It was never good when Loki demanded Sigyn give him the keys to the coffer. “It’s better I take a look here instead of our neighbours doing it if they find something missing from their hoards.” Loki saw the silver in the coffer. He took a handful and put it into a pouch then walked out. “I need to pay some bills.”
Sigyn’s hands always drifted to her silver torc necklace whenever she was nervous about money matters. It was to assure herself that Silfr would provide her the money she needed when she needed it. She assumed that her husband Loki had bargained with the dwarves for the torc. Freya had Brisingamen. She had her own necklace. It was a silver snake that shed silver scales whenever it shed its skin. Of course, Loki was clever enough not to give her the equivalent of Odin’s Draupnir. Silver was the “poor man’s gold.” Good enough to pay an honest woman’s bills without getting people as greedy as gold did.
It was visible proof that Loki cared enough to provide for her and their boys Narvi and Vali when she doubted him.
Odin had commissioned Loki to go on a long journey, and he came back to his family with a silver egg of wondrous purity. Its silver shone like new-fallen snow. It’d delighted her for a full moon before she was forced to melt it down.
I shall cast just one ingot. The rest should be kept as a lump in case Loki has to return it.
She warmed it in the fire. It glowed like the moon in the crucible yet refused to melt until she heard a crack. That was when Silfr emerged. Silfr was the length of a braided bracelet. Sigyn laughed in delight to see that there was more to Loki’s gift than she’d first imagined. She used pincers to remove it from the fire. The egg shell finally melted into the ingot mold, and she had this delightful bracelet!
She waited until it cooled down before she touched it. It moved under her touch. She yelped when the “bracelet” turned out to be a living baby snake. The snake looked her square in the eye, and she couldn’t turn away from it.
Silfr danced a slithering dance. Opening and closing her mouth like a baby bird while giving off hypnotic flashes of light. Silfr should’ve been repulsive, but she was glamorous. Sigyn reached out to stroke her. Silfr licked Sigyn’s fingers while she opened and closed her mouth. Her baby teeth gave a prickly caress as if she were a puppy suckling Sigyn’s fingers. Sigyn laughed at this.
“You must be hungry,” she said.
There were some scraps of meat left from the last meal. Sigyn fetched them for this enticing she-serpent. Silfr swallowed the pieces whole. Each piece became a momentary bulge that caused the snake’s body to ripple. The snake grew larger with each ripple.
This so delighted Sigyn that she found more meat to give Silfr. Soon, Silfr was so engorged her skin formed cracks.
“No!” Sigyn cried out, thinking she’d hurt this lovely creature.
Silfr closed her eyes. Opened her mouth one last time, far wider than it’d opened before. She disgorged herself out of the skin. The cast-off skin disintegrated into silver pellets and scales. Sigyn laughed in delight and clapped at this trick.
Best of all, the silver scales the serpent shed proved to be the purest of silver when Sigyn took it to the silversmith.
She came back to Silfr. “You know, I think you’ll make a lovely torc around my neck.”
Sigyn fed Silfr meat and eggs until the snake grew big enough to fit around her neck. She wound Silfr around her neck and Silfr bit her tail locking herself in place and becoming a glittering necklace. She fed Silfr intermittently basis to keep the snake its current size and when she needed more money.
Her coffer was always full thanks to Silfr.
There was the sound of mice in the room. The chink of coins told her it was Loki in the coffer. She sighed.
“Where is it?” Loki asked.
“That silver egg I got you.”
Sigyn clutched her torc and gulped.
She closed her eyes, “Did you take it from someone?”
He sighed, “Yes, and he’s noticed it’s missing. I’ve got to give it back.”
“I buried it in a chest. Let me get it for you.” Sigyn sighed.
He grunted at this.
“It figures,” Vali and Narfi said when she explained things to them.
Luckily, or not, their father never stayed home long, and she had the chance to speak to them in private. They were her boys, but she looked more like their older sister thanks to Idunna’s apples of youth.
