A long time ago, even before the dinosaurs were born, the gods and goddesses lived in Asgard and Aesir. The Queen of Aesir was Frigg, Mother of All Women and Protector of Marriages and Children.
In Midgard, home to the people Frigg looked after, there lived a young man, a woodcutter. He had a wife and daughter, both very beautiful, and he loved them dearly. Everything the woodcutter did was for their benefit. He went out to the forest every other day to cut wood. In those days, there were no machines to cut down the trees, not even a horse to haul the heavy logs. Sigert, for that was the woodcutter's name, did everything himself.
He chopped down the trees with an axe, and then cut them up into smaller pieces so that people could put them in their fireplaces more easily. He loaded the logs onto a sledge, a type of tobboggan, and took them into town to sell in the marketplace. It was very hard work, but he didn't mind because the money he got from selling wood, he used to buy food for his wife and daughter.
Frigg watched Sigert carefully for a long time. She was proud of the way he took care of his family, and She wanted to give Sigert a present to show how pleased She was with him. She decided to weave a fine, warm blanket for him, and away She went to do her weaving.
But there were other gods watching Sigert, too. Loki didn't like the fact that someone from Midgard had pleased Frigg as he had never been able to do. Loki was the God of Mischief and he soon thought of a way to make Frigg dislike Sigert. He would make sure that Sigert took very good care of his family.
One winter's day, Loki disguised himself as an old man and met up with Sigert in the woods.
"Greetings, young man," Loki said in a frail voice. Sigert, who was busy chopping wood, didn't hear him at first. Loki spoke louder. "I said, hello, young man."
Sigert was startled to hear another voice so deep in the woods, so startled, in fact, that he almost missed the tree and cut off his own leg!
"My apologies, Elder Father," Sigert said, leaning his axe against the tree. "I didn't hear you approach."
"That is of no matter," Loki said. "You work very hard, young man. Why?"
Sigert smiled. "I work only to take care of my family. The wood I chop, I sell in the marketplace so I may buy food for them."
Loki nodded. "That is a good thing you do then. But why do you carry the wood yourself? Would a horse not carry more wood for you? That way, you could buy more food and maybe save some for days when it is too cold or too wet."
Sigert laughed. "I do not mind the cold or the wet, Elder Father. I work for my family."
Loki nodded again. "True. And you do a fine job of it. Thank you for taking the time to talk to an old man." And Loki began to walk off. This time, Sigert did hear his parting words. "But it is a pity that a young man is too stubborn to buy a horse to carry his wood so that he may buy more for his family."
Sigert grew angry. He was, in truth, a very stubborn man, but he didn't like anyone to say so. He vowed that he would prove the old man wrong.
Sigert began to come to the forest earlier and earlier each morning, cutting more and more wood. He even began picking up sticks to bunch together to sell as kindling. On market days, he rose early, took one load of wood to sell and, when it was gone, he would return home for another load of wood to take back to the marketplace. By the time he had sold the second load of wood, many of the shops had closed. He could only find the leftovers of food that no one else wanted - the apples were bruised, the bread a bit stale, and the meat was tough and stringy.
His wife tried to understand what Sigert was doing, but it confused her. They had had plenty to eat before, so why should they need more now? The daughter only knew that her father no longer had time to play with her in the evenings. Neither was happy, but neither one complained.
When spring arrived, and the days grew longer and the weather warmer, Sigert took to camping out in the woods, so he could cut wood all day long, without having to waste time walking from home. On moonlit nights, he would work most of the night as well. It didn't take long before Sigert stopped buying food for his family. Instead, he left a few coins on the doorstep for his wife to buy the food. He didn't want to wake her up by coming in the house in the middle of the night, he told himself.
"Soon," he thought, "I will have enough money for a horse and I won't have to stay out here. I can chop two loads of wood in one day and the horse can carry it all to market in one day. I can be with my family again."
For, you see, Sigert loved his family very much and he missed them. He missed his wife's cooking and he missed playing with his daughter after supper. "But soon," he thought. "Soon."
It was Midsummer's Eve when Frigg finished weaving her blanket for Sigert. She decided to take it to him at once. The moon was full and would easily light her way. She went to Sigert's house, only to find that he wasn't there. Worse, Sigert's wife and daughter were ill, not having had anything to eat for several days. Frigg was furious.
She took the magical blanket She had made and wrapped the woman and child in it. Instantly, they were warm and well again. Frigg waved her hand over the table, and instantly, it was filled with all manner of good, warm things to eat. Frigg left the wife and daughter to eat while she went to find Sigert.
It wasn't hard to find him, though. Even this late at night, Sigert was still chopping wood, using the moonlight to see by.
"Sigert, how dare you abandon your family to chop wood!" Frigg said angrily.
Sigert stared at the woman, not realizing who she was. "I am taking care of my family, Old Woman," he said in a nasty tone of voice. "When I have chopped enough wood, I can buy a horse to carry all the wood I can chop into the marketplace. With what I sell, I can buy more food than my family can eat in a lifetime." He went back to chopping wood.Frigg glared at Sigert. "You are the stupidest man I have ever seen. You save all your money for a day in the future, but your family starves now because you will not spend money to buy them food they need now. For that, for not protecting your fa