The Norse legends come from Northern Europe including, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Pagan gods of the Norse people often represented forces of nature. In this story you will hear about Thor, the god of Thunder, Sif, the goddess of the harvest, and Loki the god of fire and mischief. There are plenty of wonderful stories about the Norse gods - and we will be telling you a selection here at Storynory over the coming weeks.
Read by Elizabeth. Adapted for Storynory by Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore.
What do Thursdays mean to you? They are not gloomy like Mondays, or glorious like Fridays, or lazy like Sundays…. They seem quite boring really, unless, that is, you know about Norse mythology. But once you have heard the stories of the Norse gods, you will realise that Thursdays are meant to be loud, thunderous, stormy days, for they are named after Thor, the red-headed, hammer-yielding, thunder-clapping god of the Norse people.
Although Thor was a raucous fellow, he did, underneath it all, have one soft spot – and that was for his beautiful wife, whose name was Sif, and whom he loved tenderly and dearly. She had long, thick wondrous golden hair, that flowed down her back like a field of corn. In fact, it was Sif who made the Norse people’s crops grow, and their fields yield long heavy ears of corn that would keep people well fed and happy. She travelled over the Northern world, and wherever there were families, farms and people tilling the land, Sif was sure to be near at hand smoothing their path against the cruel winds, cold and winters of the North.
Of course as every lady knows, beautiful hair does not take care of itself. She was very proud of her hair, and did not allow herself to have a bad hair day. Especially as she knew she was not the only one who was very proud of her hair, Thor her husband was very proud of it too, and often boasted of it when he was drinking his mead to anyone who was around to listen. Morning, noon and night, Sif combed her wondrous hair with a jewelled comb, and she often washed in pure sparkling streams, and lay it out in the sun to dry on a rock. As you can imagine, with hair as thick as hers, it took quite a while to dry.
One day, while she was sitting on a bank of the softest moss outside her house in Asgard, where the gods live, drying her golden hair in the sun, Sif went to sleep. It’s easy to go to sleep in the sun when you’re not doing much. And it’s especially easy, if another god puts a spell on you so that nothing can wake you.
It was Loki, the god of fire and mischief, who cast this sleeping spell on Sif. He found her dozing with her gorgeous hair flowing all around her, and his evil mouth smiled at this chance to make trouble in the Thunder-God’s household. He knew that Sif’s hair of gold was Thor’s greatest treasure - and he was determined to take it away from him.
And while she was asleep, Loki took his shears and chopped off Sif’s hair, every single lovely lock! One by one they tumbled onto her shoulders and down her dress. Her head was bare, as if she’d had a haircut in the army or become a convict on a prison ship - the poor thing!
A while later, Sif woke up. Her head and neck felt cold and light, - she looked up and saw the sun was still shining. Then she felt for her hair, - there was nothing there! Looking down, she caught sight of the clusters of curls that lay all around her. Horrified, she rushed inside and burst into tears...and rain fell in bucketfuls on all the corn in the north, so the people asked “What in heaven’s happened to Sif?” She continued to cry and cry.
That night Thor came home. But when he called to his lovely wife, he did not hear her sweet voice in reply. Thor thought she must be somewhere else, so he put his hammer down, and whistled as he walked over to the homes and palaces of the other gods to look for her. Sif was nowhere to be found. Sadly, Thor came home, he did not like coming back to an empty house. “Sif” he called again and again, “come back to me”.
And then he heard his name, in a whisper. Sif stood in the shadows, so that Thor could only see her outline.
“My husband,” she sobbed,” I am ashamed for you to set your eyes on me. I must leave Asgard, the home of the gods, which is beautiful and perfect, and go to hide elsewhere.”
“Don’t speak like that. What has happened to you my sweet, that you say such terrible things?” asked the Thunder-God tenderly. “Come out so that I can see you.”
“My crowning beauty, my hair has gone. An evil-doer has cut it and taken it from me. I do not want you to see me like this, so I must leave.”
Thor saw that it was true, Sif had lost her hair. Her shaven head was still beautiful, but the dancing joy had gone from her eyes. Instead her face was puffy with sobbing and her distress touched the heart of Thor.
