The following Winter Solstice story is one I wrote after an idea was dropped in my head. I was talking to my son about Yule and the holidays. I was wondering if there were any stories about the subject and found very little. Most of what is out there for kids is Celtic/Wiccan or Monotheist. I lay in bed, after reading Pumpkin the story of Odin and Loki becoming blood brothers (his favorite of the myths) and wondering what story I could tell him of the Sun and Solstice. This is what formulated in the sleepy mists of my mind.
Sunna, called All-Bright and Everglow, drives her golden chariot across the sky, carrying the sun so that it can shine across all the worlds, including our own. Her gift of sunlight helps keep us healthy, grow plants so that we can eat, and even allows our eyes to perceive color and shapes.
Her swift horses, Allsvinn (All-Swift), and Arvaker (Early-Waker), are strong and fast. This is good because behind Sunna runs the hungry wolf, Skoll (Treachery), follows close behind and wants to eat the sun, taking its light from the sky.
While her horses are fast and strong, and Sunna is powerful, the three of them began to grow weary. Their paces lessened and Skoll began to catch up to them, gnashing and slavering at their heels.
Her sister, Sinthgunt, feared for Sunna and went to Odin for aid. She explained that she could hide Sunna and give the Sun-Goddess time to rest but in doing so it would cause the light to go out from the sky. Not only that, she could not be sure that wherever she hid Sunna that Skoll would not be close behind.
Wise Odin thought about this. He could not allow Sunna’s light to go out from the sky for long or the plants and beings in the worlds would surely die. He decided that one long night would suffice and that Sinthgunt, with her powers of time, could surely work something out for that. But how could they get Sunna away from Skoll long enough to secret her away? How could he distract this light-hungry wolf?
Here, Odin’s wife Frigga had an idea that could help. She reminded Odin that their yearly visit to Midgard was coming soon. Odin would lead the Wild Hunt, gathering lost souls to bring them to Valhalla while Frigga went from home to home, looking over the work of the mothers and wives and blessing those who were industrious and not lazy.
Frigga said they could rely on pious humans to aid them in distracting Skoll. Odin and Frigga discussed the matter as they sat on Hlidskalf and after a time, Odin explained the plan to Sinthgunt while Frigga called on her handmaiden, Gna.
Gna is a messenger for Frigga and the Aesir. Her horse, Hofvarpnir (Hoof-Flourisher), is one of the fastest in all the nine worlds. She heard Frigga’s plan and went down into Midgard. There she spread messages to all the women and homes, telling them that any who had a bright fire lit would be blessed by Odin during his Wild hunt.
The humans blessed the names of the Gods, thanked them for this chance at earning Odin’s blessing, and lit fires. All kinds of fires lit Midgard – candles, hearth fires, bonfires, and more. The flames of their devotion were so bright they shone like a small sun in the sky.
Odin set off on his wild hunt with his wolves Geri and Freki (whose names mean hunger). Rather than going straight to Midgard though, they went up where Sunna restlessly drove her chariot. They saw Skoll edging closer, his eyes wide with the hope of finally obtaining his prey.
Geri and Freki began to harass Skoll. “Look at such a fool. How can he chase that star when we both know the sun has gone down there on Midgard?”
“Can Skoll not see the Sun’s bright light there below us?’
Hearing their mockery, Skoll turned away from Sunna’s chariot and looked down to Midgard. Sure enough there was a light so bright it looked like the sun! Skoll went to investigate, wondering how he could have missed it. Odin followed, protecting the humans of Midgard from the wolf and bestowing many gifts and blessings to those who followed the words of his wife and lit devotional fires.
Skoll only looked for a moment and soon realized he had been tricked. But a moment was all Sinthgunt needed. She hurried her sister into a deep cave. There, Sunna and her horses were well fed and rested.
It was a dark night, the longest and darkest the nine worlds had ever seen. But the humans did not mourn. They celebrated their devotional fires and the gifts of Odin who was praised as Julfather and Gift-Bringer! They feasted and drank deeply from horns of mead and boasted and toasted each other and the Gods.
After a long night of celebration, Skoll circled the earth, gnashing and biting his own tail like his sibling Jormangunder the Serpant. Odin still kept the people safe – those who lingered in home near their fires anyways.
Then dawn came. Sunna and her horses, well rested, emerged from hiding and brought the light back to the sky – along with her blessings on the people that helped save her. Skoll quickly went back to his chase, only now far behind.
And so, on Winter Solstice, we light fires, receive gifts from Odin Julfather, make sure our work is done for Frigga to see, and feast in honor of the Gods and each other. Each year, the Sun rests and our devotional fires bring us warmth until the dawn comes.
For more information on the Gods and creatures mentioned here, check out the following links: