Hermod | Norse Mythology


Hermod (Old Norse: Hermóðr or Hærmóðr) is a deity of Norse mythology.

His divine or heroic nature is uncertain. He is similar to a god in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, written in the thirteenth century from older sources, where he is referred to as the son of Odin and the brother of Baldr, and holds the role of messenger.

He is mentioned following the myth of Baldr's murder, when he volunteers to travel to the world of the dead, Helheim to negotiate his brother's release with the guardian the goddess Hel.

Other mythological texts mention Hermód much more briefly where he is more akin to a legendary hero or king; the scaldic poem Hákonarmál and the eddic poem Hyndluljóð composed in the tenth and tenth centuries respectively. The sixth-century Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf mentions a Danish king Hēremōd who may be related to it.

It is likely that the god Hermod described by Snorri Sturluson evolved from a legendary hero such as those found mentioned in earlier sources, but this remains a debated topic among scholars.

Etymology of Hermod

Hermod's name comes from the Old Norse Hermóðr / Hærmóðr and the Old High German Herimot / Harimot, based on hari "army" and mot "spirit, soul, courage").

The anthroponym Hermod is also found in Norman toponymy in the form of the place name Hermeville (Seine-Maritime, Pays de Caux, Hermodi villa late xi century), i.e. the "rural domain of Hermod", perhaps in Hermanville (same region, Hermodivilla before 1115) and in the English toponyms Harmondsworth (Middlesex, Hermodesworthe late xi century) and Harmston (Lincolnshire, Hermodestuna late xi century).

Hermod in the Edda

In chapter 49 of Gylfaginning, the god Baldr is killed because of a trick of the evil god Loki. The goddess Frigg, Baldr's mother, offers her favor to the one who will ride to the world of the dead Hel to negotiate Baldr's release with the guardian goddess of the dead, also called Hel. "Hermod the Bold, Odin's son," then volunteers and is given Odin's horse Sleipnir for the expedition.

Hermod rode nine nights in total darkness before reaching the golden bridge Gjallarbrú that crosses the river Gjöll.

A young girl called Modgud guards the bridge and notices that Hermod does not have the complexion of a dead man.

The latter explains that he has come to look for Baldr in Hel. Modgud replies that she saw Baldr crossing the bridge and shows him the way to Hel. Then Hermod arrives at the gates of Hel and makes his horse jump over them.

He then reaches the hall, where he finds his brother Baldr sitting on a throne. After a night spent there, he asks the goddess Hel to release Baldr, which she accepts on the sole condition that all things, living and dead, mourn him.

Before Hermod leaves, Baldr gives him the Draupnir ring to return to Odin (who had placed it on his funeral pyre), and Baldr's wife, Nanna, gives the messenger a linen cloth and other gifts for Frigg, and a golden ring for Fulla, Frigg's servant.

Returning to the gods, Hermod tells them about his expedition and they send messengers around the world to ask everyone to mourn Baldr.

But a giantess called Thokk refuses to mourn him; it is in fact the malevolent god Loki in disguise. Baldr is then condemned to remain in Hel.

Hermod in Popular Culture

The god Hermod inspired the Marvel Comics character of the same name (first appearance in 1978 in Thor, #274).

The Swedish melodic death metal band Amon Amarth tells the myth of Hermod in their song Hermod's ride to Hel (Lokes Treachery part 1) from the album With Oden on Our Side (2006).

In the two-volume comic book series Walkyrie, by Sylvain Cordurié and Drazen Kovacevic in the Soleil Celtic collection, Hermod is one of the main characters and the last of the Aesir.