Disclaimer: While the legends of Beowulf have been public domain for centuries, then the movie isn't and hasn't and it definitely isn't mine either. I'm just borrowing for a bit.
Warnings: language, bestiality (sort of), incest, Nordic myths being exactly as dark as they are if you stop to think about it
"Mother, what is your name?" This is the first true question I ask my Mother once I have grown old enough to master the art of my tongue.
"I no longer have one, my dear son."
She looks at me, considering, as I eat the lamb she has brought me, its blood so sweet on my tongue, its cries so sweet to my ears – yet not so sweet as Mother's milk, oh no, but she has no more for me and I cannot feast on water and light as she does, for my father is of the People of Wood and so I am less than she.
She picks me up when I have finished, cradles me in her arms and carries me away, away from the cave of blue water and glittering gold. Through the air she carries me, over sea, over mountain, over ice. North, ever north, under a sky of dancing light she carries me, and then beyond it.
She puts me down on the cold ground. I look up and find myself surrounded by four great ones, all muscle and horns and glaring red eyes.
"My darling sons, this is your brother. You must tend him and teach him until I return." Mother smiles and leaves. This place is darker for her not being here.
The largest of the great ones – my brothers, did Mother not say they were my brothers? – leans down until we are face to snout, his single eye staring into mine. He is huge and terrible to behold, his bared teeth are jagged and yellow, bits of flesh stuck between them. He snorts and his breath is warm and smells sweetly of fresh blood.
I cling to his black mane as he rises, clambering until I have my legs over his shoulders and a hand around a curved horn. Then he bellows, loud and long, and the other three as well. As do I, as best I can, though I am small and weak and my brothers are great. Then we are off into the night.
My brothers are strong and fierce, old and wise. They show me the land beyond north, teach me the ways of it, how to climb its mountains and swim its icy lakes. They tell me of the four peoples of the world and of their feuds and wars. They teach me to hunt – mouse, rabbit, deer, wolf, bear – and to fight, though not as they, for I have no horns to gouge with and gore with and no hooves to kick with, for I am small and weak and not at all like my brothers.
My brothers have names, I know, for I asked and they answered, but I cannot call them by them, for their names are snorts and bellows and grunts, but my father was of the People of Wood, and so my tongue is stiff and will not bend to my will. They forgive me, though, for the blame is my father's, not mine.
In my thoughts I call them by their true names, but never with my traitor tongue. Words must suffice. Greatest and fiercest, black as dark, one eye a horrid scar, Night-eye I call my oldest brother. Broken-spear is second, broken-off shafts still poking through his white mane and when he moves, red streams will flow. One-horn the third, seldom speaking, for his throat is badly scarred. Last is Ring, second in size though youngest in years, a bronze ring dangling from his nostrils.
I have no name. My brothers call me calfling, hornless, little one, but those are not names, for they have none for me. They have no names but their own.
My brothers tend me and teach me and so the years pass, thaw and growth and withering and frost and thaw anew. I grow.
It is winter and night and above the moon is angry and red. I lie among my brothers, surrounded by their warmth. I know that this will be my last night with them, though I do not know how I know this.
"Brothers, will you not tell me of our Mother?" It is the first true question I have asked my brothers. They shift and snort.
"A long, long time ago," Ring begins, the way he begins all his stories, for he is a teller of tales, "the People of Stone and the People of Seed were at war. When the war ended, they exchanged hostages to ensure the peace. The People of Seed sent the Life-Giver Twins and their father the Fisherman to the People of Stone. Our mother was part of their entourage and chose to stay with them, until it was forgotten that she was not one of the People of Stone herself.
She was always fair, our Mother, fair and fine and chaste and pure as snow. These were her virtues and all honoured her for them.
Among the People of Stone lived also the Lightning-Born Flame, who was of the People of Rime. They say that one day he angered the People of Stone greatly by insulting them one by one, some with truth and some with lies, until the men of the People of Stone hunted him and caught him and bound him with the innocent blood of his own kin.
So the men spent their anger and so they cleansed their hearts, but the women of the People of Stone still carried his poison inside them. But poison will out and so they turned it on our Mother. For the Lightning-Born Flame had lied her unchaste and they claimed it to be truth, using venomous words to hurt her.
Mother was distraught, for her purity was her greatest prize and pride. So she went before the King of the People of Stone. She knelt at the feet of his wolves and begged him to tell the world the truth, for he was said to know all things and if he but spoke, others would believe.
Alas, the King was not a good man, but one of great lust. All the women of the People of Stone had he known and many a woman of the People of Seed. Even women of the People of Rime and women of the People of Wood had he deigned to know."
"Fucked, you mean," snorts Night-eye. "Enough with those pretty words, they are his tools, that old lecher. Pretty words and pretty promises and pretty gifts, to get them to let him stick his prick in their cunts, and when they failed it was tricks and ropes and magic songs. Couldn't even manage an honest rape, the craven old weakling."
"It's a story, brother," Broken-spear grunts. "Stories should have pretty words, even if they tell of ugly things."
"Quiet," snorts One-horn and they settle down once more.
"Right, well, the lecherous old King had fucked a lot of women, but never once our Mother. Now there she was, kneeling in front of him, so fair and fine that his he-wolves slavered and his cock hardened at the sight. He exposed himself to her and promised to sing the praises of her chastity to one and all, if she but lie back and let him take it.
Now, Mother had always been a meek and sweet girl, but this angered her greatly, as I'm sure you can imagine. Had she had horns or claws or such she would doubtlessly had torn him to bloody pieces and given his ravens a ball each and his wolves his cock to share, but alas, at the time she did not. Instead she rose, kicked one of his wolves into his lap and ripped the door of its hinges as she left, thus exposing him to the ridicule of all his hall, for the beast landed just so on top of his prick, and, well, him being an old man, that was all it took, and so it seemed to all that the old lecher had finally grown as depraved as only the Lightning-Born Flame had been before.
