What Bleakness Befell Baldur, the Shining One?
Apart from Baldur’s beautiful appearance and a certain fondness for chamomile when he couldn’t sleep, we know very little about this ancient Nordic God. It’s his death that made the headlines.
There’s an association with mistletoe too, but to find out any more, we just have to wait till Ragnarok.
Let’s hope that’s a long time coming.
How could something bad happen to Baldur?
Baldur was the son of Freya (or Frigga) and Odin All-Father.
Legend tell us that Baldur was beautiful, so much so that all the white blossoms on the earth were called by his name, and every song from every bird was sung in praise to him. Handsome and noble, he was the God of Light, of all things Right and Good, the best loved among all the Aesir.
He lived in the Peace Stead, in a palace called Breidablik, where no crime had ever been committed, no blood had ever been shed, and no falseness had ever been spoken.
What on earth could have happened to this bright and shining Hope of the World?
Baldur has Bad Dreams
One day a dire foreboding came to the Peace Stead. Baldur had a dream that filled him with fright.
He dreamed that Hel, Queen of the Underworld, had prepared a bed and a lordly chair for him.
Now it wasn’t just in the world of men that dreams were taken seriously. In Asgard, Home of the Gods, such night visions were understood to be a very real portent of things to come.
Odin went at once to his Watchtower and sent his ravens, Huginn and Muninn, to fly around the worlds and pick up all that was happening. Horrified when his ravens confirmed the dream, Odin rode out himself to meet Hel. Roughly he woke her and asked what guest she expected.
“For Baldur, Odin’s son, is the bed prepared and the seat left empty. Now let me go back to my sleep with the Dead.” was the grim answer.
All things swear not to harm Baldur
Baldur’s mother felt the fear that Odin had felt – then she heard the birds sing in the Peace Stead and knew that none of all the things in the world would harm her son
Just to make sure, she went to all the things that could hurt him and from each of them she took an oath that it would not injure Baldur, the Well-Beloved. She took an oath from fire and from water, from iron and from all metals, from earths and stones and great trees, from birds and beasts and creeping things, from poisons and diseases. Very readily they all gave the oath that they would work no injury on Baldur.
But one thing was overlooked. One thing that was so small and so weak that it was passed by. After all, what could the Mistletoe, the rootless Mistletoe, do against Baldur?
Loki finds out!
By trickery and guile, not to mention a little shape-changing, Loki, the Sly One found out about the mistletoe.
Loki hurried to where a great oak tree flourished, and from out of a branch grew a little bush of Mistletoe. He broke off a spray and tucked it into his tunic.
Away he crept and fashioned a small, but sharp, spear from the twig.
Then off he went to the Peace Stead, in his hand the only weapon in all of the nine worlds that could injure Baldur the Beautiful.
Why did Loki do this? What was he thinking? Perhaps it was just jealousy taken to extremes, but such an act went well past his usual pranks, this was deadly serious.
Loki Tricks Hoder
As he neared the lovely home of Breidablik, Loki heard much glee and playfulness.
All of the Aesir, in company with the Dwarves and the friendly Giants were having a great game hurling sticks, stones and spears at Baldur. Everthing bounced off without doing any harm
Loki turned to Hoder, the blind brother of Baldur and asked why he wasn’t joining in the game. The answer was fairly obvious. Hoder couldn’t see!
“Take this twig of Mistletoe and throw it,” said Loki. “I will guide your hand”..
He put the twig of Mistletoe in Hoder’s hand and guided that hand for the throw. The twig flew toward Baldur, struck him on the breast and it pierced his heart.
And that was how Baldur was killed by a little bit of Mistletoe.
That’s not the end of the story
It didn’t end there of course. Loki was soon discovered to be the instigator behind the death of Baldur the Beautiful.
He was hunted, captured and punished and you can find out what happened in Loki’s own story.
Baldur will return at Ragnaraok
So Baldur now sleeps in Nifelheim with the rest of the Dead. (He’s not in Valhalla, for Baldur was never a warrior)
He will return at Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, when the world will end.
© 2013 Susanna Duffy