~ Heathen Stories and New Myths ~
The Aesir - Vanir War
Part I : The Call To War
The Gods were lying in the beautiful meadows that surrounded Asgard playing games on golden gameboards without a care. The Goddesses were gossiping while they weaved gold and silver threads into beautiful garments and beddings. Their children, who they watched with the careful eyes of a mother, played in the fields running and laughing to and fro. The Gods and Goddesses never knew of war and strife. Behind their great wall, built long ago by a Jotun, they were sure they were safe from any and all harm. That is if an enemy could get past the ever vigilant Heimdall ! Their world was their heaven and they were peaceful and content. Idunn visited the God and Goddesses, giving each of them one of the golden apples that they trusted only with her. With each bite of this fruit the Aesir was granted the promise of eternal youth. Everyone in Asgard was happy and content on this day, as they were on all days. Everyone that is but one, the All - Father.
Odin, from his high - seat in Hlidskjalf, was very concerned ! From this sacred throne he could see out over all the nine worlds, and know what was happening in each. Nothing missed the All - Father' s watchful eyes, and he did not like what he was seeing. Events were changing in the nine worlds that could be very detrimental to the Aesir. The Jotuns had multiplied, and were ever so slowly pushing towards Midgard. The three Jotun - Maidens were great cause for concern as well. They were monstrous to look at, and had recently set down laws for men to follow, and were starting to control the destiny of mankind. Odin also felt threatened by their knowledge of the past, present, and most especially the future.
Odin was most concerned however, by the resurgence of the Old Ones known as the Vanir. These Gods lived in the world known as Vanaheim, and were using their Seidr, ( Magic ), to upset the balance of the universe. Odin thought on this long and hard, weighing all possibilities and options. He consulted seeresses, and even went to see Mimir to seek his advice and counsel. Finally, Odin decided that it was time to take action !
Odin held a council with the other Gods, and they carefully considered the situation that was developing before them. They discussed for long hours the prospects of both war and peace. The debate at times became quite heated with violence being only narrowly avoided. Finally, everyone was in agreement that something had to be done about the Vanir, who had trampled on their honor. And that revenge was required to restore it. The decision was made, they would go to war, an annihilate the intrusive Vanir Gods and destroy Vanaheim. Not one of the Gods, not even mild mannered Bragi, talked of peace that day !
When the Vanir heard of these threats made against them, they sent their envoy, Gullveig, to meet with the Aesir. In the great Asgardian hall, Gullveig warned the Aesir council that any and all credible threats, or encroachment of any kind on Vanaheim, would lead to war. To back her warnings, and to give strength and meaning to her words, she showed them her powerful Seidr. Odin, whose council had already decided on war, was furious by her brash show of defiance. And she had the audacity to do it right there in his sacred hall ! Odin could take no more, he broke his own sacred decree about spilling blood in the ancient holy hall; he picked up his spear Gungnir, and shot it into the Vanir host . Countless spears were cast at Gullveig that day to no avail. In Odin's hall they burned her body three times, but three times she was re - born.
When Njord heard of these atrocities, he called the Vanir into council, and asked for a vote of war against the Aesir. Freyr jumped to his feet, raised his mighty sword that fought by itself, and cried out, " Revenge for our Queen of Seidr, Gullveig. All then rose in unison, lead by Freyja, and shouted for war. It is said that this shout could be heard throughout all of the nine worlds. Njord simply said quietly, " Then war it shall be ! " They put on their coats of mail, bright silver helmets, and belted sharp swords on their sides. All was made ready for an attack on the great citadel that was Asgard. Most rode on white horses to the field of battle, some however, wore feather coats and flew above the horse soldiers. The peace was over, the war about to begin !
End part one.
Part II : The War Of The Gods !
