Jail and Window
Poetic imagination, to which not even dogmas can set limits, can even succeed in making the curved stick and the fence coincide. Furthermore, to avoid doubt, the net reappears towards the end as a fence and, simultaneously, as a trap. The staff then becomes the bond in which – or in this case, from which the villain hangs: Loki, of course.
They met a herd of oxen, took one, and took it away to cook it. Twice they put out the fire but realized that the meat still needed to be cooked to the right point. Then they saw an eagle, which took responsibility for the fact that the meat was not yet ready. “Give me a large portion, and you will see that it will be cooked immediately.” They granted her what she asked for. She then lowered herself until she reached the fire and took a loin and shoulders of the ox. But Loki grabbed a spear and struck the eagle. Following the blow, it took off. The spear remained stuck in her body while Loki gripped the other end. The eagle flew so low that Loki’s feet hit the earth and stones, but he felt that his arms should come off and begged for mercy. The eagle said she would not leave him unless he brought Idun to her with his apples. He lured her under the pretext of showing her apples and asked her to get her own. So she followed him. Then came, in the form of an eagle, the giant Thiazzi, and flew it with him to Thrumheim.
But the Ases were furious and asked where Idun was, and when they learned the truth, they threatened Loki with death if he did not take her back in the guise of Freya’s falcon. He then arrived where the giant Thiazzi lived, and just as he was rowing on the sea, he turned Idun into a walnut and flew away with her. But Thiazzi took the form of an eagle and chased them. The Ases, when they saw the falcon approaching, took a pile of shavings they set it on fire. The eagle couldn’t stop her flight fast enough, her feathers caught fire, and they killed her in the enclosure of Asgard.
If we want to realize exactly where we are, we must go back to our starting point, Saturn and the golden age, to the feast of paradisiacal situations he dominates with his gambling. Wherever we talk about apples, we are close to Paradise; so also, the apples of Idun represent the eternal virtue of the gods, and it is no wonder that people strive to possess them.
Ivain chases a knight, wounded by him, up to his castle. Arrived here, the knight crosses a portcullis gate, which immediately closes on him, cutting off his spurs cleanly and cutting the horse in half. The internal shutter is also lowered, so he is imprisoned with half of the horse.
At this point, a comparison with the story of the Thiazzi eagle comes naturally; but someone may argue: where is Idun with apples? In other words: where is Heaven here? We can calmly answer that it exists because it is represented by the space between the two shutters, which has the most surprising peculiarities. The ceiling, painted in blue, imitates the sky with precious stones and profusion of the noblest materials, and there is a bed, a table, and everything one could wish for, including a lady who takes care of the knight. All this equipment is very unusual. Even more so if this space continues to be used as a link between the fortress and the city. The inhabitants of the castle, seeing the half horse, intuit the presence of the knight, made invisible by the magic ring of the handmaiden Lunete – who here takes the place of Idun with the beneficial apples. They look for him using sticks, so much so that he, although invisible, becomes livid from the blows. It is, therefore, strange that the knight does not take advantage of the arrival of servants and the passage of people to get out of the dangerous, albeit paradisiacal, prison and instead suffers all the consequences of the unpleasant adventure.
The poet of the Mabinogion is well aware of this nonsense, and he tells the story differently. According to his version, Owein leaves prison undisturbed, thanks to the ring. A girl awaits him outside, who cannot see him. He then places a hand on her shoulder, and she leads him into her room. All the magnificent paradisiacal arrangements are found here – and not between the shutters.
How come Chrétien de Troyes, the most significant French medieval poet – therefore not a dilettante – hasn’t thought of such a simple solution to the story’s inconsistencies? Why does he keep such a comfortable but unlikely prison in his work? Once again, it is clear that a medieval – or ancient – tale cannot be explained by isolating it from its sphere, regardless of the needs of the “homo ludens”. Here it was a question of the need to insert the “point of observation”, which in one form or another had reached Chréien de Troyes.
Even a Celtic tale maintains the “viewpoint,” perhaps better than it does in the Mabinogion. On the contrary, various editions have come down to us; l demonstrates not only the popularity of the story itself but also the storyteller’s game of bringing new elements from time to time without deviating too much from the traditional subject.
The story is entitled The Courtship of Etain. The heroes of this whole group of sagas are elves, not men. They dispute Etain, and in this dispute, one of them loses an eye, of which Etain is later said to have healed “from the well of Loch Dá Lig”. It is clear that in this regard, the eye of Odin in the well of Mim or the puteal of Attius Naevius immediately comes to mind.
Due to the jealousy of a woman with the significant name of Fuammach, “veil”, Etain also suffers the strange fate of being carried around on just such a veil, until she is completely exhausted by it. Some versions replace the veil with a fly, in whose guise Etain is carried around. It is, therefore, clear: Fuammach, the evil veil, and the fly are the “locka nät”, i.e. the spider’s web, invented by Loki. But that’s not enough. Another prince of the elves captures her exhausted and places her in a glass “grianan”. This “grianan”, mostly simply a loggia, is a building with clear windows “for going out”. The elf, Mac ind Oc, “the child”, sleeps there every night and takes care of Etain until she, completely worn out, regains her body. She grows thanks to the heavenly scent and the enchantment of the magnificent flowers and spectacular plants in this extraordinary “grianan”. But she is stolen from this paradise for the second time by the evil “veil”, and dragged again through the air; she ends up falling through a hole in the ceiling of Ulster into the cup of a warrior’s wife. She swallows it, then, in due course, brings it back into the world in the form of Etain herself; in fact, whoever once lived in paradise is immortal.
