Mimir's Well

'Odin in his guise as a wanderer' by Georg von Rosen

As his horse drew nearer to the well, the mist cleared, and he saw Mimir. ‘It has been a long time, old friend,’ he said.

Mimir sat beside the well, gazing at the stars above. He did not react to Odin’s voice. For a moment, Odin thought Mimir had gone hard of hearing in his old age. But finally, he responded. ‘That it has been.’

Odin went up to the well. ‘So, this is the well whose waters grant eternal wisdom to those who drink from it.’

‘Perhaps,’ Mimir said. He turned to Odin. ‘It is true that these waters bestow gifts. But often gifts come with a cost.’ There was a silver dagger and a plate on the ground. ‘If you seek to see far, then first you must close your eye.’

Odin contemplated Mimir’s riddle. He looked at Mimir’s wrinkled face, at the drinking horn he held in his hands, at the dagger by his feet, and at last, he knew what he must do.

Odin stepped forward and, with quivering hands, picked up the dagger. He used it to carve out his own eye.

When it was done, he dropped his eyeball onto the plate.

Blood trickled down Odin’s face and stained his beard red.

Without saying a word, Mimir handed him the empty drinking horn.

He took the horn and plunged it into the well; the waters bubbled and frothed.

When he had filled the horn, he took it out and drank from it.

As the water trickled down his throat, he saw more than he had ever seen before. He saw hoards of treasure and hearty feasts. He saw the bonds of brotherhood and glorious battles. He saw the many marvels of nature. But he also saw betrayal. He also saw death. He saw an endless winter with skies of raging flame. He saw the sun being swallowed by a great wolf, and he saw a fleet of the dead rise up and sail the seas. One by one, he watched the gods fall.

He dropped the drinking horn and went back to his horse.

'Are you leaving?' Mimir asked.

'I have much to prepare,' Odin said.