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The Apples of Immortality

'Loki and Idun' by John Bauer

‘Thor, don’t eat that meat. It’s raw!’ Loki warned.

Thor looked at his slab of meat admiringly. ‘Meat’s meat. Raw or cooked, it doesn’t matter to me.’

‘Honestly, Thor, I would not eat that if I were you.’

Thor looked at Loki spitefully and took a big bite.

After chewing the meat for a few minutes, Thor’s face turned sour. He turned around and spat out the meat.

‘I told you,’ Loki said.

Thor shook his head. ‘It just needed some salt, that’s all.’

Odin tried stoking the campfire with a stick. His stomach groaned. ‘I don’t know why the meat isn’t cooking. It’s like this fire burns ice-cold.’

Above them, there came a loud laugh. There was a giant eagle perched on one of the trees. ‘Your meat will never cook. I have used my magic to make sure your campfire will not heat up.’

‘That’s a mean thing to do,’ Loki said. ‘You’re a very nasty eagle.’

The eagle laughed. ‘I am no mere eagle. I am the giant, Thjazi, in eagle form. And if you wish me to release my spell, you must promise me a share of your meat.’

‘You have some nerve,’ Loki said. ‘We will n—’

Odin raised his hand to silence Loki. ‘We will be honoured to share our meat with you, Thjazi.’

‘Very well,’ Thjazi said. He began to flap his wings, and a strong gust blew down onto the gods. The campfire danced back into life. The flames began to crackle and flare. ‘I will return once the meat is cooked,’ Thjazi told them. He flew up into the sky.

It didn’t take long before the meat was cooked.

In all the excitement, Odin had forgotten his promise to Thjazi and only served three portions. Thor grabbed his portion and began eating it like a wild beast. Odin handed the second portion to Loki. However, before Loki could take it, Thjazi swooped down and snatched the meat away. He ate it in a single gulp.

That was it! Loki leapt at Thjazi and swiped at him with his dagger.

The eagle’s skin was like iron, though. The dagger did not pierce it at all. What’s more, Loki could not pull the dagger back. It was like it was stuck to the eagle.

‘You try to attack me!’ Thjazi yelled. ‘Let’s see if you like being dragged through the forest.’

Thjazi rose into the air.

Loki could not let go of the dagger. He was being lifted off the ground. The higher he went, the more it felt like his arm was being ripped from the socket.

‘Could I get a little help here, Thor?’

It was true that there were few things Thor loved more than fighting giants, but unfortunately for Loki, one of those things was eating meat. He did not respond.

Thjazi lifted Loki high above the camp and carried him through a nearby forest. He made sure to fly low enough so that the flailing god crashed into all of the trees they passed.

‘Put me down,’ Loki screamed. ‘I’ll do anything!’

Thjazi stopped. ‘Anything? Swear to me that you will bring me Idun and her apples of immortality, and I will let you go.’

‘I swear. Just let me go.’

‘Fine,’ Thjazi said. He released his magic, and Loki dropped to the forest floor.

Loki hit the ground with a loud thud. He lay there, sprawled out and whimpering.

Eventually, he got up and brushed himself down. He staggered back to camp.

When he returned, Odin and Thor were clearing up. ‘Is there any meat left over?’ he asked.

Thor licked his lips. ‘Leftovers!’ He looked at Odin hopefully.

‘I’m afraid not,’ Odin said. ‘If you are still hungry, you’ll have to wait until we get back to Asgard.’

‘And how long will that be?’

‘A few days, maybe more if we decide to go the scenic route.’

‘I wouldn’t mind seeing the ice cliffs of Jotunheim,’ Thor said.

‘That settles it then. We are going the scenic route.’

Loki sighed.

When they eventually returned to Asgard, Loki headed straight to a dining hall. He ate plate after plate of food. Once he had finished, he went to his house for some much-needed sleep.

The following day, he watched Idun give each of the gods one of her apples from her wooden basket. She had long golden hair and a patch of pink freckles underneath both of her eyes.

‘Idun,’ Loki said. ‘I’ve planted some apple trees, and recently they’ve been giving off plenty of apples. It’s just that I don’t know which ones are best to eat. Would you mind having a look at them and helping me decide?’

Idun squinted at Loki. ‘You’re not trying to trick me, are you?’

‘Of course not! What gives you that idea?’

‘All of the other gods say don’t listen to anything Loki tells you because he’s probably trying to trick you.’

‘They’re just messing with you. I wouldn’t dream of tricking anyone.’

Idun frowned. ‘Then why does my husband call you Loki the Betrayer in his poems?’

Loki shrugged. ‘He’s a poet. They’re all a bit dramatic if you ask me.’ He put his hand on his heart. ‘Idun, I promise I am not trying to trick you.’

‘Fine. I believe you.’

Loki grinned. ‘Follow me, then.’

He led Idun to a secluded grove.

‘Ok. Here we are,’ Loki said.

Idun looked around. ‘I see no apple trees. What is the mea—’

Before she could say another word, Thjazi swooped down and picked her up in his talons. He carried her out of the grove and to his halls on the snowy mountaintops of Jotunheim.

In her struggles, Idun had dropped one of her apples. Loki bent down and picked it up. He slipped it into his pocket and left the grove.

Without Idun and her apples, the gods grew old. Their hair became grey, and their skin began to sag.

‘My back hurts,’ Odin complained one day.

‘You think you’ve got problems,’ Thor said. ‘Try lugging this great big hammer around with you all day! And—’

One of Thor’s teeth dropped out.

‘Not another one.’ Sif said. ‘At this rate, you’ll be eating your meals through a straw soon.’

Odin sighed. ‘I think we’ve got old. Where’s that Idun and her apples? They always seemed to keep us young.’

Freyr scratched his head. ‘I think Loki saw her last.’

Loki squirmed. ‘I—I don’t think it was.’

‘Oh right,’ Freyr said sadly. ‘Do forgive me. I keep getting things wrong lately.’

‘If you like, I could ask around and see where Idun has got to?’ Loki suggested.

‘Thank you,’ Odin said.

Loki turned into a hawk and flew straight to Jotunheim.

Thjazi’s halls were high up on a mountain. It was a tall, looming building made up of enormous stone blocks. Outside, there was a steep path leading down to a lake. Thjazi sat by the lake fishing.

Loki looked for a way into the halls. Luckily, there was a window that had not been closed properly. He slipped through the gap and went inside.

Idun sat on a stone stool with her basket of apples on her lap. Her face was white with worry. Her eyes were puffy from crying.

Loki transformed back into his true form. ‘Idun! I have come to take you back to Asgard.’

Idun scowled at Loki. ‘You are the reason I’m here in the first place. Why should I trust you?’

Loki shrugged. ‘You shouldn’t. To be honest, I wouldn’t trust me either, but I’m afraid I’m your only option.’

Idun crossed her arms. ‘Fine. But how will you get me out? Thjazi is outside, and he’ll notice if we simply walk out of the front door.’

Loki grinned. ‘I have a plan.’

He touched Idun’s shoulder, and she transformed into a hazelnut. Then, he changed back into a hawk.

Loki picked up the nut in his beak and flew back to Asgard.

Once Idun was home and no longer a nut, she gave each of the gods one of her apples. They scoffed them down and immediately returned to their younger selves. That is—except for Thor, who now only had one tooth left. He had to get Sif to mush up the apple so he could eat it.


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