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Baldur’s death and the prologue of the end

7 May 2021 | Norse

Many are the tales of enlightened deities and they all share similar elements. It’s not hard to find them, usually they are celestial beings that come to bring peace, order and knowledge and at the end, invariably they are killed leaving the path ahead to others. With Baldur’s Death should not be different.

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With Baldur should not be different. He was honest, handsome, kind and wise and met his unfair end in the hands of his brother.

Baldur was one of the sons of Odin and Frigg, the most beloved of the Aesir. There was no creature, stone or plant that didn’t care about the god.

He lived with his wife Nanna and his son Forseti in a place called Breidablik. A place in the heavens so incredible that, according to the Prose Edda, it is impossible to be unclean. All this reflected the god’s aura, always clean in mind, spirit and soul, perfect to his very core.

His fairness and light were also reflected in his family: Nanna, his wife, was the goddess of peace and joy and his son, Forseti, justice and reconciliation. All around Baldur was perfect.

But something wasn’t right

Even though he had all this love towards him, he started to dream about his vicious death. For many nights, Baldur dreamed about it as an omen that something terrible was to come.

Frigg, his mother, was a völva and had the same nightmare. Worried, she shared her concern with the Allfather. That information struck Odin, he had learned long ago that Ragnarök, the twilight of the gods, would be caused by the death of his son.

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Instantly both gods went into a quest to avoid Baldur’s death by telling everything and everyone in the cosmos not to hurt him. An oath was made by all but the mistletoe. 

Here is where we have some diversion on how that happened. Some say that Frigg found the plant so tiny and delicate that she didn’t even bother to ask it the favour as it would be impossible that Baldur could be hurt by such small and fragile thing.

On another darker version, Frigg did ask the mistletoe to swear the oath, but it refused. That’s because the plant was Loki in disguise.

The truth, we will never know.

So they said “mission accomplished”

Baldur was safe and more than ever before, the Aesir became the thrill of Asgard. All the other gods, knowing it was impossible to hurt him, started to throw arrows, axes and rocks at him and were astonished by his invincibility.

Everything seemed good. Relieved, Odin and Frigg took a deep breath for they had evicted the death of their beloved son once and for all. That was when Loki came to change everything.

The trickster saw everyone amazed by Baldur’s new power but his brother, Hodr. The other son of Odin could not enjoy his sibling’s fortune for one simple reason: he was blind. Not that Hodr resented Baldur, he just could not join the others in the celebration.

Loki decided to help him. He walked up to Hodr and said “I can help you with that. One brother should be able to share another brother’s joy“. He then took a bow and arrow and placed it in Hodr’s hand.

Trust me

whispered Loki in his ear

And so it happened…

Loki aimed and gave the command to release the arrow. A second later, total silence. The gods were in complete shock, Baldur, the fair, handsome, wise and lately invincible, was dead. Whilst the gods watched his body fall, they were all trying to understand how that could be possible.

What has happened which no one saw is that Loki had managed to create an arrow made from mistletoe, the only thing that did not swear to hurt Baldur. We do not know for sure if it was for envy, hate or simply for the fun of cruelty, we only know that he found a way to do another mischief and, this time, went too far.

Despair took place. The Allfather even had time to whisper something in his son’s ear, but it was too late, Baldur was gone. Odin refused to accept his son’s fate and decided to send someone to the underworld to retrieve him from Hel back to Asgard and negotiate Baldur’s death.

Hermóðr immediately offered himself to complete the quest and rode the borrowed Sleipnir as fast as he could to reach the foul place. Getting there, he bagged Hel – the daughter of Loki and queen of the dead – to give Baldur back. It was when he realised that the Aesir was there, sitting by her side, sad and without his usual light.

Hel agreed to retrieve the god under one condition:

— If it is so that Baldur is so beloved by everyone and everything, humans, gods, plants, rocks, mountains and rivers, so hear my demand: all must weep his death! Otherwise, he's mine to keep until the end of times.

Said Hel confident that she would thrive over the challenge.

Hermóðr accepted the offer and ran back to Asgard to tell the news to the gods which, straight away, started the quest. Through the 9 realms, they ran, asking all things to shed tears for the kind Baldur.

It was in Jötunheimr that everything collapsed, as the giantess Thokk, who lived in an isolated deep and dark cave refused to weep. She claimed no love for Baldur and that Hel should keep her belonging to herself.

That was the end, Baldur would not come back. This was the first event marking the dawn of Ragnarök and the end of all things, but this is another story we will have to tell.

He came, brought light to those around him and was ruthlessly killed. Was promised to return, but left the world to its apocalyptic fate. After the events caused by his death, he would be reborn to rule the realms with dignity and peace.

That is the story of Baldur’s death, but there are many others throughout history, similar to this one. Would you risk anything? We invite you to share your thoughts and help us understand our lives through the ancient stories as our ancestors once did.

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