In the first days of the gods’ dwelling in Asgard, after they had established Midgard and made Valhalla, a giant came and offered to build them a citadel in three seasons that was so great that it would be staunch and proof against the Hill-Giants and the Rime-Giants, if they should come there via Midgard. He demanded that in return, he should have possession of Freyja, as well as the sun and the moon.
The Æsir held a parley and took counsel together, and proposed that the wright would have what he demanded if he could succeed in completing the citadel in one winter. On the first day of summer, if any part of the citadel was left unfinished, he would lose his reward, and he was to receive help from no man in the work. When they gave him the conditions, he asked that they would allow him to have the help of his stallion, who was called Svadilfari. Loki advised agreement, and the wright’s petition was granted.
He set to work the first day of winter building the citadel, and by night he hauled stones with the stallion’s aid. The Æsir were amazed what great rocks the horse pulled, for the beast did more rough work by half than the wright. But there were strong witnesses to their bargain, and they had made many oaths, since it seemed unsafe to the giant to be among the Æsir without a truce, in case Thor should come home. Thor had gone away into the eastern region to fight trolls.
When the end of winter drew near, the building of the citadel was far along, and it was so high and strong that it could never be taken. When there were just three days left before summer, the work had almost reached the gate of the stronghold. The gods sat down in their seats of judgment and sought ways to evade paying the wright. They asked one another who had advised giving Freyja to a giant of Jötunheim, or destroying the heavens to take the sun and the moon from them and give them to the giants.
The gods agreed that the one who had counselled this was the one prone to giving evil advice, Loki Laufeyarson. They threatened Loki with an evil death if he could not hit upon a way of having the wright lose his wages. Loki became frightened, and swore that he would contrive that the wright should lose his wages, cost him what it may.
That same evening, when the wright drove out to get stone with the stallion Svadilfari, a mare bounded forth from a wood and whinnied. The stallion, perceiving what manner of horse she was, became frantic, snapped the traces, and leaped over to the mare. She ran away into the wood, and the wright followed them, striving to seize the stallion. The horses ran all night, and the wright stopped in the wood that night, and afterward, at daybreak, the work was not done as it had been before.
When the wright saw that the work could not be finished, he fell into a giant’s fury. When Æsir saw that the hill-giant was coming to them, they broke their reverent oaths and called for Thor, who came quickly.
Right away, Thor raised the hammer Mjöllnir aloft. He paid the wright’s wages, but not with the sun and the moon. He even denied the giant life in Jötunheim, striking a single blow that burst his skull into small fragments and sent him down below to Niflhel.
Loki had had relations with Svadilfari, and later he gave birth to a foal, which was gray and had eight legs. This horse, Sleipnir, was the best among gods and men, was given to Odin.
Image By W.G. Collingwood, public domain