Granny Frigg would give me her hugs, as warm as her smile. She’d say I was looking too thin and “force” me to eat delicious pastries or pies. I could live with that. I strolled towards her hall, Fensalir, jumping over crystal clear streams, nearly tripping over an overexcited rabbit. A giggle escaped me, an odd, teeth-clenching giggle. Like I was trying to make myself furiously happy.

Frigg welcomed me as though I’d never left. She’d just finished making cherry pie, which she insisted I try just in case it hadn’t come out so well, especially as I was looking so thin. I laughed, trying not to salivate all over the familiar kitchen, but something bothered me. It had been twelve winters since I last saw her, and Frigg was behaving as though I’d really never left. Not a thing had changed, except new recipes. I could guess the next thing she would say. Like time stood still here.

I shifted in my seat, feeling pinpricks of sweat on my skin. “Granny Frigg,” I said, putting the fork down so gingerly as to make absolutely no sound. “May I ask you a question?”

“Only if you promise you’ll finish your pie, dear, you look so thin. You can ask me anything, I just might not answer. Is it a personal question?”

“It’s about the future…” I paused. The prophecy, my thoughts screamed, tell her about the prophecy. “Is it true that you can see it?”

I might as well have thrown a bucket of cold water at her.

Frigg sat down, wiping her hands on her apron, her face stony. She stiffly nodded towards my plate and I was afraid not to take another bite of the pie. “Why do you ask?”

“S-something happened and… if I knew… I wish I could turn back time and change it all, so if I could have seen it…”

Frigg shook her head slowly. “A very long time ago I used to look into the future for frivolous reasons. I always learned things that I didn’t want to know. Once you know something bad is going to happen, you want to fix it, yet it’s impossible, because it is the future. When I tried, I found myself causing those bad things.” She was now rocking rhythmically in her chair, staring through me, clearly seeing something or somebody else. “I was punished by the Norns once, dear, for using my gift to find out how to sew pretty dresses and make boots. Afterwards I couldn’t speak for a year and a day. It turned out that I needed one more lesson. I looked into the future for the last time. I wanted to see my children. There were none. Not after a winter and a summer had passed, not after a hundred, nor a thousand, as I sought in despair, until I reached the very end of everything. All I saw was death, pain, destruction, all of them inevitable.”

“But Odin…”

“When Odin drank from the Mimir’s well, he acquired all of the wisdom in the Universe, dear. This wisdom tells him that one day everything will end. And it will. I know what, how, when it will happen, and I would have given everything not to have found out.” She shook her head and sighed. “When Odin stirs up wars, then sends his Valkyries to bring the strongest of the warriors to Valhalla before the rest are sent to Helheim, he is not doing it out of boredom, dear. He’s afraid. He constantly replaces his warriors with even stronger or more agile ones, in the belief that he can postpone or change the fate of the Universe.”

“Can’t he?”

Frigg shook her head again. “The fate is set in stone, dear. Yours, mine, his, everyone’s. He can’t do anything about it. He’s building up to it, and each of his deeds leads us closer to the final day when there will be no more winners or losers.”

The prophecy. “I… I’ve got a secret,” I said. My voice was little, broken.

“Please keep it. I’ve got enough to carry and I don’t want any more. I stay away from Odin, because he only wants one thing from me. He wants to know what and when it will happen. If he knew of someone else…” Frigg paused, her stare so penetrating I felt as if it was burning holes into my face. “He would find a way to make that someone tell him. Odin is not allowed in here.”

“But he is your h-husband.”

“His hall is the largest of all,” continued Frigg, as if she hadn’t heard me, “mine is the smallest. I have all I need. The worst thing that can happen to me is that I will burn my pie just before someone visits. Why don’t you try some cherry pie, dear? You look so thin. We all look for our place. I’ve found mine. Nobody’s making me stay here or do what I do. I know when and how everyone I’ve ever loved and will love is going to die. Odin thinks of this knowledge as a weapon, but it’s an unbearable weight. He doesn’t understand that there is no army large and powerful enough to postpone the inevitable.”

“But maybe…?”

“Dear, you said that something happened and if you’d known, you would have done things differently. Perhaps you would, contributing to the very same things happening. Our choices are not as free as we imagine, because their outcome has already been woven by the Norns, and you can’t negotiate with the Norns, for they are time itself.” Frigg’s voice became unforgiving, dark, just like Odin’s, and I shivered. “Everything. Everything would end up the same. Only now you’d be at fault.”

“I’ve had dreams,” I muttered, once I could speak again. “Premonitions. They come to pass.”

Frigg’s wrinkled face paled. “I don’t want to know.”

“I just wondered—”

“Dear, it was wonderful to have you here, but I’m afraid you must go.”

“Just one more thing, Granny Frigg…!”

She seemed to soften at the word “granny”. “Yes, dear.”

“Do you know how and when…I will die?”

The face of a Valkyrie returned. “No,” she said.

I thanked her profusely, apologised, thanked her a few more times, finally bid her a good day. I didn’t get a hug.

Press for Children

grimdark magazine
"This dark retelling of Asgard's pantheon is no rosy Marvel Universe depiction, the violence and savagery of the deities and their contemporaries being on full display. [...] Children is as actually less of a coming-of-age tale as it is a study of trauma, a commentary on classism and privilege, an observation on the expectations placed on each other by child and parent, and a questioning of what it says about us when one group of people can dehumanize another."
angela boord, author of fortune's fool
"A haunting, brutal, and emotional coming of age story, steeped in Norse mythology and written in spare but lyrical prose, Children is a book that demands to be felt rather than read. Its hard-hitting story and dark humor combine to make this a grim book with lots of heart, a book that will stick with me for a long time."
marian l thorpe, author of empire's daughter
"Faced with gods who are interested only in their own goals, happy to use their own children to further their ambition in the face of a foretold end, Children can be read as allegory or fantasy. Drawing on established Norse myths but adding a unique interpretation, Larssen’s tale made me wince with witnessed pain, and cry, and, once or twice, snort with laughter. His evocative prose will linger in my mind for a long time. Not a book easily forgotten."

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