Skrymsli and the Peasant's Child

A giant and a peasant were playing a game together one day (probably a game of chess which was a favourite winter pastime with the Northern vikings). They of course had determined to play for certain stakes, and the giant, being victorious, won the peasant's only son, whom he said he would come and claim on the morrow unless the parents could hide him so cleverly that he could not be found.

Knowing that such a feat would be impossible for them to perform, the parents fervently prayed to Odin to help them, and in answer to their entreaties the god came down to earth and changed the boy into a tiny grain of wheat, which he hid in an ear of grain in the midst of a large field, declaring that the giant would not be able to find him. The giant Skrymsli, however, possessed wisdom far beyond what Odin imagined, and, failing to find the child at home, he strode off immediately to the field with his scythe, and mowing the wheat, he selected the particular ear where the boy was hidden. Counting over the grains of wheat, he was about to lay his hands upon the right one when Odin, hearing the child's cry of distress, snatched the kernel out of the giant's hand, and restored the boy to his parents, telling them that he had done all in his power to help them. But as the giant vowed he had been cheated, and would again claim the boy on the morrow unless the parents could outwit him, the unfortunate peasants now turned to Hoenir for aid. The god heard them graciously and changed the boy into a fluff of down, which he hid in the breast of a swan swimming in a pond close by. Now when, a few minutes later, Skrymsli came up, he guessed what had occurred, and seizing the swan, he bit off its neck, and would have swallowed the down had not Hoenir wafted it away from his lips and out of reach, restoring the boy safe and sound to his parents, but telling them that he could not further aid them. Skrymsli warned the parents that he would make a third attempt to secure the child, whereupon they applied in their despair to Loki, who carried the boy out to sea, and concealed him, as a tiny egg, in the roe of a flounder. Returning from his expedition, Loki encountered the giant near the shore, and seeing that he was bent upon a fishing excursion, he insisted upon accompanying him. He felt somewhat uneasy lest the terrible giant should have seen through his device, and therefore thought it would be well for him to be on the spot in case of need. Skrymsli baited his hook, and was more or less successful in his angling, when suddenly he drew up the identical flounder in which Loki had concealed his little charge. Opening the fish upon his knee, the giant proceeded to minutely examine the roe until he found the egg he was seeking.

The plight of the boy was certainly perilous, but Loki, watching for his chance, snatched the egg out of the giant's grasp, and transforming it again into the child, he instructed him secretly to run home, passing through the boathouse on his way and closing the door behind him. The terrified boy did what he was told immediately. He found himself on land, and the giant, quick to observe his flight, dashed after him into the boathouse. Now Loki had cunningly placed a sharp spike in such a position that the great head of the giant ran full tilt against it, and he sank to the ground with a groan, whereupon Loki, seeing him helpless, cut off one of his legs. Imagine the god's dismay, however, when he saw the pieces join and immediately knit together. But Loki was a master of guile, and recognising this as the work of magic, he cut off the other leg, promptly throwing flint and steel between the severed limb and trunk, and thereby hindering any further sorcery. The peasants were immediately relieved to find that their enemy was slain, and ever after they considered Loki the mightiest of all the heavenly council, for he had delivered them effectually from their foe, while the other gods had lent only temporary aid.

Notes : Guerber's tale here is based upon a Faeroese ballad and records an otherwise forgotten myth about the trickster god Loki. As such it is an important source for Nordic lore that is not found in the Eddas. The triad of gods mentioned here, Odin, Hoenir and Loki (or Lodhur) also appear in two other major mythic stories and are also know by the names Odin (originally perhaps "Voden"), Villi ("Will") and Ve ("Holiness). These three gods are credited with the creation of the first humans, Ask and Embla, and also appear together at the start of the story of Idunn's abduction.

Source : From H.A.Guerber's "Myths of the Norsemen"