Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
N Asgard there were two places the meant strength and
job to the Æsir and the Vanir: one was the garden
where grew the apples that Iduna gathered, and the
other was the Peace Stead, where, in a palace called
Breidablik, Baldur the Well-beloved dwelt.
In the Peace Stead no crime had ever been committed, no
blood had ever been shed, no falseness had ever been
spoken. Contentment came into the minds of all in
Asgard when they thought upon this place. Ah! Were it
not that the Peace Stead was there, happy with Baldur's
presence, the minds of the
 Æsir and the Vanir might have
become gloomy and stern from thinking on the direful
things that were arrayed against them.
Baldur was beautiful. So beautiful was he that all the
white blossoms on the earth were called by his name.
Baldur was happy. So happy was he that all the birds on
the earth sang his name. So just and so wise was Baldur
that the judgment he pronounced might never be altered.
Nothing foul orunclean had ever come near where he had
'Tis Breidablik called,
Where Baldur the Fair
Hath built him a bower,
In the land where I know
Least loathliness lies.
Healing things were done in Baldur's Stead. Tyr's wrist
was healed of the wounds that Fenrir's fangs had made.
And there Frey's mind became less troubled with the
foreboding that Loki had filled it with when he railed
at him about the bartering of his sword.
Now after Fenrir had been bound to the rock in the
far-away island the Æsir and the Vanir knew a while of
contentment. They passed bright days in Baldur's Stead,
listening to the birds that made music there. And it
was there that Bragi the Poet wove into his
never-ending story the tale of Thor's adventures
amongst the Giants.
But even into Baldur's Stead foreboding came. One day
little Hnossa, the child of Freya and the lost Odur,
 there in such sorrow that no one outside
could comfort her. Nanna, Baldur's gentle wife, took
the child upon her lap and found ways of soothing her.
Then Hnossa told of a dream that had filled her with
She had dreamt of Hela, the Queen that is half living
woman and half corpse. In her dream Hela had come into
Asgard saying, "A lord of the Æsir I must have to
dwell with me in my realm beneath the earth." Hnossa
had such a fear from this dream that she had fallen
into a deep sorrow.
A silence fell upon all when the dream of Hnossa was
told. Nanna looked wistfully at Odin All-Father. And
Odin, looking at Frigga, saw that a fear had entered
He left the Peace Stead and went to his watch-tower
Hlidskjalf. He waited there till Hugin and Munin should
come to him. Every day his two ravens flew through the
world, and coming back to him told him of all that was
happening. And now they might tell him of happenings
that would let him guess if Hela had indeed turned her
thoughts towards Asgard, or if she had the power to
draw one down to her dismal abode.
The ravens flew to him, and the lighting one on each of
his shoulders, told him of things that were being said
up and down Ygdrassil, the World Tree. Ratatosk the
Squirrel was saying them. and Ratatosk had heard them
from the brood of serpents that with Nidhogg, the great
dragon, gnawed ever at the root of Ygdrassil. He told
it to the Eagle that sat ever on the top-most bough,
that in Hela's habitation a bed was spread and a chair
was left empty for some lordly comer.
 And hearing this, Odin thought that it were better that
Fenrir the Wolf should range ravenously through Asgard
than that Hela should win one from amongst them to fill
that chair and lie in that bed.
E mounted Sleipner, his eight-legged steed, and rode
down towards the abodes of the Dead. For three days and
three nights of silence and darkness he journeyed on.
Once one of the hounds of Helheim broke loose and bayed
upon Sleipner's tracks. For a day and a night Garm, the
hound, pursued them, and Odin smelled the blood that
dripped from his monstrous jaws.
At last he came to where, wrapped in their shrouds, a
field of the Dead lay. He dismounted from Slepner and
called upon one to rise and speak with him. It was on
Volva, a dead prophetess, he called. And when he
pronounced her name he uttered a rune that had the
power to break the sleep of the Dead.
There was a groaning in the middle of where the
shrouded ones lay. Then Odin cried out, "Arise, Volva,
prophetess." There was a stir in the middle of where
the shrouded ones lay, and a head and shoulders were
thrust up from amongst the Dead.
"Who calls on Volva the Prophetess? The rains have
drenched my flesh and the storms have shaken my bones
for more seasons than the living know. No living voice
has a right to call me from my sleep with the Dead."
 "It is Vegtam the Wanderer who calls. For whom is the
bed prepared and the seat left empty in Hela's
"For Baldur, Odin's son, is the bed prepared and the
seat left empty. Now let me go back to my sleep with
But now Odin saw beyond Volva's prophecy. "Who is it,"
he cried out, "that stands with unbowed head and that
will not lament for Baldur? Answer, Volva, prophetess!"
"Thou seest far, but thou canst not see clearly. Thou
art Odin. I can see clearly but I cannot see far. Now
let me go back to sleep with the Dead."
"Volva, prophetess!" Odin cried out again.
But the voice from amongst the shrouded ones said,
"Thou canst not wake me any more until the fires of
Muspelheim blaze above my head."
