Baldur Norse God

Baldur the Norse god

Baldur Norse God, also known as Baldur in old high German and Baldr in old English, was the god of innocence, goodness, forgiveness, beauty, purity and light. He was one of the most famous gods of Aesir tribe. Not just this, he was associated with everything that was good and seemed pleasant to eyes. It is said that so handsome, charming and gracious he was, and so good he was by character that he gave off light. Due to the reason, he was called “the shining one.” Whoever he spent time with and conversed with, became attracted to his kind nature and charismatic personality.  He, therefore, became to be known as the most beloved and dearest of all gods, especially to his parents Odin and Frigg. Apart from these, he was known for his unparalleled wisdom and intelligence and no one in the whole world is more merciful than this particular deity.

The most famous story related to Baldur Norse God concerns his death. He was apparently killed by his twin brother Hod. In actual it was his half brother, the trickster Loki who was behind all this. Spared always for his mischievous schemes, he, this time, had committed the grave sin. The death of Baldur started the series of events that will eventually lead to the great destructive war Ragnarok, marking the end of the present world.  

Meaning and Etymology

The meaning and etymology of the word Baldur remains unclear and ambiguous. Yet there are a few suggestions that can be considered to be correct, keeping into consideration the history of Norse mythology. Modern scholars suggest that name has its roots in proto Indo-European word Bhel which means ‘white’. White and other similar words were used to describe Norse deities, which was commonly interpreted as bright and shining. This, apart from describing their fair colours, also used to describe their characteristics such as smartness and intelligence. Another source of the name is word from old Norse Baldur Norse God which means bold and brave. Although this suggestion is commonly accepted, most of the scholars do no accept it as it shows a fighter-like character of Baldur who, in Norse literature, is found to be decent and innocent.

Symbols of Baldur Norse God

One of the chief symbols of Baldur includes a ship called Hringhorni, commonly known as Ringhorni, which is said to be the largest ship to be ever build. After his death, the ship was set to drift downriver.

Baldur always kept a horse named Lettfeti with him who was sacrificed on his funeral. He used to reside in his own palace called Breidablik, the “the broad gleaming”. According to Poetic Edda (an authentic manuscript of Norse mythology consisting mainly of poems), this abode is the most peaceful of all abodes in Asgard (place where all gods of Aesir reside) where nothing bad and evil can take place. To quote the exact wording:

 “The seventh is Breithablik; Baldur is there,

For himself a dwelling set,

In the land I know that so fair,  

And from evil fate is free.”  

Appearance

Just like his mother Frigg, Baldur is depicted as fair, tall and charming who wore long and thick beard. The older painting depict him wearing a cape and loincloth only. However, paintings of later eras show him wearing an armor.

Although the paintings depict him wearing shield and holding spear, he is never shown in the position ready for battle, explaining that he was the god who had nothing to do with wars and other fights. To emphasize this idea, his spear always points downward and his shield is placed on the ground.

Family

Baldur was the second son of Odin, the chief of all the gods of Aesir and the Allfather of all gods, and Frigg, who was the goddess of love and wisdom and had the unusual power of predicting the fates of beings. His twin brother was Hod, who was a blind winter-god. He had many half-siblings. The most famous of them were Thor, Heimdall, Hermod, Braggi, Vidar and Vali. It should be noted that Baldur, because of his good character and joyous nature, was the most favourite of all his siblings and was always pampered more than others.

Upon growing up, Baldur Norse God married to Nanna who was the daughter of god Nep. The two had a son who they named Forseti. He was concerned with peace justice. Forseti later established a hall called Glitnir for him where he settled disputes among people, a practice previously performed by his father.

                        Mythological Outline

The most authentic sources of Norse mythology were written in Iceland during middle ages. The Elder Edda comprises mainly of poems and gives an account of the creation and destruction of the cosmos. It is another manuscript called the Younger Edda which gives details about the  Norse gods. Most of the details about Baldur remains unclear and undescribed. It is however, the story of the death and resurrection of Baldur that we have the most clear account about.

   A terrible dream

Once, Baldur saw a dream in which he foresaw his own death. In Norse mythology, it was believed that dreams contains glimpses of events that are going to occur in real life. This worried all the gods as they all held him dear to themselves. However, the one who got worried the most was Odin. He began to find out the ways through which he can save the life of Baldur and prove his prophecy wrong. He finally came up with the idea of going to the underworld and to find whether his son’s prophecy was right. He, therefore, mounted on Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse and headed toward hel, the realm of the dead. He then commenced searching for an oracle who could reveal the truth behind Baldur’s dreams. There he found a deceased female seer. In his desperation to know the truth, he brought her back to life using his own magic. She, however, got angry at him for resurrecting her and avoided answering his questions. After his constant pleading, she finally agreed to reveal the reality he had been seeking for so long. She told him that Baldur was bound to die. Although it could not be told that how and when will he die.   