Narfi stroked his chin. “So, we have to give it back.”
Sigyn snorted. “It’s not happening, but Silfr first came to me as a silver egg. I can always grow her until she gives me a nice handful of scales. Then melt her scales into a lump while your father’s out. The original owner will assume the Sly One’s cheated them even if they catch on.”
Vali and Narfi snickered at this. “So you’re not giving Father Silfr?” Narfi asked.
“The Nine Worlds and Asgard don’t know who the Sly One is around here.” Vali said with a smirk.
The boys watched with interest as Sigyn fed Silfr a dozen eggs. Tears appeared in her skin and they gasped in alarm. However, her scales fell in a shower and a new skin appeared underneath to support her new girth.
“I always worry I’ll make her sick, but she likes to have a feast occasionally,” Sigyn said.
The boys looked at Silfr. “How much do you think she can eat?”
“I don’t want to know. I don’t want to risk overstuffing her.” Sigyn said.
She set the bowl aside. “I’ll put her on a diet and wait until morning to feed her again.”
The boys’s eyes narrowed at this.
The boys went on a mouse killing spree.
“Did they nibble on your boots again?” She asked Narfi.
“They’re for Silfr.”
Narfi showed Silfr as large as a hen in her box. She accepted each mouse the boys fed her.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She asked.
The boys showed a bowl full of silver scales that were as big as unstamped silver coins. “She’s as good as a foundry.”
Vali said, “We have to keep her hidden. We can’t let Father see her like this.”
Narfi grunted in agreement. “He’ll be stealing her from us if he finds out what we’ve got.”
Sigyn sighed, “Your father is the one who gave her to me in the first place.”
“He gave you a silver egg. He probably thought it was a onetime gift.” Narfi said.
“He gave Odin Draupnir, and it drops nine new golden armbands every nine days.”
Vali sighed at this. “You’d have to be Odin or Freya to get a gift as generous as Silfr and her scales from Father. He must’ve thought the egg was a onetime gift, or he would’ve never given it to you.”
Sigyn closed her eyes and was silenced.
“Draupnir is an armband. Silfr is a living creature. I don’t think it’s healthy to stuff her until she bursts. Let her hibernate. She’s eaten enough to last her for months.”
Silfr was big enough to make a belt, Sigyn noted. She didn’t like Silfr to be out of sight, and Silfr liked her presence. Sigyn grabbed Silfr and placed her around her waist. Silfr bit her own tail as if her jaws were a lock.
Three days later, Vali came back from his latest visit to Valhalla with a story for his mother. “I think it’d be safe for us to feed Silfr more food.”
“What makes you say that?” Sigyn frowned.
“I saw Father showing off a new belt of his. It was made of solid heavy gold and shaped like Silfr’s big brother. Its jaws bit its own tail as if it were a catch.”
Narfi watched an ‘Oh’ form on his mother’s lips as she fingered Silfr’s smooth and delicate links. He shook his head. It figured Father would keep the better gift for himself.
“So, was it?” Narfi dared to ask.
“Yes. He boasted his belt Gull was superior to Draupnir.”
Everyone dismissed this as a boast. Odin said, ‘The only way Gull could match Draupnir is if it dropped gold every nine days.’
Father snorted. ‘Gull sheds his scales every time I feed him. I don’t need to wait nine days.’
Of course, Father had to prove his boast. He’d got a bet that he could get Gull to shed more golden scales than Draupnir did golden bands.
Does Loki even know when he’s being manipulated? Sigyn wondered, as Vali told this story to her. Her uncle was adept at inducing Loki to reveal more information than he intended.
“There goes our chance to keep the snake’s scales for ourselves.” Vali grumbled.
Narfi laughed. “You take for granted Father would’ve shared the secret of his belt with us.”
“The last I saw they placed a funnel into Gull’s mouth and were stuffing him as if he were a sausage.” Vali said.
Sigyn stroked Silfr. “I wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to Silfr.”
