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Kvasir

by Micha F. Lindemans
In Norse mythology, Kvasir was the wisest of the Vanir, fashioned from the spittle of all the gods. Two brothers, the dwarves Fjalar and Galar, invited him to a feast in their dismal cavern and killed him. The dwarves mixed his blood with honey and preserved it in two jars and a cauldron. The mixture fermented, creating the mead of poetry. Those who drink it become inspired poets.

Some time later, the brothers murdered the giant Gilling and his wife. Gilling's son, Suttung, came looking for his parents and threatened to kill the dwarves. The brothers gave the mead to Suttung in return for sparing their lives. Suttung hid the mead in the center of a mountain and ordered his daughter Gunnlod to guard it.

Suttung boasted of his treasure, and when the god Odin learned of it he went to Jotunheim to obtain the mead. Disguised as a farmhand, Odin worked for Suttung's brother, Baugi, all summer. When the work was done, Odin asked Baugi to give him a drink of the mead. Reluctantly, Baugi drilled a small hole through the side of the mountain and into the chamber where the mead was kept.

Odin changed himself into a snake and slithered through the hole into the chamber where Gunnlod guarded the mead. Resuming the form of a giant man, he persuaded Gunnlod to give him three sips of the mead. Odin drained all three vessels, changed himself into an eagle, and flew back to Asgard.

According to Kevin Crossley-Holland's book The Norse Myths, the name Kvasir is derived from the Russian word kvas which denotes a type of fermented drink similar to beer but stronger (page 191).


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