Behind their great wall, with his cavalry, and holding the middle of the battle line, Odin sat upon his mount in overall command. On his right was his son Thor, and Tyr held the line steady on the left. Odin did not know how the Vanir had sneaked by Heimdall and into Asgard, but he suspected Vanir magic. In the fields outside the great wall of Asgard the Vanir looked weak, and unimpressive to Odin. They were far fewer in number than the Aesir, and seemed spread out and disorganized. Some wore no armor at all but seemed to be covered in feathers. Odin had seen enough, he decided to clear the fields outside of the great wall of these unwelcomed trespassers. He decided to take the offensive and attack ! He did however, leave Balder and Hodr in reserve behind the wall to defend Asgard just in case . Odin was the wisest of the Aesir and never took foolish chances if he did not have to, and a reserve seemed like a sound decision. Odin laughed and thought that Balder and Hodr would not be needed anyway, because these Vanir Gods and Goddesses were not known for their pension for war, but for love and fertility. They would never be able to stand before the onslaught of the Aesir War Gods !
The great gates of Asgard were slowly opened, and out poured first Thor's legion, on the right, followed immediately by Tyr's legion on the left. After lining up in perfect lines of battle, they shouted a great war cry and ran at the Vanir at full speed. Then Odin, with Loki riding by his side, streamed through the gap between Thor's troops and Tyr' s troops with his cavalry, and attacked at full gallop. Then one of the Vanir, a woman in full battle dress, who Odin recognized as Njord's daughter Freyja, knelt down and raised her hands to the sky. Odin smiled, there would be no surrendering now ! But the great magical warrior Freyja was not surrendering, she was summoning ! Suddenly, the thickest fogs that had ever hit Asgard rolled in, and enveloped everything on the battlefield. Njord raised his hand and blew up a breeze that pushed the fog all the way past the great wall and into Asgard as well. None of the Aesir could see the hands in front of their faces, let alone the enemy that lay before them ! Freyja rose up and shouted for all to hear : " ATTACK" ! Njord with his son Freyr on his right and Freyja on his left moved foward as one into the fray. The Vanir using their magic were able to see right through the fog, and pick out their foes with ease, while the Aesir could only flail wildly at their perceived enemy in their front. The Vanir warriors, with the feather coats, took to the air and began attacking from above. Odin sensed that they were in a bad way but pressed on. He did however tell Thor, through his thoughts to go back and reinforce Balder and Hodr in Asgard, and act as a last line of protection for the citizens of Asgard. Thor understood his orders and obeyed at once !
The Vanir easily rolled up the Aesir lines that stood before them, and pushed them steadily backwards to the great wall itself. The carnage was horrible ! The clang of sword against sword, and the dull "thud" of swords hitting shields was deafening. The screams of the wounded and dying was almost unbearable ! The Aesir, though valiant, could not fight an enemy that they could not see. Those who could retreated behind the the wall and awaited what they were sure would be the final battle. Then they heard a sound that they thought they would never hear, the walls of the great wall being demolished. Thor alone moved foward, his eyes red with fury, his hammer held high ! Thor no longer cared whether he could see the enemy or not. He went as wild as a berserker, swinging his great hammer back and forth in the gloomy mist. Savagely he laughed when he heard his stone hammer hitting their soft flesh. He laughed even harder when he heard Vanir bones cracking ! When he heard the fluttering of wings overhead, or felt a breeze upon his face, he ducked and swung his hammer in a circular motion until he heard the hammer make contact . He moved foward slowly beating a path back to where the Vanir had breached the great wall. Balder and Hodr moved foward with him, proud of their great prince, and willing to die for great Odin and Asgard ! When the Vanir became backed up against the great wall themselves, Njord signalled for a retreat back to their original positions outside of the wall. Thor would have chased them all the way back to Vanaheim, but Odin, in his wisdom, shouted for Thor to stop ! Thor looked back in the direction of the shouted order with angry eyes, and a heart burning with fury and revenge, but kept going. Odin then said more gently through his thoughts, " Thor........., son, we cannot afford to lose you, come back within the walls of Asgard. " Thor understood his father's tone , and understood the wisdom behind his words. The fury subsided, and Thor stopped and headed back. Though Thor had beaten back the Vanir, and avoided total defeat, Odin considered the battle a loss, because of their great losses, and the wall being severely damaged. Parts of Asgard that were closest to the wall had also been heavily damaged to the Asgardians dismay. The battle had been won by Vanir magic, and Odin realized that the Vanir were a formidable enemy who could no longer be taken lightly.
