Njord, with Freyja and Freya
Skadi, hunting on skies
Njord and Skadi
What follows is one version of the story of Njord (Niord) and Skadi (Skade), taken from a variety of sources. (See notations at end.) As with most myths, there are alternative versions of this story that are equally valid, so this is not meant to be an "official" telling of their tale.
The Norse gods we are most familiar with (Odin, Thor, Loki, etc.) were members of a race called the Aesir. They presided over War, Magic and Sky. Other races of gods who shared their realm (though sometimes at the point of a spear or throw of a hammer) included the Vanir (gods of Fertility, presiding over Land and Sea) and the Frost Giants (who preferred to stay in the high mountains).
Njord was a member of the Vanir, while Skadi was a Frost Giantess. Their odd marriage was tenuous at best, as after spending only 9 days and nights in each others realms (and each hating every minute of it), they agreed their union was incompatible and ended it.
The story of how they came to be among the Aesir, and their resultant marriage, is woven into the many other myths regarding the gods. Typically, their story starts with war (Njord) and trickery (Skadi).
Odin led the Aesir in fighting a long and bloody war with the Vanir. (Probably this embodied a memory of a time when warrior cults battled with fertiility cults for supermacy.) Neither side clearly won, and after peace was declared the two sides eventually fused into one. As a condition for peace, hostages were exchanged, with Njord, a leader of the Vanir, and his two children, the twins Freya (male) and Freyja (female) agreeing to live among the Aesir. Njord's wife, because she was his sister, was not allowed by the Aesir to join them. Freya and Freyja eventually were fully integrated into the Aesir as the primary God and Goddess of Fertility.
Njord was a gentle god of the sea. Popular among sailors and fishermen, he calmed sea storms, aided ships in distress, blew favorable winds and caused summer showers. He loved his sunlit coves and creeks, home of his sacred sea gulls and swans.
Skadi, the huntress, with her wolf Skadi, a frost giantess, lived in the snow and ice of the high mountains where she loved to go hunting on skies with her wolves. She came to the Aesir intending to seek revenge for the killing of her father (but that's another story), but eventually agreed to negotiate instead. In compensation for the death of her father, she agreed to accept a god of her choosing as her husband, plus a good belly laugh. (One may assume that neither husbands nor belly laughs were common among the Frost Giants.) Odin agreed, on the condition that she could only see the feet of the men when choosing her husband. So, all the men of Aesir stood behind a curtain while she studied their feet. She thought she was choosing Balder, son of Odin and the most desirable of all men in Aesir, but instead the beautiful feet she chose were those of Njord. So she got her husband, and the Aesir at least got their belly laugh.
To their credit, Njord and Skadi tried to make the marriage work. However, Skadi could not stand the warm, sunny coves that were home to Njord. The noise of the harbor and motion of the sea were too much for her. Likewise, Njord could not tolerate the cold, barren land of the Frost Giants, with howling wolves and icy winds. And so, after spending 9 miserable days and nights in each other's realms, Skadi went back to her favorite pasttime of hunting on skis, and Njord back to his sunny cove. As one source explains, "The apparently unbridgeable gap between them probably reflects more than personal taste. Njord was certainly seen as a god of fertility, since he provided to those who worshipped him not only safe voyages at sea, but also wealth and good fortune in the form of land and sons. Skadi's associations were guite different, however. She came from a range of frozen mountains, where heavy clouds masked the sun and harsh rocks made the ground as barren as death. In her wild and unforgiving land, where nothing was able to grow or prosper at all, there was hardly any scope for humankind." (Cotterell & Storm)
Post Script - For those of us who have loved & lost:
Skadi was out hunting with her wolves one day when she ran into Ulle, the Aesir god of Winter, Archery and Skiers. Now THIS was a compatible couple! They fell in love and were soon married. Njord, on the other hand, apparently lived a long and contented life alone in his bachelor harbor.
Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth & Storytelling, Edited by C.Scott Littleton, 2002
The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, Arthur Cotterell & Rachel Storm, 2004
Mythologies of the World: A Concise Encyclopedia, Rhoda Hendricks, 1979
Except as credited above, paintings were either scanned from the Cotterell & Storm book or were found through the internet on websites where the artists were listed as unknown.