Then there was silence in the field of the Dead, and
Odin turned Sleipner, his steed, and for four days,
through the gloom and silence, he journeyed back to
RIGGA had felt the fear that Odin had felt. She looked
towards Baldur, and the shade of Hela came between her
and her son. But then she heard the birds sing in the
Peace Stead and she knew that none of all the things in
the world would injure Baldur.
And to make it 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.
Then when Frigga went back and told what she had
accomplished the gloom that had lain on Asgard lifted.
Baldur would be spared to them. Hela might have a place
prepared in her dark habitation, but neither fire nor
water, nor iron nor any metal, nor earths nor stones
nor great woods, nor birds nor beasts nor creeping
things, nor poisons nor diseases, would help her to
bring him down. "Hela has no arms to draw you to her,"
the Æsir and the Vanir cried to Baldur.
Hope was renewed for them and they made games to honour
Baldur. They had him stand in the Peace Stead and they
brought against him all the things that had sworn to
leave him hurtless. And neither the battle-axe flung
full at him, nor the stone out of the sling, nor the
burning brand, nor the deluge of water would injure the
beloved of Asgard. Æsir and the Vanir laughed joyously
to see these things fall harmlessly from him wile a
throng came to join them in the games; Dwarfs and
But Loki the Hater came in with that throng. He watched
the games from afar. He saw the missiles and the
weapons being flung and he saw Baldur stand smiling and
happy under the strokes of metal and stones and great
woods. He wondered at the sight, but he knew that he
might not ask the meaning of it from the ones who knew
 He changed his shape into that of an old woman and he
went amongst those who were making sport for Baldur. he
spoke to Dwarfs and friendly Giants. "Go to Frigga and
ask. Go to Frigga and ask," was all the answer Loki got
from any of them.
Then to Fensalir, Frigga's mansion, Loki went. He told
those in the mansion that he was Groa, the old
Enchantress who was drawing out of Thor's head the
fragments of a grindstone that a Giant's throw had
embedded in it. Frigga knew about Groa and she praised
the Enchantress for what she had done.
"Many fragments of the great grindstone have I taken
out of Thor's head by the charms I know," said the
pretended Groa. "Thor was so grateful that he brought
back to me the husband that he once had carried off to
the end of the earth. So overjoyed was I to find my
husband restored that I forgot the rest of the charms.
And I left some fragments of the stone in Thor's head."
So Loki said, repeating that was true. "Now I remember
the rest of the charm," he said, "and I can draw out
the fragments of the stone that are left. But will you
not tell me, O Queen, what is the meaning of the
extraordinary things I saw the Æsir and the Vanir
"I will tell you," said Frigga, looking kindly and
happily at the pretended old woman. "They are hurling
all manner of heavy and dangerous things at Baldur, my
beloved son. And all Asgard cheers to see that neither
metal nor stone nor great wood will hurt him."
 "But why will they not hurt him?" said the pretended
"Because I have drawn an oath from all dangerous and
threatening things to leave Baldur hurtless," said
"From all things, lady? Is there no thing in all the
world that has not taken an oath to leave Bladur
"Well, indeed there is one thing that has not taken the
oath. But that thing is so small and weak that I passed
it by without taking thought of it."
"What can it be, lady?"
"The Mistletoes that is without root or strength. It
grows on the eastern side of Valhalla. I passed it by
without drawing an oath from it."
"Surely you were not wrong to pass it by. What could
the Mistletoe—the rootless Mistletoe—do against
Saying this the pretended Enchantress hobbled off.
But not far did the pretender go hobbling. He changed
his gait and hurried to the eastern side of Valhalla.
There a great oak tree flourished and out of a branch
of it a little bush of Mistletoe grew. Loki broke off a
spray and with it in his hand he went to where the
Æsir and Vanir were still playing games to honour
All were laughing as Loki drew near, for the Giants and
the Dwarfs, the Asyniur and the Vana, were all casting
missiles. The Giants threw too far and the Dwarfs could
not throw far enough, while the Asyniur and the Vana
threw far and wide
 of the mark. In the midst of all
that glee and gamesomeness it was strange to see one
standing joyless. But one stood so, and he was of the
Æsir—Hödur, Baldur's blind brother.
"Why do you not enter the game?" said Loki to him in
his changed voice.
"I have no missile to throw at Baldur," Hödur said.
"Take this and throw it," said Loki. "It is a twig of
"I cannot see how to throw it," said Hödur.
"I will guide your hand," said Loki. He put the twig of
Mistletoe in Hödur's hand and he guided the hand for
the throw. The twig flew towards Baldur. It struck him
on the breast and it pierced him. Then Baldur fell down
with a deep groan.
The Æsir and the Vanir, the Dwarfs and the friendly
Giants, stood still in doubt and fear and amazement.
Loki slipped away. And blind Hödur, from whose hand the
twig of Mistletoe had gone, stood quiet, not knowing
that his throw had bereft Baldur of life.
Then a wailing rose around the Peace Stead. It was from
the Asyniur and the Vana. Baldur was dead, and they
began to lament him. And while they were lamenting him,
the beloved of Asgard, Odin came amongst them.
