The Mother’s Dream is my story for the January 2021 meeting of Write Club Surrey, which had dreams as its theme. I chose to write a creation myth for Skyss, the world that I’ve my fantasy novel is set in. One inspiration for The Mother’s Dream is my love as a child of a book of Australian aborigine myths called Dreamtime Heritage. The stories are how the world was formed and shaped in the dreams of the early people. The idea has stuck with me, even if I can no longer find the book on my shelves.

Troll head and fist part of the inspiration for The Mother's Dream short story
Troll head and fist in the woods atop Mount Floyen, Bergen, Norway. An inspiration for The Mother’s Dream. (Photo: James Kemp)

Another source of inspiration for The Mother’s Dream was me thinking about how to describe the trolls in Fierce. I read quite a bit of various mythology on what trolls were. The conclusion that I came to was that they were originally a fairly generic word for something Other. Given that I decided to make my trolls something slightly different, and older than people. I also wanted to make them a sort of mis-understood and unknown quantity that’s aloof from humanity. It’s that wildness that makes them feared, and it’s the fear that makes people see them as a threat. Left alone I don’t think they’d be especially dangerous or threatening to people.

One more point, is that I made up the pantheon of Skyss, and what each of them represents, some time ago as part of my early world-building. So The Mother’s dream story is a retro-fit onto the existing world-building. In some ways that made it harder to write, and in other ways it sort of helped. Everything in existence, apart from The Father, comes from The Mother. How they came into being is a mystery.  I realised a couple of things in writing The Mother’s Dream, one of which was that this is a female focused culture, not quite a matriarchy, but certainly matrifocal. Although Yngvild is an exception to this, her upbringing was directed by a woman she thought was her mother.  The other thing I realised is that all the gods are gender-fluid (actually shape-fluid) in the sense that they can be any shape they like. I sort of already knew that, Norse mythology (my main source of inspiration for the story) is full of gods changing shape and form, including Thor giving birth as a horse!

The Mother’s Dream

Before there was time, or people, or even the sun to warm the world, the Mother of All dreamed of a place to live. Somewhere she could bring up children in peace and comfort, and where people could thrive. She dreamed the world into existence and grew it in her belly, as mothers do. When her belly was gravid she pushed the world out into the firmament. It hung there cold and lifeless, ice formed across its surface, for it had nothing to warm it.

The Mother saw beyond the cold, dark barren rocks of the world, and dreamt how it could be transformed into a warm fertile and welcoming place. Her heart wanted to nurture the world and make it warm, to bring life. She shrunk in size so that she could stand on the surface and shape it.

The Mother came down to the icy wastes of the world, and looked at the innate beauty of the mountains, and their frosted peaks. She saw boulders nearby, and decided that they could be the first life for her new born world. Picking them up in her hands she cradled them and held them to her bosom. She breathed life into the rocks one by one, and fed them her milk to give them strength. These creatures we call trolls were the first life to be created on this world. The Mother of All saw that the trolls were able to thrive in the cold and dark of the world.

The trolls learnt from their Mother how to craft stone, to turn ore into metals, to shape the landscape, and to work all the fabrics of reality into the shapes the Mother of All needed to realise her dream of a living world. She gave them great skill in making and shaping things. The Mother’s dreams let them see the world they needed to build, they learnt as she slept. When they woke the trolls went to work. When the trolls had made the shapes, the Mother of All nourished them with her milk and affection, and blew life into them. Their movement warmed the world a little, although much was still cold and covered in ice.

The Mother had the trolls help her build a longhouse, and make fields to grow crops and keep livestock so that her household might be clothed and fed. When it was ready she called on the Father to join her. In her dreams she bid the trolls to keep on making things. As she slept the Mother dreamed of forests, plains, hillsides covered in greenery, and fields that supported animals. While the trolls laboured, she brought forth seed from the father and bore children to populate the world she’d dreamed.

So were planted all the trees, bushes and grasses in the world, with flowers and fruit in abundance to feel the insects, the birds, rodents, lizards and larger animals. She had the trolls make cows and oxen as beasts of burden for her children, sheep and goats to provide wool and milk, pigs to eat up all the rubbish, and horses for them to ride. She made birds to fill the skies. The moving of all the animals also warmed up the world, and gradually the ice near the Mother’s house started to melt.

