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.”

Daily Mythology: Saturn’s Day (Part 2)


The darkness was thick and close in the grotto’s confined interior. Ellyn felt her way forwards, groping along the cavern’s sides. Sunlight entered in a sluggish haze, falling on something which stood at the far end.

She reached the chipped statue and began to brush the dust and cobwebs from its ancient surface. Letters appeared through the grime at its base.

SATVRNVS REX – Saturn is King

Ellyn blew a heavy breath on the bearded stone face. Its eyes cracked open and the god shifted in his seat. He opened his mouth to speak and coughed a billowing cloud of dust, spitting chips of granite.

“It’s a long while since any mortal sought me out in this place.” he wheezed, flexing the powerful muscles of his stone arms.

“I ask for your aid, Saturn. All the gods we have worshiped since have abandoned us. Famine spreads through my uncle’s kingdom.”

A horrible chuckle rang through the narrow cavern, a sound like two stones being ground together. Ellyn knelt and felt fear running hot through her tightening gut.

“I will help you.” Saturn said. “But I will take your wings in return, my little cherub.”

Beyond the cave’s entrance, at the foot of the craggy cliff, the shieldmen waited in silence. Dark noises rattled down from the ledge above. They were sounds from another world, a Hellish place.

They leaped back and cried out in horror as a pair of long, pale arms dropped into their midst in a shower of blood. Looking up, they saw the writhing figure of Ellyn held in the arm of an old stone man. He waved his short, rusted sword at them and bellowed out across the valley.

“Famine, begone! Saturnus Rex has returned to the realm of men!”

Daily Mythology: Saturn’s Day (Part 1)


Ellyn trod a long, tiring path through the broad valleys of her uncle’s kingdom. A troop of the king’s shieldmen walked with her, long axes held ready lest any brigands were about.

Among the green hills she almost forgot how famine gripped her people in its deathly embrace.

They climbed the side of a steep vale and reached a scarred face of rock torn from the mountainside. There she left her guardians and scrambled up alone onto a sharp ledge.

She pulled aside creepers and tangled gorse to reveal a narrow, shadowed opening in the rock-face. The cave seemed to shrink upon itself as light entered for the first time in many centuries. Ellyn stepped inside the grotto.


Daily Mythology: Thor’s Day

Daily Mythology: Thor’s Day

Mighty thor

Image copyright J S Malpas, all regrets reserved

Thor’s squat little legs carried him up onto the mound of stones that spilled over the pond’s bank. He stood on top and set one hand on his hip, the other dragging his great hammer Mjolnir after him. A few steps below, his younger brother Loki squinted up at him.

“I am the mighty Thor!” he squealed, throwing back his round face so that his short yellow beard jutted out. “I am king of all the gods!”

“You are not.”

“I am so.”

The smaller godling tried to scramble up after his brother, but his gangling legs could not find a purchase on the smooth boulders. Loki slipped and tumbled down to land with a splash in the cold, murky waters. A shrill, ringing voice giggled somewhere out of sight. The godlings looked around for the source of the sound, but saw nothing. They heard it laugh again, louder.

“You’re not real gods.” it called, high-pitched mockery stinging their ears.

“We are too!” Thor said.

He tried to bellow with rage like his father, Odin, would have, but his soft throat only produced a wheedling whine. Loki hauled his knees up by his chest and sulked, lank black hair falling across his face.

A short, green shape dashed out of the thick reeds and sprinted at the base of Thor’s mound. He hefted Mjolnir into the air and prepared to crush whichever creature was taunting him. Before he could leap into an attack, a glossy red apple struck him on the bridge of the nose. He toppled backwards off the slick stones and fell into the pond. His mighty hammer landed on Loki’s unsuspecting head and drove him underwater.

They came up together in a writhing surge of thrashing limbs, spitting long jets of water from their mouths.

“You hit me!” Loki wailed.

“I did not. It was her.” Thor said, pointing to the creature prancing about on the spot where he had stood.

She was a girl of the same age as them, with long golden hair fixed in a tight braid down her back. Her hands each held an apple, one green and the other red. As soon as the brothers stopped their squabbling, her arms flashed forwards. Thor was lucky that time, ducking out of the way, but the red apple hit Loki’s head exactly where Mjolnir had landed and he howled with pain.

“Who are you?” Thor asked.

“I’m Idunn.” she trilled in reply. “I’m queen of all the little godlings!”

“You are not.” Thor cried, leaping out of the pond with his hammer raised.

“Am too!”

