News of the Mead of Poetry traveled fast, even after Suttung had taken it from the dwarfs Fjalar and Galar. It did not take long for Hugin and Munin to learn that Suttung was the new owner of the mead, which they later reported to Odin. The king of the Aesir did not hesitate and took off to Jotunheim, the realm of the giants.
There was no love lost between the giants and the Aesir, especially Odin knew it was hopeless to outright ask Suttung if he could hand over the mead. After all, it was Odin who had killed off many giants by killing the ice giant Ymir in his sleep. Moreover, the Mead of Poetry was a prized possession, which had earned Suttung a lot of prestige among his fellow giants. So Odin had to come up with an intricate plan.
Bolverk the farmer’s boy
He traveled to the lands of Baugi, who was the brother of Suttung. Baugi owned many acres of farmland and had ten farmhands working the fields for him. It was harvest season, so the farmhands were all in the field. Odin disguised himself as a farmhand, named Bolverk, and equipped himself with a magical scythe, which was sharper than any normal scythe in existence. Using it would make the harvest of the fields easy, and would allow its wielder to do the work of many men.
He showed off his scythe and its abilities to the farmhands, who were eager for a demonstration of the tool that could make their lives easier. The demonstration became a bloody mess. As soon as the giant farmhands had gathered around him, Odin threw the sharp scythe into the air, decapitating all of them in a single deadly move.
Lending a helping hand
Baugi, who had now lost his farmhands, was looking for new laborers. It is therefore that he did not hesitate when Odin offered him his services. The god introduced himself as Bolverk, the wandering farmhand in need of work. This is not uncommon for Odin, as he would often travel under different names to elude his targets. He explained to Baugi that he had heard rumors of the Mead of Poetry and made a wager with him. He boasted that he could do the work of 10 farmhands and that he would be able to harvest all of Baugi’s fields before the winter came. If he were to accomplish this, his only payment required would be a sip of the Mead of Poetry.
Baugi, who did not think Bolverk could possibly accomplish this large feat, agreed to this form of payment. After all, he would get free labor if Bolverk did not hold up his part of the bargain. Of course, he ended up losing as Odin used his magical scythe to gather up all the harvest before winter.
But the Mead of Poetry did not belong to Baugi. When he told Suttung about the bet he made with Odin, his brother refused to give him the mead. Odin had expected as much. He did not care that Suttung refused his brother: Baugi now owed him a debt, as he had been unable to fulfill his end of the bargain. Odin could now use him to get to the location of the stash of mead, which had been his plan all along.
So together, they climbed the mountain in which the mead was stored. Baugi did not see any harm in this. After all, the mountain was not accessible to anyone from the outside, so the Mead of Poetry would still be safe. Then Odin handed him a drill and told him to start drilling a small hole that would lead to the inside of the mountain. Doing so would relieve Baugi from his debt to Odin. So the giant started doing just that, as he could not really see the harm. There was no way that Bolverk would fit through that hole. Yet whether it was due to suspicion or sheer laziness, Baugi stopped drilling when he was halfway. “I’m done”, he grunted to Odin, “Now release me from my debt”.
Odin did not trust the giant to be finished so quickly. He took a deep breath and blew into the freshly drilled hole. When dust and rocks came flying out, he realized that Baugi had not drilled fully completed his task. He urged him to keep going and so the giant did. When Baugi was finally finished, Odin again blew into the hole. No rock and dust came out on his end, meaning it must have fallen out on the inner side of the mountain. He quickly transformed himself into a snake and slithered through the hole. Baugi, now realizing that he had been deceived, roared with anger. He tried to squash snake-shaped Odin with the drill but was unsuccessful. Giving up, he knew there was still another layer of protection for the mead: Gunnlöd, the daughter of Suttung.
How to seduce a giantess
Gunnlöd was a powerful giantess, but she had been all alone in the mountain for a long time, locked away by her father to protect her from the outside world. Given Odin’s reputation with giantesses, what follows cannot come as a big surprise. She was no match for his seductive prowess.
He introduced himself as Bolverk again and complimented her on her looks. Flustered, she accepted his advances. He told her he wanted to take a small sip of the Mead of Poetry so that he could do her beauty justice with poetic ballads. She agreed to let him take a small sip. After all, how much could a small guy like him drink? Odin took a large gulp. He kissed her on the lips and told her she was an amazing singer. As promised, he sang a ballad of her beauty. After a while, he asked her for another sip of the Mead so that he could keep going. She consented and he took another big gulp.
He then slept with her and told her he loved her, and that he would never leave her side. They spent three nights together. Poor (giant) girl… She never stood a chance. He took a final drink from the Mead, but this time he drank so deeply that he emptied the entire keg. He quickly transformed into a snake again and slithered out of the mountain, back the way he came.
Dropping rhymes on the way to Asgard
Gunnlöd started screaming and stomping the floor, shaking the mountain with every stomp. She had been betrayed by the stranger. When Suttung heard his daughter’s cries, he quickly came to the mountain. He could still see Odin transform into an eagle and fly off towards Asgard. Enraged, Suttung transformed into a giant eagle and gave chase. He was faster than Odin and gained on him with every beat of his wings. He could almost move in for the kill. Odin, who was terrified that he would be caught, even let some bird droppings fall from pure fear. His fear was not necessary: Suttung would never catch Odin, as he safely made it to Asgard.
Odin would share the mead with the other gods, which is kind of disgusting as it had been inside of him. Through his bird droppings, he has shared the art of poetry with all mortals. These droppings are called the rhymester’s share, but they do not have the same potency as the pure mead. Only truly gifted poets are allowed by Odin to drink directly from the source. This is how he became the god of poetry.