[UPDATE: I got 3rd runner up, plus some really nice comments from not only K Siegfried and the artist of a graphic novel, but from the artist who designed the famous Faroese Norse Mythology stamps! Check out the contest results here (and buy copies of my pic here!!!!!). You can also find my pic alongside a bunch of other illustrations of the myth on this Myths and Legends blog.]
[If you want the summary of the myth, just skip to the bottom!] I like “Abduction of Idun” much better than the usual “Rape of…”, though it has been suggested that there was a sexual element to the possession of this fertility goddess by first the gods, then the giants (then the gods again). Anyway, here is my picture! I first sketched the idea back 2 years ago when a student in my mythology course requested a pic of Iðunn, but ended up never finishing it (did this quick anime-esque portrait instead). I decided to resurrect it finally for the Midwinter Art Contest at the Norse Mythology Blog. Well, OK, this is potentially problematic, as I presented this paper on one version of the myth as a harvest poem (not a winter poem), but all the reasons that the skald Þjóðólfr found the myth productive for a harvest poem also recommend it for a Midwinter poem, as the theft of the fertility goddess Iðunn brings youth and springtime bounty to the giants, while the gods are left to grow old and grey. Given that, I decided that my Midwinter picture would also draw on the myth of the abduction of Iðunn as a way of dramatizing the coming of winter–the land of the giants, behind our giant-transmographied-to-eagle, is cold and snowy, typical given the association of the giants with inhospitable rocks and mountains in many of the myths, but the cold of those mountain tops (a giantish association that is hit on a few times in the poem) will soon be transferred to the land of the gods, behind their imposing wall (shown on the right with Loki in the shadows), as Iðunn’s powers and her life-giving apples (here shown golden[-ish], as seems to be indicated elsewhere in the mythic corpus) transform those wintry mountaintops into eternal Spring. It’s not difficult to see parallels to the Persephone myth, though of course we should be cautious about assuming the two goddesses play exactly the same role. Within Snorra Edda, I think the myth makes the most sense taken in the context of the competition between the gods and the giants, as a threat to the dominance of the gods. As Margaret Clunies Ross has pointed out in Prolonged Echoes v 1, during the “Mythological Present” we find a state of negative reciprocity between the gods and giants, as it is seen as appropriate and good from the POV of the myths for the gods to appropriate goods from giantland and for the male gods to sleep with giantesses (or marry them, in the case of the Vanir), while it is a threat to the cosmic order for a giant to appropriate anything from the gods or to seek sexual access to any of the goddesses (this is apparently behind the inherent threat of Loki’s existence according to at least one version of his origins, where his father is a giant [Fárbauti] and his mother is a goddess [Laufey–yes Marvel, you got that VERY wrong…]). The abduction of Iðunn is a great example of this sort of myth, where the community of the gods is penetrated (and yes, there is a productive overlap with sexual penetration there, highlighted in the fact that it is a goddess that is abducted) and their source of prosperity is taken–but since this is a myth in the mythic present, she is recovered (spoiler alert) and everything is returned to normal by the end. As I argue in my paper, this can be described in terms of the “Image of Limited Good” theory from anthropology–but you will have to read my paper for that. 😛
I’ve got a few of the early steps in the making of this pic on my tumblr, as well as the finished product. And as always, you can (AND SHOULD) buy copies at DeviantArt and Redbubble!
Snorri Sturluson’s prose version of this myth is the first given in Skáldskaparmál, the middle section in Snorra Edda (aka Prose Edda, Younger Edda), and the section of the poem Haustlöng that covers the myth is found a bit later in that same section (you should be able to find free versions of Snorri’s Edda online, but they are all pretty old–I recommend you pick up Anthony Faulkes’ translation instead). I wrote a paper on Haustlöng as a harvest poem a few years back (based on a section from my dissertation), so feel free to read that on Academia.edu (if you can’t read it on there w/o being a member, maybe I’ll put together a version for this blog). In the meantime, find my summary of the relevant part of the poem below (cut and pasted from my paper–sorry, not much time today).
“Haustlöng, as preserved, consists of two myths, both also given in prose narratives in Snorra Edda—the Rape of the goddess Iðunn, whose apples grant the gods eternal youth, and Þórr’s duel with the giant Hrungnir. For the sake of time, I will focus on the Iðunn stanzas, where the connection to harvest time is clearest.
“We begin with a reference to the performance situation as Þjoðólfr wonders aloud how he shall repay the gift of a shield from Þorleifr, then tells us that he can see the journey of the famous gods on the shield. The giant Þjazi, diguised as an eagle, flies to where Óðinn, Loki and Hœnir are attempting to cook an ox. Said cooking goes poorly, and it is hinted that something (the eagle, in Snorri’s account), is responsible for this. Then the eagle speaks up from its perch in an ancient tree and asks for a share in the meal. They agree, and the ox, now cooked, is swiftly gobbled up by the eagle. Loki strikes the ravenous eagle with a pole. This pole sticks to the eagle, as well as to Loki’s hands, and the eagle flies off so violently that Loki is forced to sue for peace. Þjazi has him bring Iðunn to the home of the giants, and all the gods grow old and ugly, due to the lack of Iðunn’s apples, as Snorri explains for us. The gods find Loki and force him to bring Iðunn back. He does, and while chasing them Þjazi is caught and roasted alive in a fire prepared by the gods.”