“But you keep a close eye on what she eats, right? What if we gave her however much she wanted?” Narfi asked.
Sigyn was unable to say ‘no’ and to disappoint her boys, so she took off her belt. “Take good care of Silfr for me.”
That night the moon appeared extra bright to Sigyn’s eyes. It cast a radiant light, and she smiled. Then it occurred to her that it was two weeks before the next full moon.
Is Loki playing with seidr tricks again? She wondered.
She got up, excited at the prospect that her husband was home. The light was brightest in the main hallway.
There was a white light on the hearth. What is Loki brewing? It must be a wondrous potion at this rate.
The flames shifted and proved to be Silfr’s slithering form.
The boys heard her and came out.
“That’s Silfr? She must’ve really liked the rabbit stew we gave her last night. She’s radiant with health.” Vali said.
Narfi’s eyes narrowed. “She glows like Gerd’s arms. You’d think she had jotun blood in her.”
Sigyn said. “Well, we know she isn’t an ordinary snake.”
Vali rubbed his eyes and said, “She pays her way. I want to keep her.”
“We will.” Sigyn said.
They left Silfr to bask in the moonlight.
Nine days later Loki still wasn’t back. Vali told her he was frantic to win the contest with Odin.
In the meantime, the boys chafed when she insisted that they grow Silfr at a sedate pace. The coffer overflowed, so she went to the carpenter to buy a new casket to place the silver scales in.
“I’m completely out. Your husband’s bought out my stock and commissioned more.” Rolf laughed.
Sigyn went to the barrel maker instead. Perhaps it’d be better if Asgard thought she had excess mead instead of silver?
“I want to use the barrel of silver to bet on how big Gull will get. You’d think he was the Midgard Serpent. He keeps growing and growing,” Vali laughed.
Sigyn glanced at Silfr and shuddered . “It’s all we can do to keep Silfr fed at her current size. Gull must be even more troublesome to feed.”
“There’s no need to worry about Father. He’s got the entire Einherjer hunting for food to feed Gull. Odin’s proving most gracious about his upcoming defeat.”
It was another quiet night by the hearth at the family hall.
Vali was melting silver scales to form an egg-shaped lump. He’d taken up silver-smithing thanks to Silfr’s presence in the household. Silfr meant he had a continuous supply of raw material. The she-serpent’s scales were of the finest grade and commanded the best prices.
Narfi was hand-carving a wooden jewellery case for his mother to hold the lump.
“You shouldn’t do that in the hall. What if your father catches you when he comes home?”
“He’s too busy guarding Gull at Valhalla to come back home,” Vali said.
Sigyn continued her sewing.
Sigyn’s favorite mouser Matilda was on the prowl for mice when Silfr got there first. The cat arched her back and hissed in rage. Matilda snatched the mouse out of Silfr’s jaws. She made a show of swallowing the mouse in front of Silfr.
Silfr responded by opening her maw wide enough to swallow both the cat and mouse whole.
Sigyn threw down her sewing and cried out, “No.”
She grabbed Silfr and squeezed out the bulge like Silfr was a tube. Silfr coughed and Matilda came out wet and hissing. “That does it, Silfr. You’re going on a diet!”
She coiled Silfr and deposited her into a barrel. Sigyn nailed it shut herself. “You’ve had enough, and we’ve had enough of you.”
Vali and Narfi exchanged a look. It was too bad she never said that to their father. They carried on with their work.
The next morning Narfi gave his mother a new report.
“Gull’s scales are so radiant Frey wants to see if he can outshine his boar Gullinbursti’s golden bristles.
Father asked. “What can you offer me if I win that contest?”
Frey looked at his sister Freya who nodded in agreement.
“They’re having it on the Vigidr field so all Asgard can watch the contest tomorrow.”
Sigyn sighed. She’d watch but would be hard-pressed to cheer when her husband won the prize.
Asgard came to watch the contest the next morning. Sigyn quailed at the sight of Gull. She preferred her dainty Silfr to that thing!