"Hela has won our Baldur from us," Odin said to Frigga
as they both bent over the body of their beloved son.
"Nay, I will not say it," Frigga said.
 When the Æsir and the Vanir had won their senses back
the mother of Baldur went amongst them. "Who amongst
you would win my love and good-will?" she said.
"Whoever would let him ride down to Hela's dark realm
and ask the Queen to take ransom for Baldur. It may be
she will take it and let Baldur come back to us. Who
amongst you will go? Odin's steed is ready for the
Then forth stepped Hermod the Nimble, the brother of
Baldur. He mounted Sleipner and turned the eight-legged
steed down towards Hela's dark realm.
OR nine days and nine nights Hermod rode on. His way
was through rugged glens, one deeper and darker then
the other. He came to the river that is call Gioll and
to the bridge across it that is all glittering with
gold. The pale maid who guards the bridge spoke to him.
"The hue of life is still on thee," said Modgudur, the
pale maid. "Why dost thou journey down to Hela’s
"I am Hermod," he said, " and I go to see if Hela will
take ransom for Baldur."
"Fearful is Hela’s habitation for one to come to," said
Modgudur, the pale maid. "all round it is a steep wall
that even thy steed might hardly leap. Its threshold is
Precipice. The bed therein is Care, the table is
Hunger, the hanging of the chamber is Burning Anguish."
"It may be that Hela will take ransom for Baldur."
 "If all things in the world still lament for Baldur,
Hela will have to take ransom and let him go from her,"
said Modgudur, the pale maid that guards the glittering
"it is well, then, for all things lament Baldur, I will
go to her and make her take ransom."
"Thou mayst not pass until it is of a surety that all
things still lament him. Go back to the world and make
sure. If thou dost come to this glittering bridge and
tell me that all things still lament Baldur, I will let
thee pass and Hela will have to hearken to thee."
"I will come back to thee, and thou, Modgudur, pale
maid, wilt have to let me pass."
"Then I will let thee pass," said Modgudur.
Joyously Hermod turned Sleipner and rode back through
the ruggest glens, each one less gloomy than the other.
He reached the upper world, and he saw that all things
were still lamenting for Baldur. Joyously Hermod rode
onward. He met the Vanir in the middle of the world and
he told them the happy tidings.
Then Hermod and the Vanir went through the world
seeking out each thing and finding that each thing
still wept for Baldur. But one day Hermod came upon a
crow that was sitting on the dead branch of a tree. The
crow made no lament as he came near. She rose up and
flew away and Hermod followed her to make sure that she
lamented for Baldur.
He lost sight of her near a cave. And then before the
 he saw a hag with blackened teeth who raised no
voice of lament. "If thou art the crow that came flying
here, make lament for Baldur," Hermod said.
"I, Thaukt, will make no lament for Baldur," the hag
said, "let Hela keep what she holds."
"All things weep tears for Baldur," Hermod said.
"I will weep dry tears for him," said the hag.
She hobbled into her cave, and as Hermod followed a
crow fluttered out. he knew that this was Thaukt, the
evil hag, transformed. he followed her, and she went
through the world croaking, "Let Hela keep what she
holds. Let Hela keep what she holds."
Then Hermod knew that he might not ride to Hela's
habitation. All things knew that there was one thing in
the world that would not lament for Baldur. The Vanir
came back to him, and with head bowed over Sleipner's
mane, Hermod rode into Asgard.
OW the Æsir and the Vanir, knowing that no ransom
would be taken for Baldur and that the joy and content
of Asgard were gone indeed, made ready his body for the
burning. First they covered Baldur's body with a rich
robe, and each left beside it his most precious
possession. Then they all took leave of him, kissing
him upon the brow. But Nanna, his gentle wife, flung
herself on his dead breast and her heart broke and she
died of her grief. Then did the Æsir
 and the Vanir
weep afresh. And they took the body of Nanna and they
placed it side by side with Baldur's.
On his own great ship, Ringhorn, would Baldur be placed
with Nanna beside him. Then the ship would be launched
on the water and all would be burned with fire.
But it was found that none of the Æsir or the Vanir
were able to launch Baldur’s great ship. Hyroken, and
Giantess, was sent for. She came mounted on a great
world with twisted serpents for a bridle. Four Giants
held fast the wolfe when she alighted. She came to the
ship and with a single push she sent it into the sea.
The rollers struck out fire as the ship dashed across
Then when it rode the water fires mounted on the ship.
and in the blaze of the fires one was seen bending over
the body of Baldur and whispering into his ear. It was
Odin All-Father. Then he went down off the ship and all
the fires rose into a mighty burning. Speechlessly the
Æsir and the Vanir watched with tears streaming down
their faces while all things lamented, crying, "Baldur
the Beautiful is dead, is dead."
And what was it that Odin All-Father whispered to
Baldur was he bent above him with the flames of the
burning ship around? he whispered of a heaven above
Asgard that Surtur's flames might not reach, and of a
life that would come to beauty again after the world of
men and the world of the Gods had been searched through
and through with fire.