Once, when the world was still young, before the giant raised the walls of Asgard, Odin All-father decided he wanted to learn magic.
Now, this was a very grand decision, as magic was not truly the province of the Aesir – the Vanir had splendid and wonderful witches, but they had not yet come to the attention of Odin – nor was it the province. Odin was both.
However, Odin was also he who had slain the first giant, great Ymir, so he was quite bold enough to go to learn magic even if he wasn't supposed to.
He looked to the east, he looked to the west, from his high seat of Hlidskjalf.
"What are you looking for?" his wife Frigg asked him.
"I am looking for the most talented teacher of magic in all of Midgard," Odin said.
Frigg leaned over his shoulder, and pointed. "There, on the isle of Samsey1. That is where the most talented teacher of magic in all the world is."
"Then I will go there," Odin said.
Frigg frowned at her husband and said, "No. You won't. Only women are allowed on that isle, women and men who dress as women. You are not a woman, and you don't dress like one either."
Odin stood from his high seat and said, "I will for magic. Lend me a dress, wife!"
Frigg smothered her laughter and fetched her husband a dress and an apron. The cloth was fine linen and fine wool, cut close to flatter Frigg's figure, but quite poorly suited to her husband, as Odin was young and fair in those days, broad shoulders and slim-hipped.
Nevertheless, Odin set out from his hall and went down to the isle of Samsey, and presented himself to the witches, giving his name as Jalk1 when he presented himself.
The witches gave him a dubious look, as they thought he was very poorly named being as he was so handsome and broad-shouldered, but agreed to let him stay if he made himself useful.
Thus Odin spent a season raking hay on the isle of Samsey and tending cattle for the witches. But he was broad-shouldered and fair of face, so one by one the witches came to him, and told him their secrets after they lay in his embrace.
The ploy worked on all the witches and all of their maidservants – who knew the small magics of home and hearth, of healing and cursing – but one, a milkmaid called Gisla.
Now Gisla was comely and fruitful, with three children – Mord, Kroka, and Lax3 – at her heels. She had resisted all of Odin's charms over the season, though he tried each one as he learned it.
In the end, he simply asked Gisla to come to his embrace.
"Well," she said, "you are fair and broad-shouldered," and agreed.
In the morning, he awoke to find Gisla, fiery, passionate Gisla gone. And she'd taken his penis with her!
"Well, you are named Jalk," the witches said when he protested to them.
When he went to Gisla's hut, her children Kroka and Mord were gone, but fish-eyed Lax was there.
"Mamma's gone on the whale-road," the boy pointed out to sea, where Odin could spy a figure walking across the waves and leading two young children by the hand, "and you must follow her." Then he jumped into the waves and turned into a smolt4 and was seen no more among men.
Odin could not follow directly, as he had not the charm for walking the sea, but he called out for aid from the sea-people and they heard him.
Presently Rán the sea-queen appeared, and she said,
"Why Odin All-father, it appears you have lost your manhood – did you lose it among all your skirts?"
"I was waylaid! Set upon by a thief!"
"Foolish enough to seduce a witch," Rán countered.
"That wasn't a problem with the others," Odin said.
"Hmm," Rán said, and toyed with loop of cord in her girdle.
"What have you there?" Odin asked.
"Oh, this?" Rán spread a wonderful working of twist and knot, the first and finest net. "Your witch gave me this, to catch men with, in return for two promises."
"To raise her son Lax to manhood in my kingdom, and to not tell you where she's gone. You'll have to find her on your own."
Odin waxed wroth at this, and said, "I am your cheiftain!"
"I am of the sea. You build your city on the land. Perhaps I will pick a different cheiftain," Rán said, and left.
Odin left Samsey and wandered the ways of Midgard for nine months, looking for Gisla and his stolen penis. One day, when he was quite tired, he asked the sun if she had seen Gisla.
"Why yes, I have," Sunna said. "She gave me this wonderful cloak --" and it was quite a wonderful cloak, silk embrorided from edge to edge , "and asked me two things – to raise her daughter –" the girl Kroka peered from the sun's chariot and waved "and to not—-"
"—not tell me where she's gone."