Baldur’s death

When Odin returned from Hel, he gave an account of his visit to Frigg and told her that Baldur would indeed die. This left her devastated. She took the responsibility of saving her son’s life. Prose Edda quotes that she travelled to all the things living, including beasts, venoms, serpents and birds as well as non-living like fire, water and metals and secured an oath from them not to harm her son and not even assist anyone else in harming him. Despite all her efforts, she forgot to take promise from mistletoe. Thinking that this was too innocent to harm Baldur, she did not worry much and felt contended at the thought of making her son invincible.

Soon after this, the gods of Aesir discovered that whatever thrown at Baldur did not harm him. This became a matter of great interest for all the gods and they got so amused at the sight of such thing that they made a game out of it. Now day and night, they used to throw things at Baldur, and got amazed at seeing things bouncing off him without giving him a single scratch, no matter what size and weight the objects were. Even though all the gods were happy for his immortality and enjoyed the game, this was not the case with chaotic and treacherous Loki, the half-brother of Baldur who, out of jealousy, was committed to take his life.

He began to make strategies of how to find, if there is, any weakness of Baldur. He finally came up with the idea of transforming himself into a woman and then asking the question from Frigg. Disguised as a woman, he approached Frigg and asked if there is something she forgot to take an oath from. Not realizing that it was Loki the trickster, she, without any hesitation and detecting any harm, confessed that she forgot to approach mistletoe, which she considered too insignificant to take promise from. Delighted with the knowledge he had just received, he quickly spotted the weed mistletoe and made a dart of it. His next step was to find how to throw that dart on Baldur. He did not have much trouble in finding so as Odin had announced the party of throwing missiles over Baldur and he had spied that Hod was not participating in the game. Having his evil scheme sorted out, he approached Hod and inquired why he is not participating in the game. He told Loki that he was blind and also did not have anything to throw at Baldur. Grabbing it as an opportunity, he handed him the dart and aided him at throwing it right on the chest of Baldur. This pierced through his heart and killed him on the spot. This left all the gods in utmost shock. All the gods surrounded him and Odin whispered something in his ears. What he whispered still remains a mystery. Although he was innocent, Odin punished Hod for becoming a part of the incident. Odin and Rindr gave birth to a son Vali, who was born and grew up in one single day for the sole purpose of avenging Baldur’s death.

 Soon after his death, the gods decided that someone has to go to the underworld to pay ransom and bring him back to Asgard. It was one of the sons of Odin Hermod, who finally agreed to go to the underworld, the place of the dead. He borrowed his father’s eight-legged horse sleipnir and traveled down the world tree. It took him a total of nine days to travel through dark valleys and over high mountains before he finally found hel’s abode. When he reached her throne, he saw Baldur, pale and worried, sitting next to her on honour seat. He pleaded her to return him back and after many pleadings and persuasion, she agreed but on one condition. She said that if they want Baldur to return, the whole world had to weep for him to prove that he was as loved as Hermod claims. He returned to Asgard and told everyone her condition. Frigg then went from one being to other to request them to shed tears for her son. Everything was going out quite well until she reached the last of all beings, the giantess named Thok sitting in a cave. She, without even thinking for a second, denied to do so, saying that he never did anything for her and so she will not shed a single tear for him. It is said that it was Loki disguised as the giant. Whether this was true or not, her denial ultimately sent baldur to the underworld.

Realizing that nothing could be done now, Baldur’s body was laid in his gigantic ship Ringhorni. When his wife Nanna saw him lying there, she died of grief and was laid next to him. In his ship were placed all his possessions including his horse and was pushed to the sea by the giantess Hyrrokin.

It was soon revealed that the giantess was actually Loki and the gods, unlike previous times, could not leave him unpunished for the sin is too grave this time. They hunted him, tied three rocks with him and the serpent was tied with his head which would continuously drip venom over his face till Ragnarok.

Baldur Norse God

Baldur Norse God return

 Just as the death of Baldur would lead to the beginning of the incidents that would eventually lead to the great destructive war Ragnarok, his resurrection would indicate the end of it. Once the cosmos would have ended and the whole world would have been created anew and all the gods would fall to their destined fates, Baldur would return. He will bless this new world and its people with light, hope and happiness who would then live happily ever after.  

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