Hello, everyone! I haven’t written about mythology since 2018, so I thought that now would be a great time to add another entry to the series. Today we’ll be discussing a short story from The D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Mythology about Skade the Ski Goddess. Let’s go back to a simpler time, where Jotun maidens skiied the mountains freely, and picking a husband was as easy finding a hot pair of legs.
Our story starts in olden times, when the Norse Gods still ruled the world, and preserved their youth by eating the goddess Idunn’s Apples of Youth. But after the storm jotun (giant) Tjasse tricked the gods and stole their apples, the gods began to age just like any mortal. Desperate to recoup their youth, they sent Loki to steal back the apples, and with Tjasse in hot purusit in the form of a falcon, they built a fire to burn him to death. So the Norse gods won back their youth, but Tjasse was killed, leaving his daughter, Skade, behind.
When Skade heard of Tjasse’s death, she stormed up to Asgard, every bit as fierce and dangerous as a Valkyrie.
“My father’s honor demands that you pay a fine for his death,” she cried, for it was a rule in those days that a man’s death must be paid for in gold or his name would be dishonored.
What I find most interesting about the Norse gods, as opposed to the Greek gods, is that apart from their power, they act just like humans and obey traditional moral codes. Unlike the Greek gods, who were imbued with divine power, and view human life and society as mere playthings, the Norse gods have to act morally, or else they lose their power. In fact, it’s the simple act of breaking a promise that brings about Ragnarok and destroys the Norse gods forever. So in this case, while a Greek god might have turned Skade into a stone for daring to demand payment for her father’s death, the Norse gods have to repay her for her father’s death, or else lose their moral high ground as divine beings.
“You do have a claim on us,” the Aesir agreed. “But since we know that your father left you with a great pile of gold, perhaps you would rather have some other payment. We will give you the honor of choosing one of us as your husband, and that will make you one of the goddesses.”
This move is very diplomatic of them, and once again, very human. I could see the same arrangement taking place between a powerful warlord and the widow of his murdered enemy. Though I don’t see the appeal of marrying into the family that murdered your father, Skade is a fierce jotun maiden, and therefore pragmatic, and decides to accept their proposal. But like any woman, she doesn’t want to seem too eager to marry her murderous in-laws, so she demands that they make her laugh first. After Odin tried his fifth dad joke, they realized this would be harder than they thought, for Skade “was not in a laughing mood.” Who would have thought it would be difficult to make a grieving and vengeful ice giantess laugh?
The Aesir accepted Skade’s condition, but laid down a condition of their own. If they must make her laugh, then she must choose her husband by looking at their legs only.
This is such a bizarre stipulation and I’ve forever racked my brains trying to figure out why out of every possible condition this is the one that the Aesir chose. The one personality trait that the Norse gods share with their Greek counterparts is their love of trickery. God forbid they just do what the grieving daughter wants and give her a nice husband, no, she has to choose them based on their leg musculature! That will show them all that the Aesir don’t do comedy for just any old murder.
So the Aesir try their best to make Skade laugh, but only get her to “wrinkle up her mouth,” which is honestly hilarious. If only they had TikTok, they would have accomplished their goal in four seconds. Eventually, they bring in the big guns, and Loki ties himself to a billy goat’s beard. Not my kind of comedy, but it makes Skade laugh, and thus she “ma[de] peace with the Aesir.” Imagine if we could solve all of the world’s problems this way.
Now it’s husband choosing time.
The Aesir lined themselves up, but before Skade was called they made a dense fog descend on them like a curtain so that she could see only see their legs.
Imagine this scene, but only with men’s legs:
Like any fiercely independent jotun maiden, Skade knows what she wants. And what she wants is Baldur, the nicest and hottest Norse god of them all, and even though she’s never met Baldur and only stalked him on Instagram, she is sure that Baldur “would be the only one with legs as perfect as her own.”
So she picks the shapeliest legs, but to her dismay, when the curtain lifts she learns that the hot pair of legs she’s chosen belong not to Baldur, but some other guy named Njord. Baldur is happy because he’s already married, and I’m really not sure why he was even included in the lineup if that was the case, since I’m pretty sure that the Norse gods are monogamous, not polygamous like the Greeks. I’m sure he was sweating bullets that whole time.
Anyways, poor Skade, who let’s remember just lost her father, now has to marry some random god named Njord.
Skade and Njord were an ill-matched pair. He loved the seashore; she loved the mountains.
It would be the start of a fabulous romantic comedy, but as we know, the Norse don’t do comedy, and their idea of romance is choosing a husband based off of his calf muscles. The newlyweds try their best to live together, but Skade hates the sea because the gulls shriek too loudly, and Njord hates the mountains because of the howling wolves. So like any filthy rich couple, they decide to live separately in their $14.6 million houses. They are “consciously uncoupled,” but they keep up the facade for Odin at all the “godly gatherings.”
Like pretty much all stories about the gods, a lot of trickery is involved and no one ends up happy. Stars, they’re just like us! They have unhappy marriages and can’t make people laugh. So refreshing, so relatable, so Norse Gods.