The Boys They’re Just Riding Around for the Fun of It

For a long time I’ve been kind of stumped by the Hyndluliod. Most interpretations of it read it as a very hostile encounter between Freyja and Hyndla and yet, when you read it, it’s hard to understand why Hyndla gives up the information Freyja needs so freely if this is indeed a hostile encounter. Every other encounter with the Jutons is settled through outwitting them or defeating them physically. It’s really unclear, though, how Freyja “wins” this, what she’s done that constitutes a defeat of Hyndla.

Hyndluliod. Larrington translates that word as “The Song of Hyndla,” but I’ve been thinking that if we called it “The Bitch’s Ditty,” you’d get a much better sense of what’s going on–the possible levity of it. Maybe it’s that same way we tease each other about boys now.

Freyja says, “Hyndla, my sister, let’s go see Odin and get some cool stuff.”

Hyndla says, “You’re so full of shit. You don’t want me to go see Odin. You want me to help you spoil that little stud of yours.”

Freyja says, “What? No I don’t. Okay, I do. Help.”

Hyndla: “Oh, I don’t think I could help him any more than you already do. You’re like a goat in heat.”

Freyja: “Shut up!”

Hyndla: “Well, I could do just like you and get him drunk and ride him around just for the fun of it. Yeehaw!”

Freyja: “Shut up! Okay, that was funny.”

Compare to this:

Me: “We’re not talking about boys or about strategic behavior to get boys because today I’m going to be happy and thinking about boys does not make me happy. It makes me sad and confused.”

The Professor: “Okay, fine, but you brought it up. Code? You can get help with code? I would just have to have someone come over and do it all.”

Me: “I need to know where to stick some code and since he’s the one who told me I needed it, he’s the one who can tell me where to put it, I figure. He’s smart like that.”

The Professor: “I don’t know how I am and am not allowed to respond… have him come over and stick it in. Sorry, but really, you should… damn, I just can’t help myself.”

Me: “That was so funny I drooled on myself just a little bit.”

See, this is how we are when we talk about y’all. Shoot, if we could turn you into a handsome golden boar, or a sports-question-answering-trivia hottie, we’d totally let you come along so we can scrutinize you while we’re discussing you.

It’s this lighthearted silly banter, with its familiar rhythms and great room for improvisation, that tickles me most about hanging out with the Sisters and the Professor. And the concrete realization that these are ancient ways women play with each other tickles me even more.

The Lady and the Hound

There are three main groups of indispensable supernatural beings in Norse mythology: the Aesir, the Vanir, and the Jutons (or giants). The most common way you’ll see them explained is that the Aesir are the gods of urban affairs, the Vanir are the gods of rural affairs (including magic) and the Jutons are both groups of gods’ mortal enemies.

And yet, even a cursory glance through the Voluspa tells you that such distinctions are hard to make. Why is Odin an Aesir when his mother is a Juton? Why is Freyja, whose mother is Earth (speculatively some variation of Nerthus), a Vanir when Thor and Frigg, whose mother(s) are also Earth (Jord or Fjorgyn), are Aesir?

It’s easier to understand if you think of Norse mythology like a John Waters film about some crazy high school. The Aesir are the popular kids, the jocks with the best cars. Oddly enough, they’re also the biggest protectors of the kids in junior high (us). The Vanir are what would happen if the FFA, band geeks, artsy fartsy kids, and goth chicks were all into fucking their siblings and cross-dressing. They don’t dislike the kids in junior high, but they don’t like them either. But the Jutons are the kids who never seem to leave high school. They’re like twenty-five and still fucking around. They set fires and sit in the back of the bus and read the Necronomicon out loud trying to turn grade schoolers into werewolves. They’re constantly beating up the junior high kids and worse.

So, the Aesir, especially Thor, are constantly having to patrol the Junior High, keeping the youngsters safe from the Jutons. This doesn’t mean, as often happens in high school, that there wasn’t a lot of hooking up between groups and some loose affiliations that crossed group boundaries.

Which then brings us to the crazy story of Freyja–a Vanir–and Hyndla (literally, Hound or Bitch)–a Juton. Happily enough, you can read it for yourself here. But the general gist is that Freyja shows up with her lover Ottar, who is a man, at the moment in the shape of a boar, and proceeds to shoot the shit with Hyndla. Ottar has made some dumb-ass bet he can’t possibly win and so Freyja is trying to get Hyndla to help him out. Hyndla calls Freyja a slut a couple of times (“many under your apron have crawled”) and tries to get young Ottar drunk, but does give Ottar the information he needs.

It’s interesting to me on a couple of levels. One is that it’s a story that revolves around women, women with healthy appetites and the cognitive ability for verbal sparring. You don’t often see mythological women with such agency. And the other is that this poem, like all the Eddic poems, is so sparse and yet so suggestive that there’s a great deal upon which to hang your imagination.

But the third is that I think it gets–in that way myths do, by taking something ordinary and blowing it up large–at the weird ways women are with their female friends about the boys they’re just fucking.

The Girls and How Awesome the Butcher is

Y’all, I have been in a funk.

I don’t know how you can watch someone you love and notice that his posture, even when he’s relaxed, turns in on itself like he’s in constant pain and know that there’s really nothing you can do, because what he needs is so profound it’s going to take something holy to give it to him, and not be in a funk.

It’s not just the recalcitrant brother, though, it’s the whole bunch of them, who refuse to be happy, who refuse to even believe they deserve to be happy. I have nothing against this approach. I like to fret as much as the next person. But if it makes you miserable–the fretting and the worrying and the general feeling that the world is stacked against you–don’t try to mitigate your misery by taking it out on me.

That makes me miserable, and I don’t want to be miserable.

Mostly because when I’m miserable, I try to mitigate it by making everyone around me uncomfortable.

Really, every once in a while I catch a glimpse of just how hostile I am towards the world in general and it almost awes me. If I could figure out how to channel that–and if I had any sense of balance whatsoever–I’d be a hell of a hockey player.

But today I am out of my funk. I am happy and well-reminded of how lucky I am.

Last night, I had two tall beers, a good roast beef sandwich, the Professor to my left, Miss J. to my right, the Queen directly across from me, and the Divine Ms. B. next to her. It was awesome.

We were talking about poetry and philosophy and art and men and all kinds of things that stimulate us intellectually and please us aesthetically. We were catching up on stuff and finding out new things.* It made me so happy, to be surrounded by these fierce and funny women that I love.

Then, later on, the Butcher joined us and looked up at me at one point and gave me this big grin like “Isn’t it awesome that we’re here?” and I agreed.

I complain a lot about the Butcher, but really, thank god there is one person in my family who also wants to be happy and have friends and enjoy life.

[edited to add that the Queen fills in the details for those of you who are curious.]


*There was a moment at which I realized that the Professor and the Queen both remind me of Freyja, riding her lover (disguised as a boar) over to visit her bitchy friends. But that may be an observation for a little later…