Let sleeping shamans lie

Óðr was not present at the famous feast in Aegir’s hall, which was probably for the best. Despite his reputation for joviality I suspect he would not have taken Loki’s barbed remarks concerning his beloved and her kin as well as Njörðr did.

Instead Óðinn’s champion was out on yet another quest, trying to prove his worth so that he could have the Allfather’s blessing upon his union with Freyja, whom he had loved for as long as he could remember. Without the blessing of the High One the Nornir had prophesied that their marriage would be filled with separation, madness, deceit and tears – so of course there was nothing so great nor so small that Óðinn might ask which Óðr would not volunteer to take on.

On this particular occasion Óðr found himself abroad with Hjalti, the son of one of the lesser Gods of Ásgarðr and in everyone’s estimation a general nuisance. Óðinn had mostly wanted him out of the way for the feast at Aegir’s, but he also wanted to check on the Svartálfar and if they were keeping to the treaty they had sworn. 

Óðinn’s concerns proved prescient. When the pair arrived on the outskirts of Niðavellir disguised as a vagabond skáld and his apprentice, they discovered that revolution was in the air. Indeed a huge army had gathered in the low fields and was preparing to march on Ásgarðr.

Óðr and Hjalti rushed from that place eager to bring word to Óðinn and the rest of the Æsir, until they came across an ancient burial mound. Óðr said that he was suddenly very sleepy, stripped off the red, black and white clothing he was wearing, and laid down upon the grassy hillock. Before Hjalti knew it Óðr was in a deep slumber and snoring.

Hjalti grew exceedingly anxious, for below them was arrayed the terrible fighting force of Svartálfaheimr. He was afraid of the army, and afraid of being found out and taken as a spy, and afraid that this nap of Óðr’s at such a dangerous time indicated insanity, and afraid that he would not wake up – but that whatever was in the mound might.

And then he beheld a wondrous thing – a giant bear made of stars descended from the sky and started mauling and savaging the assembled Svartálf army. Their weapons were nothing compared to its teeth and claws, each of which were like a saber wielded with unimaginable ferocity by dauntless Einherjar. Hjalti nearly pissed himself, never having witnessed devastation on so vast a scale before. 

Hjalti knew that Óðr would not want to miss out on such a sight; more, he would want to join the carnage if he weren’t napping. So Hjalti called out the name of Óðr multiple times and the God did not stir. Hjalti poked him repeatedly and Óðr did not budge. Finally at a loss for what to do Hjalti took out his dagger and rapped Óðr on the head with its hilt until his purple eyes opened.

“Look! The Sky Bear is eating them! Now is the time to join in and raise your blade in defense of Óðinn and the homeland!” Hjalti cried, but when Óðr turned his head all he saw was Svartálfar running this way, and Svartálfar running that way, and Svartálfar who would never run again. But nowhere were there any signs of a bear.

Óðr got down from the burial mound, put his clothes back on, brushed the grass from his hair and said to Hjalti. “You did ill to our King by rousing me so, for I could do more for him asleep than I ever could awake. What is done is done however, and cannot be undone – so let us return home while a warning can still mean something.”