fialleril: [here there be monsters] (mystery and wonder)
[personal profile] fialleril
Remember that series of character studies on Loki's children I started, using Tolkien's riddles from The Hobbit as a lens? Here is the second one, about Jormungand, which was definitely the trickiest one to write.

(The first one, about Fenrir, is here.)

Title: and yet never grows
Characters: Jormungand
Rating: PG
Word Count: 555
Summary: His father hates walls, but Jormungand laughs at them.
Notes: The riddle for this one isn't quite as obvious, but I am using the actual answer to the riddle, "mountains," as a metonym for "the foundations of the earth." The title is a bit delightfully ironic, since of course Jormungand is famous for his never ending growth spurts.

and yet never grows

What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?


*

Jormungand is exactly as he appears, only more so.

He is all sinuous, sudden movement and tireless, motionless contemplation, bound together by a relentless but often unnoticed curiosity. His form is a snake’s, and he has as many skins as one. A new skin forms, and the old sloughs off, forgotten, to be trampled in the dust.

Unlike his father, Jormungand is not a shape changer. For all his shed skins, he holds a single essence, fixed but not immovable. He drifts like water: flowing, falling, gliding, splashing, corroding, thundering. He sees the shapes in rock that, in a thousand thousand years’ time, will become gouges, holes, deep clefts for the running stream. It is a way of seeing he shares with his brother.

The world is fluid around him, as changeable as the words that define it.

Jormungand has never had much use for words. Though he shares with his siblings a love of their parent’s stories, he cares little for lies himself. Or, at least, not for lies that are spoken. The physical lies of space and boundary are more insidious, and more amusing. The boundless sea, the eternal mountains, the ageless earth, the impregnable wall—all these are far greater lies than all Bragi’s songs or Odin’s clever travel disguises.

His father hates walls, but Jormungand laughs at them.

Once, when he was still very young, Loki brought him to visit Asgard. Jormungand remembers studying the enclosure of the gods with a keen interest, noting all the secret nooks, the fractures between stone and mortar, the slowly expanding fissures in wood. Asgard is the most structured place he has ever seen, which means it also has the most cracks in its joints. Even then, the wall that Loki helped to build already had gaps wide enough for Jormungand to slither through.

He did so often, crawling into the gap and resting there, half in Asgard, half in the nameless place that is Outside. He could see how it disturbed the Aesir, and wasn’t surprised. A wall, after all, is only as strong as its cracks.

Jormungand has seen much of walls, now, and even more of cracks, since his binding.

But things shift, worlds as much as words (and this is ultimately only two ways of saying the same thing), and he is not concerned. Odin Allfather has cast him out and charged him with the burden of circling the vast shoreless world. But, again, shift the words and it would be as true (and as false) to say his twisting coils are themselves the shore, the tireless sea breaking upon them as upon smooth worn stones, and in the curve of himself he shapes the world.

It is not, he thinks, a notion that occurred to Odin, who first shaped the world himself from the bones of Jormungand’s ancient ancestor. For this reason alone he laughs, sometimes, pondering all of the Allfather’s many walls—their hairline fractures, tumbled stones, patches of weathered mortar, even, in places, their gaping fissures. And he shifts his coiled body, now and then, watching the waves stutter against the moving wall, watching the foundations of the world tremble, crack apart, and remake themselves, never quite the same.

Jormungand watches words and worlds alike shift, and spends his slow days pondering walls, eternal decrees, and other lies.
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