He’ll get as big as the Midgard Serpent at this rate. Though she doubted the Midgard Serpent would’ve been cast into the sea if he’d had Gull’s golden scales.
The scales gave off a magnificent glow like the sun. Silfr’s scales were prismatic when she was at her most radiant, giving off a rainbow sheen. The she-serpent was lovely but overshadowed by Gull’s grandeur.
At least they’ll never take Silfr away from me. Her scales pay my debts without raising envy.
Gullinbursti pranced onto the field with proud grunts. He snorted at the sight of the snake.
Gull writhed in the sun in a glorious coil.
Gullinbursti burned off the mud and mire that adhered to him in a puff of smoke. He gave off a mouthwatering fragrance that made drool appear on Gull’s muzzle.
The serpent opened its mouth and coiled around the boar.
The boar gave a bellow of rage and stomped the snake. However, Gull wound himself in a knot around the boar.
Frey took out his sword to free his pet and cut through the living serpentine knot. It figured that Gull was glorious even in his demise since he let out a spray of red-gold blood as Frey hacked him to death.
Frey didn’t stop until there were no more writhings.
His twin sister, Freya snorted, and glared at Loki. She walked off the field with her head held high.
Sigyn glanced at her husband sideways. He’d be spending a lot of time at home for a while.
Vali muttered to Narfi, “You’ve got the jewelry box for the silver egg ready right?”
Loki visited home long enough to collect money for his journey. Half of Gull’s scales were given to Frey. He claimed them as weregild for the attempted murder of Gullinbursti and the attack on him. Odin claimed the other half because it needed to be used for the cleanup.
Loki still had a bag of gold scales, but he asked Vali to convert it into a golden egg.
Narfi made a second jewellery box for his father for the golden egg.
They were content to do so as long their mother wore her silver torc around her neck.
Loki counted the silver pieces he placed in his pouch with glee. “I have to return the eggs to the family I took them from. The father got them as weregild when his daughter was seduced.”
Sigyn cast a knowing eye on Loki and sighed.
“He told me the eggs must never be hatched. Their father is notorious among his people. His scales are silver and gold. It makes him so beauteous even humans are drawn to him. He invokes greed in men and lust among his folk. His beauty inspires pity in both people and serpents. He starts out small and pitiful. Yet he grows to a monstrous size when he’s fed. Eventually he eats the one that feeds him. They feared blood would tell if the eggs were hatched.”
Sigyn would’ve considered this a sly boast by her husband if she hadn’t seen Gull and Silfr herself. He bites the hand that feeds him. He doesn’t eat it.
“What was the name of Gull’s father?” Vali asked.
Loki gulped his ale, “Pretty White Snake. He is the most seductive and subtle beast in his homeland. Possibly of the entire Nine Worlds. Maybe even more so than me.”
When Loki went off on his wanderings Sigyn lay Silfr on the table. She stroked the serpent’s agreeably sleek coils in front of her boys. “I’m not giving Silfr up, but we must be careful. I don’t want to be forced to slay her as her brother was slain.”
“I’ll keep your secret as long as she earns her keep,” Narfi said.
Vali frowned, “I’ll keep your secret if you never tell Father about Silfr.” Vali said. He’d seen his mother give in to their father too many times to trust her to keep Silfr a secret for long.
Sigyn nodded “yes” to this. “I agree to both of your terms.”
Cathy Smith is a Mohawk writer which is why she’s chosen “Khiatons” as her motto. It means “I am a writer” or “I write” in Mohawk. Her love of myths and legends makes her a fan of modern fantastic literature that acts as modern myth. She has thirteen publication credits. She has also won an honorable mention from the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest and was a co-winner of the 2016 Imagining Indigenous Futurism Contest.
You can follow her latest projects at:
The featured clip-art is from a drawing in ‘Illustreret Norges historie’, Ole, Øverland, 1885, accessed via openclipart.org