The Death of Baldur (Balder) in Norse Mythology

January 20, 2021 6 min read

Baldur the Handsome

Baldur was the most beautiful among all the gods. His face shone like the sun and all the creatures in all the nine worlds loved him. Baldur was the wisest and the most eloquent among all the gods from the Aesir tribe. His house the Breidablik was always full of joy and laughter. Baldur was married to Nanna and he was loyal to just her. Their marriage had led to a son called Forseti. From the outside, Baldur lived the perfect life anyone would want. He was loved by his Odin his father; he was loved by all the creatures and the gods admired him.  Baldur was generous and of a joyful character. He gladdened the hearts of those who spent time with him. Baldur began having dreams of a great misfortune befalling him. The gods were frightened by the prospect of anything happening to Baldur and they appointed Odin to investigate the matter.

Odin, the All Father and the Chief God in Asgard wasted no time.  He mounted the Sleipnir and rode to the underworld to consult a sorceress who was wise in such affairs.  Odin arrived under a disguise in the underworld. He found the halls of the main hall in preparation for a great feast. The sorceress informed Odin that the guest of honor was god Baldur and she recounted how the god would meet his own fate. Odin returned to Asgard in distress. He recounted to the gods what the sorceress had told him.

Frigg’s Oath

Frigg deeply loved Baldur and did not want anything to happen to him. She travelled across all the cosmos obtaining an oath from all living and living things that they would not harm Baldur. Frigg took all the steps necessary to ensure that Baldur was protected. She conjured all possible diseases that could harm Baldur and spoke to them promising that they would not harm him.  Frigg spoke to all living and non-living creatures save for the mistotle, which she saw as too insignificant and it would not harm Baldur in any way. It was tiny and it lived in other trees. Frigg retuned to Asgard with a sense of accomplishment. She reported that Baldur was safer. She picked a stone and hurled it towards Baldur and the stone changed direction to avoid hitting him.  Frigg was convinced that Baldur was now safe and nothing would hurt him. When the gods were convinced that Baldur was safe, it was as if the sun had risen again. The birds were jubilant and the animals were seen rejoicing.

The Games at Gladsheim

The gods held a series of meetings in Gladsheim and the goddesses in Vingolf. They would occasionally meet in these two places to discuss the events of Midgard and to catch up on current events. They usually drank and played games. The gods decided to check Baldur’s strength. One of them threw a pebble at him and he could not feel any pain. Another god threw a stick at him and it landed on his chest. He could not feel a thing. They gods became bolder with each test and after each test they carried out even a bigger test. Baldur who was one of the most graceful gods in Asgard became a subject of the most violent assaults when it was clear that there would be nothing that would harm him.

The Jealous Loki

Loki was angered to see that Baldur was immune to almost everything and nothing could kill him. His anger towards Baldur grew day by day, he refused to take part in the games but he was unable to keep away from them.

Loki turned himself into an old woman and began a conversation with Frigg. The old woman explained to Frigg what had happened during the games. Frigg explained to the old woman that she had obtained an oath from everything living and non-living that it would not hurt Baldur. The old woman kept badgering the Frigg until she revealed that she had not obtained an oath from the Mistotle. According to her, the tree was so tiny and young that she did not want to bother it.

Loki and the blind god Hod

Loki after realizing that the mistotle had not made an oath not to harm Baldur he moved quickly to fashion a weapon out of the mistotle. When he arrived at the assembly where the gods where hurling objects at Baldur for fun, he approached Hod, the blind god.  Hod was standing towards the edge of the circle. He asked him why he was not participating in the festivities. Hod replied that he could not see where the festivities were. Loki offered to help.  Loki helped the god Hod to take aim at Baldur. He offered him a twig to aim at Baldur. When the twig landed on Baldur, it went straight through him and he fell down and died instantly. The gods were shocked. They looked at Baldur in dismay as his lifeless body fell on the ground. The gods considered Gladsheim and no one was allowed to shed blood on the hallowed sanctuary. Loki could not stand the angry and horrified gazes and he quickly disappeared into the darkness. Shortly after one goddess began to weep and soon thereafter all the gods and goddesses began to weep. Odin was deeply struck by grief for losing his son in this manner. He viewed the incident as the greatest tragedy ever to befall the gods.

Frigg began to speak and asked whether there was anyone who would grant her a favor and ride to the underworld to rescue Baldur. Hermod, Odin’s son volunteered to help. Odin gave Hermod, Sleipnir which was the fastest horse in all the nine worlds.

 

Baldur’s Funeral Pyre

The gods made the largest funeral Pyre ever built. They even asked for help from the giants. The gods placed their most valuable possessions in the pyre. Odin placed his golden armband in the pyre. Baldur’s wife was so struck with grief that she fell down on the pyre.  The gods placed her body next to Balder. The elves, the gods, the dwarfs and the giants were there for the funeral. A dwarf named Lit lost interest in the proceedings and Thor kicked him leading to his ultimate death. Thor lit the funeral pyre and the mourners watched in tears as the body of Baldur, the most magnificent and the most graceful was consumed by the flames. The funeral pyre was soon set adrift by the sea winds.

 

Hermod’s journey to Niflheim

While the funeral preparations were taking place, Hermod was on his journey to the underworld. For nine nights he rode through a valley so deep that he could not see anything. Soon the ground below him fell and he could feel the icy fingers of the underworld. The god crossed many rivers, all of which spring from the seething cauldron of Hvergelmir: cool Svol and defiant Gunnthra. Fjorm and bubbling Fimbulthul, fearsome Slid and storming Hrid, Sylg, Ylg, broad Vid and Leipt which streaked past like lightning. Hermod finally came to icy river Gjoll. On the bridge, he was stopped by the maiden Mogud who informed him to identify himself. Hermod introduced himself as Odin’s son. He informed the maiden that he was looking for his dead brother Baldur. The maiden Mogud informed Hermod that Baldur had crossed the bridge and was on his way to see goddess Hel.

Splinir galloped ahead and finally both the horse and the rider were at Eljudnir; the gates of the underworld. Sleipnir galloped over the gates and Hermod eventually arrived at the great carnivorous hall. Hermod saw many rotting faces, some without number. The faces of those long dead and those who were recently dead. At the high table, there was only one shining face; Baldur his dead brother. Hermod stayed all night in the hall waiting for Hel to rise from her sickbed.

When Hel finally arose Hermod greeted her and informed her of the agony that the gods were suffering. He requested whether she could let Baldur ride with him home. Hel informed him that she would let Baldur to go if everything in the nine worlds both dead and alive would weep for Baldur but if only one thing does not weep, Baldur must then remain in Niflheim.

Baldur and Nanna rose and escorted Hermod to the gates. Baldur removed Draupnir, the arm ring Odin had given him and informed Hermod to take it to Odin to remember him with it. Hermod mounted Sleipnir and rode without rest until he reached Asgard. He informed the gods what had transpired.

The Aesir sent out messengers to the nine worlds. Since all substances dead or alive had sworn an oath not to harm Baldur they all wept. They came across the giantess Thokk who could not weep. She claimed that she did not care about the old man’s son and Hel should keep what she has. Despite pleas, Thokk refused to cry. The messengers returned mournfully to Asgard. The gods and goddesses ached with grief. They were convinced that Thokk was Loki in disguise.