Her eldest children were the twins, Malfin and Aeolf. Being first Malfin was Goddess of the Dark. Her twin sister Aeolf in her infancy made the sun come into existence above them, and the dancing of its flames made the world warmer still. Aeolf became Goddess of Flames.

The Mother then gave birth to Frijdodr, who loved to help the trolls create the world. She learnt to craft and blow life into her creations. Surpassing even the most skilled of the trolls Frijdodr became beloved to the trolls as their Maker Goddess. While Frijdodr toiled with the trolls to make the world the Mother bore a fourth child, Kari.
Kari noticed that where the ice was melting lakes began to form. She enjoyed splashing in the water, and blowing on it to make ripples in the surface. She spent her whole time playing in the water, and so the Mother made fish, dolphins and whales to keep her company.

The Mother’s fifth child was Jorunn. He too was obsessed with the trolls and beseeched his Mother to tell him how she made them. When she told him how she’d shaped the rocks, and nourished them with her milk, and then breathed life into them he wanted to try this himself. He went down to the river that ran near his Mother’s house. There were many stones in the river bed, but Jorunn found the clay from the bank was easier to shape. He took handfuls of the clay and fashioned it into small people, one for each member of his family. Jorunn went to his sister Frijdodr and asked for her help. He’d made the people, and he was sure that he could blow life into them, but he needed some milk to nourish them. Frijdodr didn’t want to give her milk lest their Mother be unhappy, but she shaped the clay people to look more lifelike and took them to their Mother with Jorunn to ask for some milk.

The Mother was amused by her son’s wish, as many mothers since have been. She asked that Jorunn should look after the little people, and everything they do. Jorunn promised his Mother that he would, and like all children he sincerely meant it. The Mother granted his wish, and so were humans made. For a time Jorunn looked after them, making sure they were fed, and had a comfortable place to live. Then Jorunn realised that it was possible to change his own shape, and size, and he followed his mother’s example of getting into his creation. Shrinking to a quarter of his original size Jorunn joined the little people. Jorunn also changed the form of their body so that they could make milk, and help the little people to multiply and cover the world.

As Jorunn filled the world with the little people the Mother bore another child. Fafnir was fair and happy, taking after the Father, he explored the world, watching carefully how the creatures interacted. He helped where he saw trolls, or little people or animals, needed it. Where things went wrong he set them right, everyone was always happy to see him when he appeared. Often Fafnir could be found watching Jorunn, or the little people that he’d made.

The last child was Meniaxter, his birth was more difficult than the others. He came into the world screaming, a sound not often heard back in the first days. Meniaxter brought chaos into the world. He caused Malfin and Aeolf to fall out, and hurt Frijdodr and Kari so much by destroying their creations that their tears turned the lakes into the salty sea. He also brought death to the little people, snuffing the light from their eyes when trying to understand how his Mother made them live.

Fafnir was the one that brought peace, with the help of the Father. Together they got hold of Meniaxter, and set limits on his powers. Fafnir brokered a compromise between Jorunn and Meniaxter, where the little people had a finite life, and Meniaxter promised to help them cope with this by comforting those that were left behind. Fafnir also persuaded Malfin and Aeolf to take turns, and he set the sun, which Malfin had hidden after Meniaxter’s jealous words, back in the heavens. Unlike before Fafnir cast it into the sky in a great arc, so that it revolved around the world, warming all parts of it in turn. This brought us night and day as we know it. However, Fafnir didn’t throw it straight up, and Kari blew it into more of an arc as it went up. So we got the seasons, with Aeolf having the long day of summer to preside, and Malfin the long nights of winter. However even Malfin agreed that the warmth of the moving sun was good, so our winter days only go away at the very top of the world, where the trolls dwell. This last was at their request, although they made the world, and it warmed as their creations moved, they preferred to live in the cold and dark that they’d been born into.

That’s the story of how the Mother of All dreamed the world, how it was built by the trolls, and how the nine gods came into being.