But Mother did not stay to watch them point and laugh and sing songs of his disgrace. She left the land of the People of Stone that very night, never to return. Now, was that nasty enough for you, brother dearest?" he grins at Night-eye, who rolls his eye.
"Far she wandered and wide, until she came to the land of the People of Wood, who are weak, but numerous as rats or fleas. Long she wandered among them, until she grew weary and longed for place of her own. But nowhere was empty and good, everywhere there were men and women and their noise.
One night she came to the hall of a King of the People of Wood. She asked him to give her land, but he looked at her ragged clothes and dusty face and laughed. Again she asked him for land and he asked her what she had to give him in return. I own nothing but my name, Mother answered, and again the King laughed. For such a precious thing I shall give you as much land as you can put under plough in a single day, and for the laughter you have gifted me I'll even lend you my own plough, but you'll have to bring your own oxen to pull it.
Agreed, said Mother, then left the hall.
She journeyed north and beyond north, into the land of the People of Rime, this land, and she searched high and she searched low, until she found the biggest and strongest of them all. She went to him and bared herself and told him I need sons. What she had refused to pay in secret for lies, she now freely traded. Four spring equinox nights he filled her fertile womb with his seed and four winter solstice morns saw four fine sons born. Strong and great and fierce, is that not so my brothers?" Ring bellows and the others as well. I join them, shouting "yes" for so they truly are.
"Once we had reached our full growth and strength, Mother took us, one by one, thus gifting us with horns and cloven hooves and thick fur, and when the thrusting and the turning was at an end, she tore off our balls to bind us in these forms. Then she journeyed south once more and we with her, taking turns carrying her on our strong, broad backs.
We came to the King's hall and entered. He had to be reminded of his old promise to a wandering woman, but he soon remembered it well enough. At dawn we were put before the plough and we pulled it all that day, without water and without rest. If we slowed, Mother would whip us with her long braid, as was only good and proper.
At sunset we went to the King and he spoke, asking for Mother's name, as she had promised him years before. It is Gefion, she said, and he fell to his knees, for the People of Wood know the names of their betters of the People of Stone and the People of Seed, though precious little else. Great goddess Gefion, please, have mercy on this poor, blind mortal. Anything you want from me, it is yours to take.
Mother smiled. I am no longer she, she told him. But I will accept your generosity, for my sons have worked hard today and they are hungry. It was a fine feast. We offered her many choice bits, but the only one she cared to accept was the tender heart of the King's young wife.
The next morning we took the land that Mother had fairly bought and dragged it into the sea, leaving the weeping weakling King to his newfound loneliness. Mother settled there, then, and so did we. It was a good island. No people but us and plenty of game. It was good. For many years it was good.
Then the People of Wood found their way to the island. At first they came a few at a time to our shores and we were pleased with the variation in our diet. We brought their hearts and their gold to Mother, and she always thanked us and kissed us, yet she seemed troubled.
Every year more men of the People of Wood would come, until they were too many for an easy hunt, and they brought with them swords and spears, barking hounds and cowards' bows. We harvested scars along with their flesh. It was a good challenge, and there was much gold for Mother.
Yet still she seemed troubled.
Then came the year when a man arrived who reeked of the People of Stone and of their lecherous old King, leading many men of the People of Wood, many more than ever before. They settled and built and fancied themselves masters of Mother's island, these interlopers. They even dared to name it. We tried and tried to drive them back into the sea, but they were too many, even for us.
Then Mother went to see their leader. She smiled at him and explained that this land belonged to her and that only by her will might a man be King of it. She offered him this honour, if he would but give her a son. So the son got what the father had been denied and thought himself fortunate, the fool.
Mother bore the child and it was small and weak, like any babe of the People of Wood. She told us to take him, to go back north and beyond north, and to raise him and teach him. And so we did and we did so well. He was a fine and fierce young man, just like you, calfling, when Mother came for him and took him back with her.
Some time later she returned, another brother in her arms for us to raise. And so it has been ever since. Now do you understand, littlest brother?"
"Yes," I answer, for truly I do.
"Good," grunts Night-eye, old and wise and dark. Then he gathers me into his arms and lets me fall asleep listening to his steadily beating heart, like I used to do when I had just come to them, so very long ago.
Mother comes for me at noon, outshining the sun. She picks me up and carries me south, back to the cave of blue water and glittering gold. It seems smaller.
"Mother, what is my name?" I ask her.
"Your father did not deign to leave you one. All he left was this," and she shows me a cup of gold, the likeness of a brother decorating it. "Do you want it?"
"Yes, oh yes," and she smiles and opens her arms and legs to me, and as I thrust into her I feel fire flowing back into me, twisting me, turning me, moulding me, and at the end of it I roar in completion and pain. Afterwards I lie, panting, and Mother feeds me those two dainty bites, petting my snout and stroking my wings and my tail.
"Soon you will go to your father," she tells me and I know it to be true.
It is good.
A/N: The goddess Gefion is one of the lesser-known Nordic gods. Her most famous story is the tale of how she ploughed the island of Sjælland out of Sweden, having first turned her four sons into oxen to pull the plough. I have merely taken what I could find and then taken the liberty of putting a somewhat darker spin on her story and adding a little here and there. It should be noted that some of the clever people researching the old stories have in the past suggested that she might be Grendel's mother (although I didn't know that when the idea occured to me - though it's nice that they have, since it's nice to know I'm not the only one with crazy ideas that actually fits surprisingly well).