Growing Wisdom


Odin walked through the night forest, dark as charred oak at every hour. The mingling scents of purple columbine, white ramson and bluebell pricked his senses from every side. he was treading on a lush carpet of budding flowers and sprouting grass.

The air was heavy with life. Each tree and creeping vine spoke in gentle tones, hushing each other as he approached. A woodland deer, white belly and red-striped back, lifted its muzzle and darted away into the shadows of a hawthorn. The bush was heavy with plump crimson berries, making his mouth thick with hunger.

“Do not concern yourselves with me, woodland things.” Odin said. “I have come seeking peace, yes. But your song will not disturb me.”

A whisper answered him, a chorus of chattering voices overhead. Leaf and branch brushing together, trunk and bough groaning in the wind. It was the song of life and the passing of wisdom held behind thick layers of bark over countless centuries.

He found one tree which stood just shorter than the rest. It was yew, high and broad. But its branches did not touch those around, though they creaked with the strain of reaching towards the clouds above.

Odin saw Yggdrasil and knew it was the beacon which had guided his footsteps so far into the night forest.

He climbed its branches and felt the mighty yew sway beneath him in the wind. It was stretching, leaking sap through cracking bark in its effort to reach higher. At its uppermost point, there was only a short distance between Yggdrasil’s emerald crown and the canopy above.

“Be ready, friend, the time has come.” Odin said, pressing one hand to the wrinkled skin of rough bark and soft lichen.

His hand flew up and caught the branch of a towering elm. Something passed through his arms, a breath of life. It was a word in a silent tongue his mind could not comprehend, but its meaning was clear.


Odin fell back and slept. He did not wake for nine days and nine nights between. In his slumber, he dreamed his legs could span the distance between worlds. Yggdrasil buckled and shrank, becoming a horse with a gleaming white coat.

On its heaving back, Odin crossed the Bifrost. It was a bridge of every colour which burned with molten heat. But they passed through unscathed.

Together, they journeyed across the cosmos. Each secret held within was opened to their minds and Odin heard the trees of the night forest sigh at the gift. Their knowledge was hard won, but happily given to one who was willing to hear their voices.

Then Yggdrasil halted, looking out into the empty abyss beyond. The limit of all that he knew. Odin tried to spur him on and the tree refused to budge. He awoke in the lofty boughs and saw sunlight glancing down through the tapestry of foliage above.

He saw past it, into the realm of spirits which lay beyond. As he climbed down towards the flowers and grass below, a hunger grew inside him. Odin had gained more wisdom than any who had come before him, but he had merely blinked at all there was to be known.

The abyss stretched out beyond the night forest, uncharted and bleak. It called to him. He longed to drown in its depths and never emerge.

“What would I give to be half-blind again?” he asked.

Something broke with a sharp snap overhead and a thin branch of yew, long and splintered at one end, fell at his feet. Odin picked it up and understood, learning as the life left the shattered bough.

“Take my eye.” he said. “It is better to see only half of this world, than to wonder at all that lies beyond.”

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