During the course of A Gathering of Ravens, Grimnir repeatedly boasts of his lineage: he is the son of Bálegyr; “Bálegyr of the Eye,” he crows, “son of Ymir, champion of the Sly One and master of the wolf ships of the kaunar!” His pride in his sire is almost palpable — even though he has barely any memory of him.
That name had been a talisman for as long as Grimnir could remember, its owner nothing short of the god in whose shadow he had dwelt; he had no memory of his sire save as the echo of a thunderous voice, a menacing shape roughhewn from half-recalled memories and tales grown wild in the retelling.
But his mother, however . . .
But more than anything, the name conjured for Grimnir an image of his mother, Skríkja, dark and fell-handed with arms upraised in defiance of the wretched gods of the North: “Así att-Súlfr Bálegyr skiara tar nekumanza!” she would scream in bitterness, her voice hard as the gnawing ice. “Bálegyr is the Wolf, come to devour your entrails!” The night of his death, she’d seen in the heavens a single eye, unblinking, wreathed in fire . . .
She is only mentioned one more time: “Skríkja, who was as fell-handed as any warrior.” So, who was she? Who was Skríkja, wife of the near-mythical Bálegyr and mother to Grimnir and Hrungnir? Facts about her are thin upon the ground. From an as-yet unpublished short story (“Long-Beard’s Gold”), we know that she was the daughter of a chief of the kaunar — “Belted about his waist, in a sheath of worked leather, he carried a bone-hilted long seax – a birth-gift from his mother’s sire, one of the Nine Fathers of the kaunar.” Her elder brother was Gífr, who was Grimnir’s guardian and tutor after Bálegyr’s death at Mag Tuiredh; she was a savage fighter in her own right, “as fell-handed as any warrior.” And that’s the extent of what is known.
But what of her life . . . and her death? Grimnir does not mention her again in A Gathering of Ravens. Was she alive when Hrungnir was slain? Did she outlive her brother, Gífr, who died during the reign of Charlemagne? Or did she depart this world for another of the Nine Worlds after Bálegyr’s passing?
I feel much will be revealed in Twilight of the Gods, as Grimnir is forced to deal with a pair of women vying for his attention: the warrior-woman Úlfrún, and young Dísa, who longs to be kaunar. Perhaps Skríkja’s shade can be coaxed from “Nástrond, under the shadows of Niðafjoll” where her people gather to await Ragnarok.
Stay tuned . . .