Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heathen Fable #8 - The Hawk that Fought the Wind

All the worlds, including our own, rest in the branches of the world-tree, Yggdrasil. A very old Jotun named Hræsvelgr, or Corpse-Gulper, sits at the top of the world-tree in the form of an eagle, and the flapping of his tremendous wings cause all the winds that blow across the land and seas of our world, Midgard. When our world was young, Corpse-Gulper was already old. There were bare-patches on his body where his feathers had worn thin with age. His body was bent and gnarled and he squinted to see where he was directing the wind from his wings.

It came to be that Corpse-Gulper's eyes were so damaged by age, that ships with sails received no wind at all. The boats of fishermen were blown onto the rocks and broken to pieces. Precious farm animals were scattered by random gusts and lost. Homes were blown down, good soil blown away, and no one could say what the winds might do next to hurt the lives of men.

Hawks depend on the wind more than most. They follow the air currents, using them when they hunt, and they depend on their knowledge of the winds for their lives. But Corpse-Gulper's bad eyes and horrible aim caused wild and unpredictable winds and the hawks suffered even more than men. Many hawks were carried far from where they wanted to be, hunting became impossible, and many hawks starved to death or were blown to the ground and to their deaths. For this reason, all the hawks became fearful and would not take to the sky.

But there was one Brave Hawk who was not afraid. He cared not if the winds were uncontrolled and wild. He scolded his cowardly kin, and told them that he would soar, and hunt, and fly despite the danger. The other hawks tried to talk him out of it and said to the brave hawk, "See...even the men hide from these wild winds. They know that death awaits any that defy the furious blasts from Corpse-Gulper's wings, and they no longer travel in their boats or fish upon the sea, for fear of what will happen to them. They've stopped building homes, planting their crops, or putting their animals in the field for fear of losing everything they have."

The Brave Hawk refused to bow to fear and told the other hawks, "Am I not a hawk? I am young, and strong, and I am meant to fly. I will not cower from these winds." He took flight and began to hunt. But the Brave Hawk was buffetted by the winds, and the air churned and whipped all around him. He fought with every bit of his strength against the deadly gusts, diving and catching new currents when the old ones failed him or threatened to drive him toward the ground. With all his skill and his might he strove courageously against the poorly aimed gusts from Corpse Gulper's wings. But after hours of struggle, a mighty wind drove the Brave Hawk downward onto the rocks and there he lay, broken and dead.

The Goddess Freyja, beautiful Freyja, had seen the Brave Hawk's fearless battle against the wild winds. She gently lifted his broken body from the ground and held it in both her hands. "So great was your might and your main, young hawk, that you should be rewarded with a victory of sorts." It was a simple thing for Freyja to repair the Brave Hawk's body and restore him to life. She set him on Corpse-Gulper's great beak, right between his old squinted eyes.

Freyja told the Brave Hawk, "The winds are not always kind, but neither should they always cause harm. Stay here with Corpse-Gulper, and lend him your eyes. Help him to properly aim the wind from his great wings. Men will call you Veðrfölnir, or Wind-Witherer, for you will calm the wild winds. Give men enough wind to travel to far off places and let them return to fishing, and harvesting, and building their homes without the constant threat of death. As for hawks and the other birds, give them winds to take them where they wish to go and to bring them safely to their prey."

This was long ago. All these years later, the gnarled and ancient eagle named Corpse-Gulper still sits in the uppermost branches of the world-tree, flapping his great wings and sending winds across our world. Some men know that a hawk named the Wind-Whitherer sits upon Corpse-Gulper's beak, though all but a few have forgotten why...

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods


END NOTE  - The fable “The Hawk that Fought the Wind” is not based directly on the Lore, for the Lore does not give a reason why there is a hawk sitting on the beak of the Eagle at the top of Yggdrasil, the world-tree. Whatever story or myth that once existed among our ancestors regarding the hawk's purpose in sitting there has been lost.

While attempting to give a modern explanation to this question, the fable is also crafted to teach a lesson about bravery and perseverance and to explain the hawk's name in the Lore, which can be translated as “wind-whitherer.”

For the purpose of this story, we have brought together into one character the nameless jotun in the form of an eagle at the “top of Yggdrasil” and Hræsvelgr, the jotun in the form of an eagle at the “top of the sky” who forms all the wind with his wings. Despite some strong parallels between these two jotuns, there is no conclusive evidence in the Lore that they were one and the same.