The most surprising fact of this narration is that Mac ind Oc always carries his “grianan” with flowers and plants. But nearly every Celtic king of the elves wear the playing board and invites the owner – mostly a woman – of anything pleasant to play on the board. In the modern Celtic fable, the dwarf, instead of the table, which is no longer necessary with the game of dice, carries at least tables and chairs with him, so they are always available.
It is undoubtedly to be excluded that Chrétien was aware of the story of Etain’s courtship. Furthermore, neither he nor the author of this last story knew of other elements that we encountered along the way: we think of the Nordic Hlidskjalf, of the observatory of Loki, of the tower of Inar where the “man” is kept prisoner, of the paradise which Bran prepares for his trusted ones in the room with four doors. Yet in all these stories, the same motif recurs, like an invisible thread, which time has not broken. So what is the origin?
In realistic French novels, no one takes the form of an eagle. But in a “lais” of Marie of France, Ivonek finds her beloved shut up in a tower, assuming, apparently for no reason, the appearance of a falcon. The jealous husband has four pointed spears affixed to the windows, against which the falcon is injured and dies.
We know well that the eagle, in the Hittite world, is the inseparable companion of the god of fortune, who is often depicted as an eagle-man, that is, as a man with wings and an eagle’s head. This explains Frigg’s “valshamr”, which Loki so willingly borrows to fly. When Loki, who is also able to transform himself without difficulty into salmon or another animal, wears, just like Odin, an eagle’s dress instead of transforming himself directly into this animal, one suspects that not entirely extinguished conceptions of a figure of a semi-human eagle, concepts handed down from antiquity and therefore not easy to set aside. The outings that Loki carries out wearing Frigg’s eagle dress have as their goal that ideal world that is so familiar to us by now.
Once, when for his amusement, he had taken flight wearing Freya’s falcon dress, Loki happened to arrive at Geirrod’s estate. Here he saw a large hall. He sat on the roof and looked in through the chimney’s opening. Geirrod looked up at him and ordered that bird to be caught and brought to him. The servant struggled quite a bit to climb onto the hall’s roof, but Loki was amused to see his efforts to reach him; therefore, he decided not to take off before the man had gone in vain. Finally, when he reached his hand to him, Loki wanted to fly away, and he kicked his feet hard. But these were glued together, so Loki was captured and taken to Geirrod. The latter, however, when he saw his eyes, suspected that a man was hidden under the feather dress and demanded an answer.
It is irrelevant whether Geirröd’s story was the source of Thiazzi’s adventure or vice versa. Either way, they explain each other. In the opening of the hearth, in fact, in the center of the hall, the “observatory” clearly continues. The sticking together, for which no further explanation is given, reveals as clearly as possible that it was initially a “locka nät”, in which the corresponding god is also a prisoner. In this way, the last doubt is also clarified: the stick with which Loki strikes the eagle in Thiazzi’s story, remaining attached to it, is based on the iron spear of the Faroe Islands and the relative ball of yarn.
Now, observing the drawing of the stone of Lärbro, with a victim hanged through the ritual knot, where an eagle appears flying downwards and one tied to the hand of the most advanced warrior, we are no longer able to see only a scene of execution. Even the eagle has a precise meaning. Of course, we cannot unravel the myth since all connection has been lost. However, we can conclude that there are stories in which the “locka nät”, where the eagle, or Odin, remained temporarily imprisoned, turned out to be a trap. Consequently, it is now possible for us to answer affirmatively to the question we asked ourselves in the paragraph on the chaining of the Kronos, that is if the god were chained in the same bonds as him.
Not the slightest trace of the eagle-man has remained with the Greeks and Romans, even if the eagle has its precise location in the story of Prometheus. All the more surprising, once again, that concepts prominent in the Hittite world (man-eagle rather than eagle) are also found in the Nordic world. On Hittite seals, three divinities are recurring, depicted as advancing with the eagle-man, and almost always framed by a ribbon or a series of heads. The number three, to which these deities are related, is still maintained. In the Germanic world, even with their respective names, not that. Several references have been made to a story in which the triad Odin, Loki, and Hönir appear in a magical action. To heal her ill nephew, an old woman in Lincolnshire had nailed three horseshoes to the center of the bedside table; she above her had fixed a hammer in such a way as to form a cross. She then took the hammer and pounded hard on the horseshoes, saying, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, nail the devil to this place. With this hammer, I knock three times: once for God, once for Wod and once for Lok”, There is no doubt that here Hönir has been replaced by God only because of the rhyme. But the board, in the center of which the three horseshoes were nailed, recalls ancient Hittite ritual symbols of the Aladscha Hüyük, where three rings are fixed each time on the triangle of the enclosure where the standard of the game board is located. Yet these objects date back more than 4,000 years.
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