A Solstice Tale
“Ohhhh, where am I? How did I get here?” Odin climbed to his feet and looked about him. Snow. Trees and ice. It was cold. Gingerly, the Allfather touched the large lump already well formed on his head. It was sore and it was hard for him to think clearly. Now he remembered. It was that idiot Thor’s fault. Ragnarok, the last battle at the end of the world had come. There he had been, fighting Fenris, the Great Wolf. Nearby, Thor fought the evil Midgard Serpent, whose tail circles the world. Thor had thrown his mighty hammer Miolnir at the serpent. And missed. The clap of thunder that always accompanied Miolnir’s blows was the last thing Odin remembered.
“Where am I?” Odin thought again. Apparently the world had not come to an end for he was still in it. But the last battle was over, the rest of the Aesir were gone. If he were back in Valhalla, he could look from his throne Hlidskialf, from which all things may be seen, and find out what was going on, but he wasn’t. Then it came to him. This must be the promised age after Ragnarok. Gentle Baldur, raised from the dead, must be ruling in High Gimli. That must be it.
A glance at the stars told the Allfather that this was the far future, and it was the Winter Solstice to boot! “The Solstice!” Odin thought. Old feelings and duties came back to him. He was sure Baldur wouldn’t mind if he went out and judged the people as he always did at this time of the year. He could see the lights of a town in the distance. He would begin there.
Odin put two fingers to his lips and whistled. Out of the woods, as if he had been waiting for the call, came Sleipnir, Odin’s eight legged steed. Sleipnir whinnied and pranced as Odin approached. It had been a long time since the last ride and Sleipnir was anxious. Odin patted the horse and mounted.
More rapid than eagles they flew and in an instant they were in the town. The snow was deep and even and the streets were empty. Brightly colored lights shone everywhere and the Allfather wondered why the people who lived here hadn’t dimmed them yet to pay their respect for the waning sun.
Sleipnir’s eight hooves echoed as Odin explored the town. Rounding a comer, Odin pulled the horse to a stop. There, across the road, was a giant painting. It seemed to be a portrait of himself. His coat and cap were red instead of blue, but their white trim and fur lining were the same. His long beard was portrayed magnificently as was his less-than-magnificent lack of hair. Interestingly enough, he still had two eyes. Instead of riding Sleipnir, he was driving a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer; one for each leg, he supposed.
Runes on the sign read: “He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!” Odin realized that the painter must have thought that he needed a sleigh to carry all the treasure for the good. “The people of this age must be very good indeed, Sleipnir, if they think I can’t carry all the treasure myself,” the Allfather remarked.
“Why do you think my spear isn’t in the painting? Is everyone so good that no one gets the point anymore?” Odin chuckled. Well, he would soon find out if these people were as good as they believed.
The Allfather rode to the nearest house. “This place looks as good as any to start the judging. Stay here boy, I’ll be back soon.” Odin dismounted and walked into the house, the door opening and closing behind him magically.
In the living room, Odin saw the tree. It was the very image of Yggdrasil, the evergreen tree of life. It was aflame with lights as Yggdrasil had been aflame with fire in the last battle. Upon its top sat a statuette of the All-Seeing Eagle that sits atop Yggdrasil. Odin squinted through the multicolored gloom. “By the Cow!” he exclaimed. “That’s not an eagle, it’s a winged woman!” The Allfather wondered at the twists that the legends must have taken over the eons for Yggdrasil’s Eagle to be transformed into a winged woman. He also noticed that Ratatosk, the messenger squirrel, was missing from the tree. “Still,” Odin thought, “it is a pretty good symbol of the end of light and life at the Solstice.” Presumably the people who lived here would turn off the artificial light at the darkest hour and the tree would be symbolically reborn whole at dawn.
“Santa, why didn’t you come down the chimney? Is it because it isn’t Christmas for four more days? Huh? Is it?” Odin spun around. There, head peeking out from behind a couch, was a little girl.
“Why would I come down the chimney, little girl?” the Allfather asked.
“Because you’re supposed to. Everyone knows that.” Not one to be put off his stride, Odin let that pass. His head still hurt and he didn’t seem to be able to peer into the little girl’s heart so he would have to do this the hard way.
“What is your name, little girl?”
“And have you been a good little girl this year, Sheila?”
“Yes Santa! I told you that at that at the mall yesterday when I asked you for a Barbie Dreamboat!”
“Well then Sheila, here is your horse’s leg….” Odin said, as he laid the piece of meat in front of her. Sheila came out and looked at the leg and started to cry.
“But I want a Barbie Dreamboat….”
“What is a ‘Barbie Dreamboat’?” Odin asked, trying to be kind.
“It’s a boat with a blender that makes pink lemonade.”
“A boat that makes lemonade? You know, don’t you, that the leg will turn to gold if you guard it ’til the morrow.”
“I want a Barbie Dreamboat!”, the girl shrieked.
“You’ll get the point of my spear Gungnir, like the wicked do, if you don’t stop whining!” the Allfather said harshly. The little girl disappeared back behind the couch.
Odin walked back out into the street. “Do you think I was too harsh on her, Sleipnir? Maybe I should leave the judging until next year, when I’ll know for sure what happened to us.” Sleipnir whinnied in apparent agreement. The little girl had seen someone at ‘the mall’ acting out his role. Perhaps there, he would find answers.
In the twinkle of an eye, Odin and Sleipnir reached the mall. It was closed and locked, but as before, the doors magically opened before the pair. In the center of the mall the Allfather found “Santa’s Village at the North Pole.” “Santa,” Odin remembered, was what the little girl had called him. “Do I have a village at the North Pole, Sleipnir?” Odin didn’t think so, but his head still hurt and his memories were still a bit fuzzy.
Odin dismounted and went over to the display. “Santa’s Elves making Toys” some runes read. “Elves?” Odin thought, “Surely not.” His mind might be a bit fuzzy, but he recognized dwarves when he saw them. They were short and serious looking; diligent; always crafting precious treasures. Clearly, these were dwarves. Elves were tall, fair, and entirely too full of their own beauty.
There he was again. This time a kindly looking woman whom the runes named “Mrs. Claus” was with him. Frigga, he supposed. She was offering him a tray of “Chocolate Chip Cookies.”
Behind the village was the sleigh and reindeer again. As Odin read the names of the reindeer, he burst out laughing. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he laughed. “Donner and Blitzen; thunder and lightning.” Thor’s rage would shake Valhalla when he found out that he, Donar, which meant thunder, and his great palace Bilskimir, which meant lightning, had symbolically been turned into two of Sleipnir’s legs.
It was then that Odin noticed the ninth reindeer, apparently the leader of the team. This new reindeer, who had a glowing red nose, the runes named “Rudolph”. The Allfather did not want to dwell for too long on the mystery of the extra reindeer for Sleipnir did indeed have nine appendages on his underside. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he laughed again. He might like living in this age after all. Now, if he could only get Frigga to start baking cookies….