This tale begins on a morning, like many others, when Odin, Loki, and Honir strode through Midgard to see what they might find. They searched above mountains, crawled deep in the dark forests, and eventually found themselves in a meadow in a valley with nothing to eat.
As Loki was crafting plans, a herd of oxen wandered into the valley. So, the gods took a cow, built a fire, and covered the meat. When it should have been done cooking, they scattered the fire and found to their dismay that the cow was still wholly raw. Loki started a fire again and the gods waited for it to cook a second time. They scattered the ashes and found, again, that the meat was raw.
“What do you think this means?” Honir asked his companions.
“Can you never say for yourself what you think? Of course, this place is enchanted and we shall never find our fill of food unless-” Loki would have finished his discourse, but he was interrupted.
“I caused the fire’s flame to fail,” said a voice in the distance.
The three companions looked up and saw a giant eagle behind them. “If you will allow me to eat my fill first from the cow’s flesh, then I will allow you the fire to cook it.”
They agreed, for as Loki realized they could not have eaten it anyways. And so the eagle alighted by the fire and watched over the cooking. The smell of the meat wafted into the nostrils of the gods and their mouths grew wet for the food. This time, when the gods scattered the embers the meat was roasted, beautifully and fully, the meat flaking off the bones.
The eagle quickly took both shoulders of the cow in his talons and the flank meat in his beak and flew up into an oak to eat it. Loki, the hunger growling in his stomach, became enraged that all the best meat was taken and took up his spear to throw at the great eagle. The eagle’s eyes shone, he flew down and took the spear into his back, lodged between wing and spine. He then took off into the sky with Loki, unable to release the spear, dragging behind him.
The crafty eagle flew at such a height that Loki, dangling beneath, battered his feet, legs, and knees on boulders, trees and rock-heaps. He was bruised, his legs broke, and his arms felt as though they would tear from his sockets. He begged the eagle, who Loki now knew surely to be a giant of great magical power, to release him. He begged for peace, he pleaded for relief. Nothing would the eagle reply. The bird continued to race across the world until Loki’s legs were crushed to pieces. Then the eagle spoke. He promised that he would free Loki if he would swear that within seven days he would bring the goddess Idunn and her golden apples to Midgard whence he could take her and the apples for himself. Loki agreed and the eagle released Loki’s hands so that he fell to the earth. After some time, he was rejoined by his companions and taken back to Asgard.
Loki rested and healed, then on the appointed day he went to see the goddess. Idunn he found resting on the porch of the home she shared with her husband Bragi. She sat in the golden light of the sun as it streamed through the leaves of the elms, falling dappled on the ground around her. Her flaxen hair cascaded over her shoulders, as she looked towards her visitor. In her right hand sat a basket, full of the shining apples that kept the gods young, for if ever one of the gods were to feel the effects of age, they had only to eat of the youthful fruit and they would return to their vigor and strength.
He greeted her with glee, told her he had found a marvelous thing. She invited him in. He entered the porch, now face-to-face with the beautiful, innocent one. “I have found a tree in Midgard that bears golden fruit like these very ones of yours. Perhaps, they may be even greater than the fruit of this tree in Asgard. But, I am not skilled in discerning such things. Perhaps you, lovely Idunn, would accompany me and, brining your own apples, we might determine if indeed these apples I have found are as lovely as they seem.”
Idunn shone with innocent delight, not seeing the beguiling of the liar before her. So she stretched out her hand to him, and he led her out of Asgard and down the Bifrost, into Midgard.
“Where are these apples you promised, Loki?” she asked sweetly after walking for some time.
“Just a bit further, my dear,” he calmed her and took her hand, and they continued walking.
After a time, they reached the meadow in the valley and Loki called into the oak. “We are here!”
Idunn’s smile grew bright as she looked up into the tree to see what fruit Loki might mean. The eagle dove down. The gentle one’s smile turned to terror and she screamed out as a great talon encircled her body and took her far, far away from the gods, her home, and her husband.