August 10, 2023

#08-334: The Otter's Ransom

Loki with a fishing net on an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript (Wikipedia)

Note: The Loki we see in the Marvel movies is nothing like the traditional figure--but his impetuous behavior is still a problem!

Get Ready: What is the value of a person's life?

I have told you how Siegfried killed the dragon Fafnir (see Lesson #08-216), formerly brother to Siegfried's mentor, Regin, and learned the language of the animals. But what motivated his quest? Here's the story.

Once, the gods of Asgard--Odin, the All-Father, with his sons Hoenir and the evil Loki--traveled the earth in the forms of huntsmen. When they saw an otter in a stream, with a salmon it had caught, Loki threw a stone and killed it.

They stopped at a farmhouse, but the farmer--actually the powerful magician Hreidmar--said he had no food to give them. Loki threw down the otter and fish, saying they had food enough and needed only shelter. The farmer cried out, "This is my son, Otr, who can change to an otter. You have killed him, and therefore must die!"

His sons, Fafnir and Regin, came and tied up the three gods, who were weak because they were in human form. They asked what ransom they could pay, and Hriedmar said if they could cover Otr's hide with treasure, he would let them go.

Loki was released to gather the treasure, and the other two were kept as hostages. Loki caught a magic salmon that was actually Andvari, King of the Dwarfs; to save his life, the dwarf showed Loki where he kept all his treasure.

Loki took it all, and insisted on taking a magnificent ring the dwarf had kept back. When the Dwarf-King balked, Loki tore it from his finger. Andvari then cursed the ring, saying anyone who owned it would suffer untold ills and a violent death.

But Loki just threw the net full of treasure over his shoulder and returned to Hriedmar's farmhouse. There, the farmer set down the otter skin--which spread to cover 4,000 square meters! There was just enough treasure to cover it--except for a single hair near the otter's mouth.

But Odin, who had secretly tried to keep back the marvelous ring, took it out and set it on the hair. When the three were released, Odin and Hoenir left immediately, but Loki stayed long enough to tell Hriedmar of Andvari's curse.

And sure enough, as the dwarf had predicted, the farmer/magician would not share the horde with his sons, but while they were out tending their sheep, turned into a dragon and coiled himself around the gold and jewels!

When Fafnir returned, he severed the serpent's (his father's!) head and took the treasure; he, too, changed into a cold and slimy reptile. And it was this dragon that Regin, the younger brother, tasked his student Siegfried with killing, as told in Lesson #08-216.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. balked
  2. coiled
  3. curse
  4. horde
  5. hostage
  6. ills
  7. ransom
  8. severed
  9. tasked
  10. untold
  1. pile of treasure
  2. money paid to free a hostage
  3. difficulties
  4. person held captive
  5. cut off
  6. assigned a job to
  7. hesitated
  8. countless
  9. wrapped (around)
  10. "magic" words meant to cause harm

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 10, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. i; 3. j; 4. a; 5. d; 6. c; 7. b; 8. e; 9. f; 10. h