it. Giants and dwarves in Norse mythology typically do not mix well and the grievous crimes of these particular dwarves just made Suttung hate them even more.
Coming across the dwarves unprepared, Suttung scooped them up and set them on a rock in the sea, hoping the great water would grant them a slow and uncomfortable death.
Of course, the rising waves were nothing for a giant, so he settled in, probably with some beer and cheese puffs, to watch the show. But crafty Galar and Fialar begged to be released.
“We have gold! We have gems!” But neither of those things could replace Gilling and his wife.
I’m sure you can imagine what happened next– the dwarves realized the only bargaining chip they had left.
“Wait, wait wait! We have some freakin’ sweet magic mead!”
Mead! Everyone loves mead, even giants. This got Suttung’s attention. And a magic mead was even better! No one else he knew had a magic mead, so screw whatever it did! He could be the only one to say that he had one and that was a pretty big deal.
He kept the dwarves in his custody, but he had them lead him to the mead, which he then took and placed inside of a mountain near his home. Of course, such a powerful artifact needs a guardian and Suttung had just the person in mind: Gunnlöd, his daughter.
Gunnlöd was reportedly one of the most beautiful giant maidens around at the time. But Suttung wanted to make sure no one came even near his mead. So he enchanted her, turning her into a witch with long nails, sharp teeth, and a hideous visage.
Now, elsewhere, word was getting around about the dwarves’ murder of Kvasir, and people were starting to get pretty pissed. In particular, Odin, who had both honored the poet above all men and also sort of fathered him by spitting into a cauldron with the other gods. But we’ll come back to that.
A wandered named Vegtam one day was walking through some fields. He was an old man, wearing a large hat and a heavy, blue cloak. If this image seems familiar to you, then perhaps you have read the works of Tolkien– for Gandalf the Grey was undoubtedly inspired by old Veggie himself.
These particular fields that our friend was wandering through belonged to Baugi, brother to Gilling and Suttung. But that’s not important for right now.
“Hey!” said a voice in the fields. “Can you tell Baugi that we really need a whetstone? All of our scythes are dull down here and we won’t get our work done in time!” The voice came from one of the nine thralls that Baugi had hired to plow his fields.
“You’re in luck! I happen to have a whetstone which can sharpen anything,” said Vegtam. “It’s the best whetstone in the world! Here– let me show you.” He sharpened one of the scythes and presented it to its bearer, who proceeded to cut down grass as though it were the wind blowing through it. The thralls FREAKED the fuck OUT.
“Hey dude, you should let us ALL use that whetstone!” They begged. So Vegtam, who was kind of a jerk, just threw the whetstone in the middle of them and ran up the path to Baugi’s house, leaving the thralls to squabble over it.
Once he got there, he was feasted and made welcome, but soon, a messenger arrived and told Baugi that all of his thralls were dead. They’d killed each other over a whetstone.
“No worries,” said Vegtam, as though he totally didn’t orchestrate this. “I can mow down your field better than all nine of them put together.”
“I don’t know,” said Baugi. “But I’ll give you a shot anyway. Come by tomorrow and we’ll see what you can do.
The next day, Vegtam did exactly as he had promised– the work of nine thralls and then some. Baugi begged him to stay on for the rest of the season, offering him any reward he so desired and Vegtam agreed. He stayed many weeks in Baugi’s home and each day, rose early. And by the time harvest came, Baugi asked Vegtam what reward he expect.
Now, here is where the tale pulls back together. You’ve probably been wondering what the heck some farmer’s problems have to do with the magic mead. Are you ready? Here we go!
This isn’t just the tale of someone needing his field plowed and a random old dude helping out. Odin does his best work when in disguise, and one of his best (and most dickish) facades is as Vegtam the Wanderer. And he was in on the long con for the magic mead, and the blood of his good friend, Kvasir.
“I want one thing,” said Vegtam. “I only want a draught of the magic mead.”
“Well, sucks to be you. I don’t know where that is,” said Baugi, “or how to get it.”
“Your brother, Suttung, has it. And you’re going to help me get it.”
We’ll leave the tale there for now– with a vengeful and dickish god in disguise, a hideous witch, and a whole bunch of giants up to no good.[Read the first part]