And then the men of the Earth heard the skies roar with agonised Thunder -
“Who was it who did this, Sif?” raged Thor. “I, the strongest of the gods, I will find whoever did this and kill him. I will make the other gods use all their strength, all their magic and all their powers to give you back your wonderful golden hair!”
Thor led Sif in her veil to the Court of the Immortals , where some of the other gods and goddesses were seated on crystal benches sipping mead in Council. None of them could tell Thor who had cut Sif’s hair. Finally Odin, the chief of the gods, and the father of Thor, spoke. “It must have been Loki who did this” he pronounced. He is the god of fire, and we all know that fire can wreak much mischief. Nobody else would do such a thing. Though fire was not the cause of this, a great mischief it was, and Loki has ever loved mischief. But Thor, you must not kill him here. There can be no killings among the gods in Asgard. I will find Loki for you. But do not kill him. Besides, he has many skills, and maybe he will find a way to return Sif’s beauty to her.”
“Hmph” grunted Thor who was red with rage. “I’d like to kill him! ...but that wouldn’t help Sif”. Odin spoke again, “Control your rage, my son. I will call the Call, and all must answer it, even Loki!”
Odin’s Call was terrible to hear, but all the gods and goddesses who were not in the Council chamber, had to leave what they were doing and assemble . Even Loki. Loki saw at once that everyone was against him, so he said “Where is your proof that I am the culprit?” “Come”, said Odin. “Do not lie, do not avoid the truth. You have done Sif and Thor a great wrong, and you must repair it!”
“I cannot grow hair", joked Loki. And even if I could, it would not be on her head!” None of the gods laughed. Loki looked at Thor whose temper was legendary, and he looked at Odin who solemnly said again “You must make good the wrong you have done ‘’, and Loki saw that he would indeed have to find a way to restore Sif’s beauty.
So Loki left Asgard. He did not leave in order to escape from Thor, though that was part of it. He left to try and find a solution. He did not go to the Giants in Jotunheim, even though he had been there before, and had friends there – as far as it is possible to have friends among the Giants – and he did not go to Midgard, the land of the mortals. For he knew that there had never been a man or woman who could do anything that would restore Sif’s hair. No, Loki went under the earth.
This is not something that you or I could do, for the innards of the earth are molten hot and we would not survive. But Loki was the god of fire, and so he was able to go down and down inside the passages of the earth. That is where the Gnomes live. You might think thenomes were ugly, but they didn’t think so, and Loki didn’t mind. Down inside the earth, the Gnomes were master smiths and the rich guardians of metals, minerals and crystals: they had learnt with hammer and tongs to fashion articles of much beauty and magic from them. Loki had seen them make a magic spear that hit whatever it was thrown at, and a boat which could sail anywhere, and which you could fold and put in your pocket.
Loki was crafty, and he always flattered the Gnomes whenever he went to see them. He praised their work to the skies, and promised them the earth although they already had it! Resisting flattery and false promises needs more wisdom than the Gnomes possessed, so they grew to like him. Nobody else had ever been nice to them, not even when they were babies, so their hearts softened. Then he said “Have you gold and skills enough to make a cap of floor-length hair as fine as silk?” The Gnomes set to work at once. They stitched, threaded, weaved and span[ for days, [but] until finally the Cap of Golden Hair was ready! Even Loki was impressed. “’Tis true, you are master smiths indeed. None are better. Will you give me this Cap in return for the Heavens and the Earth?”
The Gnomes who were not clever, gave Loki the Cap of Golden Hair, although the Earth was already theirs, and the Heavens were not Loki’s to give. Loki said his farewells, and was glad to return to the fresh air of Midgard with the Cap. Then he ascended to Asgard and the Heavens and went to find Sif. “Take your veil off, Sif” he said “for you will have golden hair again”. And he wrapped the Cap around Sif’s head where it fitted perfectly. Sif was so overjoyed with her new hair that she twirled around, her long locks flowing behind her. Her eyes sparkled once more and as the glow returned to her cheeks, she looked truly beautiful.
And that is the story of how Sif lost and regained her golden hair.