"Mamma's gone on the sky-road!" little Kroka said, "And surely you must follow her!" Then child began to giggle.
"Odin?" Sunna asked.
"She's stolen my penis," Odin said.
"Oh!" the sun said, and began to giggle as well.
"So glad I amuse you."
"How in the world did you lose your penis so that someone could steal it?!"
"Mamma's good!" Kroka said.
"Yes, she must be. She's leading you on a merry chase, Odin."
"A merry chase over sea and sky, where I cannot easily follow."
Sunna smiled at him, and said, "I promised not to tell you where she's gone, but I did not promise to aid you at all. Climb into my chariot. I will take you over all the lands of man and the encircling sea."
Odin did so, and stood at Sunna's back for nine days and nights, until the sun was over a land of cold wind and iron wood, and then he knew it was time to part company with her.
He wandered the woods, asking at isolated farms and woodcutters' huts if anyone had seen Gisla. He didn't mention his stolen penis. Finally he came to a hall where a giant and his wife lived and found the child Mord.
"Mamma's gone on the low road and you must surely follow," the boy said.
"I suppose she's given you a marvelous gift, asked you to raise her son, and told you not to tell me where's she is?" Odin asked the giant's wife.
"She's given me her son, which is a marvelous gift, and also a message for you, son of Bors."
"She has gone east of moon and west of the moon on the road that goes both low and lofty, and you should meet her in the bower of the mists."
Odin thanked the giant's wife and left immediately, because he knew where Gisla had gone. He strode nine miles and nine miles more before he was walking on the bridge Bifrost, which connected the world of men and the world of the Aesir.
He strode into his own hall, and to Frigg's snug weaving room, warm and cozy, where she spun clouds and rain and bits of fate. Fiery, thieving Gisla sat at his wife's right hand, gossiping and spinning and drinking his ale!
"Give me back my manhood, witch!" Odin bellowed.
"As if your manhood was what was between your legs," the tricksome milkmaid chortled. "Your manhood is what is in your heart. However, I will give your penis back to you."
"If Frigg can pick it out of my casket," Gisla said, and opened her box on the floor.
"There are so many to choose from!" Frigg cried. "Ooo, I rather like that one!"
"That's not even the right shape!" Odin cried.
"It is perhaps rather horse-like," Frigg conceded. "This one is rather nice..."
"I've never in my life had red hair!"
Frigg laughed, and pulled out a penis from the heap.
Odin looked at it. The penis looked unremarkable, neither large nor small, and it had been so long since his had been stolen that he could no longer be sure.
"It is rather nice," Gisla said with a sly smile. "Quite a skillful penis, all told. But if you'd rather something more exotic..." The witch's fingers flitted over all her collection.
Odin snatched the chosen penis away before the witch could take it from his wife's hand. He lifted his skirts, and put the penis into place. It seemed to fit.
"I am going to go put on pants," Odin said, and did so. He came back to find his wife in the hall with Gisla – looking over the contents of her casket.
"Nine men and nine have failed to reclaim their penis from me, and nine beasts also," Gisla said.
"What do you plan to do with twenty-seven penises?" Odin asked.
"There are twenty-eight penises here," Frigg said.
"Well, one of them is mine," Gisla said.
Gisla plucked one out of the multitude, neither large nor small, but dusted with hair as red as her own. She smiled, and crushed it in her hand, and it was no more, but no more was she a maid either. A comely youth with Gisla's fiery hair and bright smile stood before Odin, though he was still dressed in Gisla's skirts.
"Loki Laufeyarson I am, and please to be here."
"With your collection of penises..."
"We all have our hobbies." Loki admitted. "Would you like to borrow one, Frigg Fjörgynsdottir? I do have twenty-seven of them to share."
"No!" Odin cried. "No. Friend Loki, I think you and I shall go. On an adventure. Very far to the east. Before you corrupt my wife."
"Well, that could be fun too," Loki said.
And Odin and Loki did leave, almost immediately, for adventures west of the moon and east of the sun. But that is another story, and has no penises in it.
1 Possibly the island Samso off Denmark
3 Marten, Crow, and Salmon
4 a young salmon of an age to leave fresh water and live in sea water