This is a story of apples, hunting, and a giant eagle. It is a tale of eternal youth, trickery, and deceit. All in all, just another story in Norse mythology.
Once upon a time, Odin thought it was time for a hunt. Not to feed his people, as he did not need any additional meat to feed his guests in Valhalla. For each morning a boar, called Sæhrímnir, was slaughtered in preparation for that day’s celebrations. And each evening, Sæhrímnir would rise from his grave and be resurrected once more. Its meat would always be plenty to feed all of the guests and Odin himself would not even eat from it, as he would only drink wine for sustenance. In short, there was no absolute need for Odin to hunt game in the wild. We suspect he just wanted to get out for the sake of wandering about.
Together with Hoenir and Loki, the Allfather set out into the wilderness. After many hours, they finally came across a wild ox, which they quickly brought down. We have already learned that Loki was a god that was famed for his tricks, but this is where we come to learn that he had another famous trait: insatiable hunger.
Kindle a rivalry
There was no time for clean butchery. The gods quickly made camp and lit a cooking fire. They put the ox on a roasting spit and hung it above the flames. But just when their meat had started sizzling, a sudden gust of wind blew out the fire. “What was that?”, Hoenir grunted. The other two gods said nothing, quietly gazing into the darkness to find the source of the gust of wind. Nothing. After a short while, they lit the fire again. The meat started sizzling again.
Of course, it did not take long before the fire was blown out by another gust of wind. This is when Loki lost his temper. “Show yourself, you wretch!”, he yelled hungrily at the darkness. Woe to the creature that dared to come between him and his meal. A large shape stepped forward out of the shadows. As it moved towards the gods, it became clear to them that it was in fact a giant eagle who had caused these annoying gusts of wind.
Better one bird in the hand…
“Tell you what”, the eagle said, its tongue running along his sharp beak. “I will stop messing with your fire if you give me a share of your meat”. Loki glared at the creature. He did not like being tricked this way, so he was already devising a way to get back at the eagle. “Deal”, he said, smiling the same devious smile he always had when he was up to something. Odin and Hoenir just sat back, exchanging a look with one another. They both understood that this was no ordinary eagle.
They kindled the fire once more and slowly started to roast the ox again. During the roasting process, the eagle watched attentively from a safe distance. When the roasting was finally done, Loki cut off a small piece of the ox. No way he was going to give the eagle a full share of the meat. With two beats of his wings, the bird leaped forward to take a larger piece of the roast. Loki’s eyes widened: he could now see the enormous size of the eagle, as it lifted the ox into the sky. In a futile attempt, driven by hunger, he tried to stab the bird with his hunting spear.
… than to splatter on the earth’s surface
The eagle had some fine reflexes and caught his spear mid-way. Loki stubbornly held on to it. Seconds later, they were soaring high in the sky. The trickster god was now desperately clamping on to his spear to prevent himself from crashing down to the surface. “Who are you?!”, he screamed in a shrill voice that betrayed his fear.
Now the eagle spoke. “My name is Thiassi”, he said, “and you, Loki, have something that I want”. His eyes flickered with amusement. “Promise me that you will do as I say, and I will put you safely on the ground”. Loki did not need time to think. “Deal”, he yelled, “just tell me what it is you want and put me back on the ground!”. Thiassi smiled “bring me Idunn and the Apples of Youth”. Now it was Loki who grinned. He knew he had no choice but to comply with Thiassi’s wishes. And he knew that in the end, the Aesir would blame him for his actions.
One apple per day keeps the years at bay
Whereas most races are affected by the passing of time, this is not the case for the gods of Asgard. One of them takes the credit for that: Idunn. She is the goddess of youth and apples who, coincidentally, grows the Apples of Youth. Whenever the Aesir start showing signs of aging, she provides them with these apples. Eating them simply reverts the process, granting the gods virtual immortality. No wonder Thiassi coveted these things for his own family.
As Loki walked back to Asgard, he knew he had to devise a plan to lure Idunn away from the rest of the Aesir. If he were to use any force, he would not be able to get out of Asgard himself. He would be killed in mere seconds. He smiled when it hit him: it would be so simple.
Idunn was taking a stroll in the forests of Asgard when Loki walked up to meet her. He greeted her warmly and asked her if she had an apple to spare for him. When she smiled and pulled one from her basket, he paused her. “Actually, never mind, I have found an apple tree which carries apples that are more delicious”, he said. Now Idunn stopped smiling at him. A master of trickery and disguise, he had awoken her interest by insulting her by giving a compliment. “Where is this tree?”, she asked scornfully, “for I am sure that my apples are far superior to its fruits”.
After some fake protests, Loki agreed to take her there. He led her deeper into the forest to the place where Thiassi was awaiting them. When Loki returned to Asgard, the goddess of apples was no longer at his side. Thiassi had taken her to his home in Jotunheim.
Loki saves the day
“It was Loki”, Heimdal said while pointing his wrinkly finger at the god of deceit. “I saw him taking Idunn into the forest. When he returned, she was no longer with him”. Loki sighed. He was not surprised that he was being blamed for all sorrow. “If you want me to save your lives, I will need the ability to fly”, he said. “Hand me the falcon suit, Frigg”. Whereas she would normally have protested valiantly, the fear of withering away as a frail old woman was too much to bear. She quickly gave him the suit and sent him on his way to Jotunheim.
Soaring through the sky as a falcon, it did not take long for Loki to find Idunn hidden away in Thiassi’s place. He quickly landed and used his powers of transformation to turn the goddess into an acorn. He then took her and her basket into his claws and quickly started flying back to Asgard. When Thiassi spotted him flying away, he started his pursuit. Loki gasped for air: he knew he would be no match as a falcon against Thiassi in eagle form.
The fiery end of Thiassi
As they approached Asgard, the other Aesir were awaiting them at the Bifrost with great anticipation. Loki was relieved. He could see that they had carefully followed his instructions while he was away. They had created a large wooden wall as he had told them to. The gods waved at him with their torches, urging him to fly faster as they saw the great Thiassi gaining on him. The moment Loki passed the wall, they set the wall on fire. The eagle screeched: there was no way he could avoid flying straight into the grand wall of flames in front of him. The gods cheered as he crashed into the fire, after which his smoking body violently crashed into the ground. They quickly finished him off.
As Loki returned Idunn to her normal state, the Aesir were saved. It would not be long before they would be troubled by the blood of Thiassi once more.