Baldr | Norse Mythology


Baldr (Old Norse baldr, Old English Bældæg, Old High German Baldr, Palter, Phol (Pfol), Icelandic Baldur, to Ur-Germanic Nom. Sg. *balđraz "Lord, Hero, Prince," also "The Shining One") is a god in Norse Mythology.

According to the Prose Edda of the Icelander Snorri Sturluson, Baldr is a son of Odin and Frigg, thus brother of Hödr and Hermod. With his wife Nanna he has the son Forseti.

Baldr's Myth

Baldr is considered the most peaceful and pure of the Aesir gods. All creation admires his luminous beauty as well as his mercy and wisdom. With his wife, Baldr lives in Breidablik, a heavenly place in Asgard to which no wrongdoer has access, and he owns a ship named Ringhorn.

One day Baldr dreams of his own death, whereupon his mother Frigg goes to every animal and plant and asks them to take an oath that they will not harm Baldr. Only the young mistletoe seems too young for Frigg to take an oath from him.

A game of Aesir ensues, in which they pelt the now invulnerable Baldr with spears, stones and other weapons, without any harm coming to Baldr.

The trickster god Loki takes advantage of the fact that mistletoe did not need to take an oath, and gives a sprig of mistletoe to Baldr's blind brother Hödr and tells him to shoot with it. The branch hits Baldr, and the god sinks down dead.

The body is laid out on a ship that only the giantess Hyrrokkin can push into the water. Under the force of the thrust, the rollers on which the ship stood catch fire and ignite the corpse. Thor blesses the corpse fire with his hammer Mjölnir. His father Odin gives the ring to Draupnir to take with him on Baldr's last journey to Helheim. Baldr's wife Nanna dies of a broken heart during the funeral festivities and is burned together with Baldr.

Hermodr tries to bring his brother back from the realm of the dead. However, Hel, the mistress of the dead, does not release Baldr until all things weep for him. The Aesir send messengers all over the world and achieve that all living things and even stones and metals mourn for Baldr. Only Loki, in the form of the giantess Þökk, refuses them the favor. Consequently, Baldr is denied the return to Asgard.

Later, Baldr and Hödr reconcile with each other and return in one accord after Ragnarok during the creation of a new world building. However, the death of Baldr was only the beginning of his journey and should not have been his end.

In the epic battle on the day of Ragnarok, gods, giants, man and monsters destroyed each other and consecrated the world to certain doom. But it was also prophesied that the light figure Baldr would return from the realm of the dead at the end of Ragnarok and usher in the age of a new world with his splendor.

In this new world there should be neither betrayal nor lies nor murder. Likewise, it was prophesied that a ruler would come whose sole power would command everything.

Interpretation of Baldr's Myth

With the light figure Baldr happiness and beauty disappear from the world, with which the end of the gods (also fate of the gods, twilight of the gods or night of the gods) Ragnarök approaches.

Since Baldr is the personification of the sun, his death is also associated with the solstices. Baldr is killed at the time of apparent invulnerability, just as the sun loses power on the day of its longest luminosity - June 21, the summer solstice - and thus the days become shorter again.

From the winter solstice on, the days become longer again. The sun regains its strength, which heralds Baldr's coming rebirth.

At the beginning of the 20th century, J. Frazer's interpretation came into fashion that Baldr was a nature god whose death was necessary to maintain fertility.

Frazer found many followers, however his theory is no longer held today. The reason for this is that Frazer paid little attention to the sources.

Baldr is nowhere associated with vegetation in them. The Baldr myth is impressively portrayed in the Völuspá, the seeress face.

Already in the Icelandic sources of the Song-Edda (Vegtamskvidha), Baldr bears traits of Christ. He is regarded as the peaceful, sensitive one and as the embodiment of innocence and purity.

With his death, the Nordic heaven of the gods loses these important traits, whereupon the path to the twilight of the gods is marked out.