Mjolnir swung through the air, continued to swing, and hit Thor on his fat backside. The little goddess had disappeared. First she had been a young girl, then she had begun to shrink until a squalling infant lay at his feet. As he stared in wonder, Idunn grew smaller and smaller until there was nothing left but two tiny pinpricks of starlight.

They drifted away across the pond, bouncing off Loki’s smarting head as they went.

Daily Mythology: Wodan’s Day

Daily Mythology: Wodan’s Day


“Hail to you, hearty men and stout women, for today is Wodan’s day. Raise a cup now and drink your fill!”

Wodan remained like a statue of chipped granite as the titan bellowed his speech. He didn’t move as the giant raised a long arm formed from the twisted trunks of mighty firs. Not a sound escaped his tight lips as the giant’s fingers, each taller than a high spruce tree, overturned the hollow carcass of an ancient oak which he used as a drinking horn.

A flood of earthy, amber liquid cascaded down from its rim and swept in a foaming flood around the giant’s feet. His ankles were dry as bone, but the sour ale spun and surged around Wodan’s shoulders, threatening to tear his legs out from under him.

He braced his spear against the ground and stood fast, waiting for the deluge to subside. Voices could be heard crying out in fear beneath the forest’s shadowed boughs. Wodan heard his people’s terror and felt a sharp flint of anger strike against his hard stone heart. Wringing ale from his long, silver beard, he pointed the long shaft of his spear up at the giant. He had to squint, peering up towards the bright sky from beneath the wide, tattered brim of his black cloth hat. Did the titan feel fear, looking down into the creased lines of his face? He doubted it.

“Do you mock me, titan?” he asked, his voice a deep rumble that shook among the spindling branches of the giant’s head.

“Mockery?” the giant bellowed back, shaking the earth with his booming laughter. “I propose a toast to the mighty Wodan, but his people will not drink.”

“Is it a toast, or are you just too weak to drink with Wodan Allfather?”

“Weak? A puny god like you could not drain one cup of my ale.”

Chuckles came from the depths of the giant’s throat as he swirled the last drops around inside his vast drinking horn. A sound like a hundred cascading waterfalls met Wodan’s ears as the cup refilled. Green saplings and shoots crept out of the damp earth, twisting about the huge toes. Gnarled roots spread from the giant’s toenails and pressed into the soil.

Wodan took the cup that was offered, too huge almost for him to hold without toppling over. He drank his fill and smacked his lips, feeling the pressure of a lake of ale bulging in his gut. The giant filled it once more, draining his portion in a few gulps. While his back was turned, Wodan tapped the butt of his spear once to the ground and slid the point into his own navel.

Golden, foaming liquid burst out and streamed into the gaping chasm that had opened where his spear touched the earth. When the giant looked down at him once more, Wodan had the look of a starved man, thin and hunched. He pressed the cup back into his hands.

Their game continued for several days, while the forest-dwellers hid behind the trees and looked on in horror. Wodan’s cup was filled over and again. Each time he drank, waited for the giant to look away and emptied his belly into the dark depths of the earth. Finally, the titan began to sway. A thick copse of trees and ivy creepers had grown over his feet and up his shins, fed by the bitter ale.

“Do you admit you lack the strength to carry on?” Wodan asked.

The giant gave no reply, only teetered slightly and peered down at the old, bedraggled god. Broad hands made of gorse and holly thorns tried to swat at Wodan as he climbed up the giant’s back. But his mind was too addled to strike home, his legs caught fast in the trap. Wodan reached his neck and paused, catching his breath in haggard pants and wheezes.

“Will you admit your weakness now?” he asked.

“Wodan the Cunning.” the giant giggled. “Wodan Tree-Scrambler.”

Wodan wedged the point of his spear into the giant’s neck and he crashed to the earth, ripping apart trees and undergrowth as he fell. The people of the forest watched as their god shuffled away, clutching wrinkled hands to his gaping stomach.

Daily Mythology Coming Soon

Daily Mythology Coming Soon


Starting soon, I’m planning to write a Daily Mythology series of short stories. They’ll be inspired by the etymology of days’ names (yawn? I think not!):


Monday for Mani, Germanic god of the Moon.

Tuesday for Tiw, the one-handed Norse god of single combat and pledges.

Wednesday for Wodan, the Anglo-Saxon form of Odin.

Thursday for Thor!

Friday for Frigg, Norse goddess of foreknowledge and wisdom.

Saturday for Saturn, Roman god representing a Golden Age of peace and plenty.

Sunday for Sunna, Germanic goddess personification of the Sun.


This is quite a male-heavy list. Do you have a favourite goddess who could give these boys a run for their money? Let me know and I’ll try to work her into a story.