Have you ever met someone so pure and wonderful, you want to devote all of your attention to protecting them from the evils of the world? Perhaps it’s a friend, your child or younger sibling, or even your pet? That person is your Baldr.
You see, Baldr (also spelled Baldur) was a Norse god, the son of Odin and Frigg, half-brother of Thor, husband of Nanna, and he was the most beloved of the Aesir. Everyone who met Baldr thought he was really just the tits, even though he didn’t really do much in the great scheme of things. He was considered to be the best of the gods– the wisest, coolest, and the friendliest guy in Asgard.
Bad Dreams for Baldr
Baldr had bad dreams though, and he dreamed a lot about himself dying. When he told his mama, Frigg, she was very upset. Because why should Baldr die if he’s the best of the best? She panicked, and immediately flew around the world and made everything she encountered promise that it would not kill her precious baby boy. She asked the animals not to maul him; she asked the sea not to drown him; she asked the metals not to pierce his flesh and the fire not to burn him. And because he was beautiful, loving Baldr, they all were like, “Oh yeah, no sweat.”
When the gods of Asgard found out about this, they were doubly excited because it meant that not only was Baldr safe forever more, but it also meant that he was invincible. Now, if you had a friend you knew couldn’t die, what would you best use him for? Would you treasure him? Would you cuddle him? Keep him in a box to make extra SURE he's safe forever?
Baldr being used as “target practice.”
If you said, ‘target practice,’ then you are truly thinking like a Norse god and you deserve a big ol’ pint of mead.
Of course, there had to be one turd in the punchbowl, and that turd in Norse mythology is always a big douchebag whose name rhymes with karaoke. Always striving to go against the grain, Loki hated Baldr. Some people think that Loki was jealous of the fact that everyone loved Baldr, but you and I know that Loki was just kind of a dick. And as a dick, hating Baldr is just in the job description.
So Loki disguised himself (as he so loves to do) and went to Frigg to ask if there was anything that could kill the god of light and beauty. Frigg thought about it for a moment, but the confided in totally-not-Loki that the only being she had neglected to ask not to hurt Baldr was the mistletoe, a tiny, little plant that could surely not be used to hurt anyone.
We all know where this is going.
But what you don’t know is just how much of a dick Loki decided to be in this old Norse myth. Instead of using the mistletoe to kill Baldr himself, he gave it to poor Hod, Baldr’s brother. Who was blind. And just wanted to join in on the games the other Norse gods were playing with their new, favorite target.
Loki gave Hod a dart made of mistletoe and told him to throw it directly at Baldr’s heart since it obviously couldn’t pierce his flesh. Since Hod was blind, he even guided him with his hand to point at the exact spot.
Hödr stood outside the ring of men, because he was blind. Then spake Loki to him: 'Why dost thou not shoot at Baldr?' He answered: 'Because I see not where Baldr is; and for this also, that I am weaponless.' Then said Loki: 'Do thou also after the manner of other men, and show Baldr honor as the other men do. I will direct thee where he stands; shoot at him with this wand.' Hödr took Mistletoe and shot at Baldr, being guided by Loki: the shaft flew through Baldr, and he fell dead to the earth; and that was the greatest mischance that has ever befallen among gods and men."
Again, we know where this is going.
The death of Baldr
Baldr dropped down dead. Mayhem ensued. Everyone was yelling, grieving, screaming. This wasn’t supposed to happen– Frigg was supposed to have fixed this so it couldn’t!
There were eleven Æsir reckoned, when Baldr on the pile was laid; him Vali showed himself worthy to avenge, his own brother: he the slayer slew.
In his grief, Odin sent a quick message down to Hel, Loki’s daughter, who ran the underworld (also called Hel). The message came via Baldr's brother, Hermod, who road the six-legged horse Sleipnir, demanding that the god of light be returned. Despite being Loki’s daughter, Hel was actually pretty cool with the other Norse gods, so she agreed, but on one condition: every living thing in the world must weep for Baldr.
Again, we know where this is going. Because the turd in the punchbowl had to ruin everything one last time. Loki, disguised as a giantess named Thokk (or Þökk), refused to weep for Baldr, and the god of light, purity, beauty, and all that wonder was taken from us.
What did Odin say?
Sadly, the gods of Asgard had to burn their beloved Baldr. They set him aflame on his own ship, Hringhorni, which was the biggest ship in the whole Asgardian fleet. While carrying him aboard, Odin whispered into his son's ear. What he whispered, we don't know for sure.
When Odin whispered
In Balder's ear,
Nor god nor man
Was nigh to hear.
What Odin whispered,
No man knoweth
Or e'er shall know.
What Odin whispered to his son has long been speculated about. In fact, it later comes back as a riddle posed to Odin by the giant Vafthrudnir. In this way, Odin will always be wiser than anyone else in the world.
He also gave his son his golden ring, Draupnir, which could drip other gold rings from it every ninth night. In this way, he was saying that the loss of Baldr was the loss of something that would have given endless returns.
His wife, Nanna, was so upset, she threw herself on his pyre to await Ragnarok in the flames of her husband's loss.
But never fear. When Ragnarok comes, Baldr will be reincarnated– and his brother, Hod, who was killed in retribution, will be at his side.
"After that Baldr shall come thither, and Hödr, from Hel; then all shall sit down together and hold speech with one another, and call to mind their secret wisdom, and speak of those happenings which have been before: of the Midgard Serpent and of Fenris-Wolf."
This is one of the most popular and well-known Viking myths in all the nine worlds. Is it your favorite? Tell us why in the comments below. OR tell us which one we should write about next. We'd love to hear from you!
Do YOU have a brother you love? Or maybe want to throw a mistletoe spear at?Instead of that, why not get him a hand-engraved, ethically-sourced horn tankard or drinking horn? We will engrave anything you want on it, from, "You're the best brother!" to, "I hope you rot in Hel." Just let us know!