Odin had been very worried. He, who knew so much about what happened under the skies, who got told by his ravens everything they saw and heard, had pretty much no idea of what happened in the world below. Thor was fighting the giants happily, and brought back new from Jotunheim. Sometimes dwarfs came long, but they rather wanted to do business than talk. But the underworld was literally a black hole concerning knowledge.
But Odin had to know what happened down there, if he wanted to prevent Ragnarök, doomsday. He just HAD TO know, why things were as they were, and what was the reason for everything. And that kind of knowledge could knly be gained in the underworld, where the nine worlds had their origin.
So he disguised himself once again and went to the dark regions. Deep below the world tree, Yggdrasil, was his destination, the well of Mimir, the Wise One.
Hugin and Munin, the two ravens didn’t like the whole thing a bit. „Don’t do it! You are digging up things that better should be left alone. There are some things that even you aren’t meant to know!“ But Odin, stubborn like his ancestors, the giants, ignored their croaking.
It became darker, and it became quieter. The corridor went deeper in long serpentines under the ash. Stalacmites and stalactites formed little pillars along the way. The journey took hours, and Odin almost regretted he had left Sleipnir, his super fast eight-legged horse behind. But it would have been impossible to take him along anyway: The corridor was too narrow and the ceiling too low for tall Sleipnir.
Finally he reached the cavern where Mimir’s well was placed.
While it had been quiet on the way down the stillness of the cavern seemed to suck up all the little noises. Odin felt the stillness tucking at his nerves. „Don’t be ridiculous!“, he thought by himself. „You are Odin, the greatest Aesir of all, and this is exactly the place where you wanted to go.“
He forced himself to think about the rustle of Yggdrasil’s leaves and the chatter of the birds in his branches, and felt how his heartbeat calmed down – or at least what counts as a heartbeat with gods.
The well actually was a little lake. Deep down there must be the spring that filled it, but no wave blurred the clear-as-glass surface. Odin stepped towards the waterline.
Then a voice was to be heard, and she sounded like an old man: „Who are you that you dare to disturb my peace? What brings you here, your hatred for the giants? Then leave! There is no place for hatred and animosity down here.“
„No, no!“, Odin replied. „I come in peace. I am simply a tired wanderer, who is thirsty and would like a sip of water from your well.“
Now the old man’s voice sounded almost amused. „Nice try! But I know you. I know all beings alive! You are Odin, and you aren’t here by coincidence. Not your thirst for water brought you here, but you thirst for knowledge.“
„Oh well, you are right!“, Odin admitted.
„So listen to me, Odin, son of Bör and Bestla: What you aim to know, is not meant for you. For a god of light this knowledge has to remain in the dark.“
„That’s exactly what we told you!“, Hugin croaked. Munin nodded heavily.
„But I need to know that will happen, and why! I am Odin! It is my duty to protect my world wherever I can.“, the god disagreed with sparkling eyes.
It stayed quiet for a moment, then Mimir’s voice spoke again: „Now this is interesting. How far would you go to gain that knowledge, Odin? Because it won’t be given to you the easy way. You can get what you want but at a high cost.“
Odin squared his shoulders: „What do you want? I’ll pay every price.“
„I haven’t seen the sun for ages. My realm is in darkness but I can’t forget those days that I wandered under a clear blue sky and the sun was shining down on me.“, Mimir answered quietly. „Give me one of your eyes, Odin. They have seen the sun. Throw it into the well, so it can show me the sunlight.“
„An eye!“ Odin was shaken. With only one eye left it would be much harder for him to see everything. At the same time he started to plot how to compensate the loss. Perhaps there was a chance to use other people’s eyes or to get an artificial one from the dwarfs? He’d have to think that through. But first….
„I accept you offer, wise Mimir!“, he said resolutely. „My eye for your knowledge!“ And stout-hearted he pulled out one of his eyes and threw it into the well.
Slowly it glided down to the ground. Suddenly the water was flashing as if the sun was rising down there. Waves formed and the spring started to splatter loudly.
„Come closer, Odin! You offering has been accepted. Now you may receive your knowledge in return.“, Mimir spoke very formally. Odin knelt down and bowed over the water. The splashing got louder, but except for the sky god the words it contained remained inaudible. Only Odin could understand what Mimir told him, but it didn’t make him happier.
Finally the water’s surface calmed down again, and the water became dark. Stillness returned again.
Odin rose and sighed. Now he did know more about the beginning and the end of the world. But what he would do with that knowledge, well, that would take him some time and hard thinking. It was good luck that his journey back to the surface would take him some time as well. The drew down the brim of his hat to protect the empty eye socket, waved his ravens and went back.