Norse Gods and Mythology: The Death of Balder
Balder was one of the most beloved of the Norse gods. He was the son of Odin and Frigg, and the god of light. He was known for being benevolent and courageous. Everyone loved him. So everyone was naturally quite concerned when Balder started getting dark and ominous dreams foretelling his death.
Concerned, Odin, the king of the gods and Balder's father, disguised himself and traveled to Niflheim, the land of the dead, to see if if was true. When he was there, he found it in great splendor as if getting ready for a celebration. He asked a dead seer about the festivities and she told him that it was in honor of Balder, who would soon be joining their ranks among the dead.
With his fears confirmed, Odin went back up to Asgard to tell everyone the bad news. The gods wanted to stop this at all costs. So Frigg went to every thing, right down to the pebbles, and made them swear an oath not to ever harm Balder. That wasn't hard to do when Balder was so popular. All of them agreed very quickly.
To test out this theory, the gods started throwing pebbles at Balder. When they bounced off of him without harming him, they moved onto bigger weapons, including knives, and even Thor's hammers. None of them hurt Balder at all and the gods were very amused and delighted by this.
Loki, however, saw it as a good chance for mischief. Jealous of Balder's popularity, he decided to put an end to it once and for all. He asked Frigg if absolutely everything had swore the oath. Frigg replied yes, except for mistletoe, which was too young to give the oath. Besides it was so small, that it was practically inconsequential.
Loki went into the forest and took a branch of mistletoe before rejoining the festivities. He found Balder's brother, Hod, in the corner. Hod was blind and couldn't participate in throwing things at Balder because he couldn't aim and might hit one of the gods. Loki said it would be a shame for Hod to be left out of the fun. He put the mistletoe in Hod's hand and told him that he would direct his aim so it would hit Balder and none of the other gods. Hod agreed. He threw the mistletoe with Loki directing his aim. The mistletoe struck Balder in the chest and he died instantly.
Everyone was horrified and grief-stricken over Balder's death. Not only did everyone lose a good friend, but Balder's death meant the end of light and truth. It was the first sign of the coming of Ragnarok, or the end of the world.
Hermod, another son of Odin, offered to go to Niflheim to beg Hel, the goddess of the Niflheim, for Balder's life. As he prepared for the journey, the gods prepared an elaborate funeral for Balder. They placed his body in a ship with some of their most prized possessions, and gold and jewels. Balder's wife was so devastated that she died when she saw them carrying Balder's body to the ship, so her body was placed alongside her husbands. They placed the bodies on a funeral pyre on the ship and Thor lighted the pyre before they sent the ship out into the sea.
Meanwhile, Hermod had reached Niflheim where the festivities were going on. Balder was in the place of honor next to Hel's throne, looking downcast and listless. Hermod knelt before Hel and begged for his brother to be returned to Asgard. Hel agreed upon one condition. She said Balder would only return to the land of the living when everyone wept in grief for Balder.
And everyone did. There wasn't a person who did not want Balder to come back to life. That is, except Loki, who disguised himself at the giantess Thokk who felt too indifferent to cry over Balder's death. So Balder remained where he was, only to rise from the Nifleheim during Ragnarok.