A stalemate then ensued between the Aesir, protected by a hastily repaired wall, and the Vanir who were encamped outside the great wall. From time to time both sides would send out raiding parties to feel each other out, but all this accomplished was further loss of life. On one of these attacks Balder and Hodr tried to attack under the cover of darkness, but Freyr made the sun shine, and they were discovered. In their ferocious fight back to the walls of Asgard, Hodr was struck across the face with Freyr' s magic sword that fought by itself, and lost his sight forever. Balder carried his blinded brother back behind the wall with tears streaming down his face. Odin, seeing this, realized there had to be another way. No matter what plan was tried, or what magic used, neither side was going to win this horrible war. Across the field of battle, Njord, a wise God in his own right, was having similar thoughts.
End part two.
Then Odin called all the mighty Gods to give judgement. They took council
together, and realized that they had two choices : Accept great losses, or give
all the Gods, including the Vanir, their due. Odin could see through his anger,
and understood that the Aesir and the Vanir were now few in numbers, and neither
could sustain such losses for long. He also worried about the gathering strength
of the Jotuns, and did not want to get caught off - guard by them in a weakened
On the other side of the great wall, Njord also saw the futility of continuing this conflict. They had been few in number at the beginning of the war, and now were even further diminished. This war had accomplished nothing for the Vanir, and now it was time to reach out to the Aesir and end the fighting. Njord also had gained great respect for the abilities and honor that the Aesir had shown during this conflict, and felt that they could be as strong a friend as they had been an enemy. He too held a council, and after Freyja seconded the motion, all in attendance voted for peace.
The next day, under a flag of truce, Njord with his children, Freyr and Freyja, met with Odin and his captains of war, just outside the great wall. The two sides agreed that peace was the only course that made sense at this point. They made a truce in this way : " They all went up to a crock and spat into it, to show their disdain for this war, and their willingness to embrace a lasting peace. They would forget their past differences, and live together in peace and with common cause. When they were going away the Gods took the truce token, and would not allow it to be lost, and made a man of it. They decided that his name was to be Kvasir. He was so wise that no one could ask him a question that he could not answer. Kvasir became a living symbol of peace, and a reminder of how terrible war could be.
To seal the peace, as was the custom, hostages were exchanged. Hoenir and Mimir went to live with the Vanir, and Njord and his children, Freyr and Freyja, lived in Asgard. These three Vanir Gods and Goddesses would later be so well liked that the Aesir honored them by numbering them among themselves. The Vanir however, saw Hoenir as having leadership qualities, and tried to use him in that capacity. Hoenir however, relied so heavily on Mimir's advice and wisdom, that when Mimir was away, Hoenir would not make any decisions, and allowed others to decide important issues. This aggravated the Vanir who felt that they had been cheated in the truce exchange, having given up Njord and his wonderful children. In retaliation they beheaded Mimir, and sent the head back to Odin. Odin, was furious at first, but when he was able to make Mimir's head speak, he was able to add Mimir's wisdom to his own, and therefore said nothing of this breach of peace. The truce held, and the Aesir and the Vanir have remained on amiable terms ever since. The Jotuns on the other hand would have to bide their time and wait for the final days, that the Norns called Ragnarok, before attacking either Midgard or Asgard. The Aesir-Vanir alliance was just too strong !
© Glenn Bergen, 2011
A Follower Of The Old Ways