Legend of the Mistletoe
Balder (Baldur, Baldr), the God of the Summer Son in Norse Mythology, sees his death in a dream and confides in his mother Frigga (Frigg).
"Legend of the Mistletoe" is researched creative writing.
An Introduction to the Goddess Frigga
The aspect of mother is common to every culture. Frigga is the epitome of mother in Norse mythology. She is married to Odin, the chief of the gods, and is Queen of Asgard.
Among her many talents, she has the gift of seeing into the future, but, according to mythology, never reveals the visions bestowed upon her. Along with her endeavor of weaving clouds responsible for rainfall and crop fertility, a trait she holds in common with Frey, who may simply be another aspect of Frigga's expression, she has some influence in weaving men's destinies and is associated with New Year goals and resolutions.
She is the goddess of fertility, marriage, and love. Women about to give birth invoke her protection in a white candle ritual to ensure a safe delivery.
A Creative Narrative of the Legend
Once, long ago, over the land of the midnight sun in Asgard, lived Balder (god of the summer sun), his wife Nanna, and their son Forseti. Balder was kind and generous. The gods and goddesses of Asgard loved him for his benevolent nature. Balder's life with Nanna and Forseti was very happy.
As son to the queen of Asgard, Balder often consulted with his mother Frigga when uncertain about what action to take in matters of justice and welfare. One night, he had a dream.
Dark clouds surrounded him. Everywhere the eye could see there was war and pestilence. Suddenly, in the midst of the turmoil, a burning sensation pierced his heart. The dark clouds turned into an abyss of total black. He gasped for breath, but one was not forthcoming. A sensation of falling, endless falling, into the underworld of the dead. Here was Hel.
Balder awoke in a cold sweat and immediately sought his mother's counsel.
Upon hearing Balder' revelation, however, Frigga had none to give; rather, she was taken aback with fear and dread. Balder meant everything to her. With all her gifts, she had no means to change destiny, but out of her love for Balder, she vowed to do what she could to delay the dream from becoming reality in the hope that Balder could continue to enjoy his life. "Don't mention this dream to Nanna," Frigga advised. "It will only upset her. Tell no one. I will enlist the aid of all the creatures and plants of earth, air, water, and fire for your protection. Be at peace."
"Thank you, Mother, good Queen of Asgard!" With that, Balder returned to his home Breidablik.
Frigga began her work immediately. First, she went to the wind. "Njord," she cried. "I need a favor of you."
"Anything, my queen," said the wind god. "What can I do for you?"
"Balder's life may be in jeopardy," Queen Frigga began, "and I need you and your creatures of the air--birds, bats, flying insects--to promise to do no harm to him and protect him."
"Balder?" asked Njord. "Why would anyone want to harm him? He is so benevolent and kind. Or do you fear an accident?"
"A dream suggests no accident, but I cannot tell you more," replied Frigga in her distress.
"Of course, my queen, I will command the elements and creatures in my realm to do their best. We all love Balder."
"Thank you, my faithful friend. I must leave now and talk to Aegir, guardian of the water kingdom."
"God speed!" bid Njord and he gently created a breeze to boost the queen along on her journey.
When Frigga reached Aegir, a similar conversation to the one she had with Njord ensued.
Like Njord, Aegir offered comfort and pledged his allegiance to both Frigga and Balder.
The Queen of Asgard continued her quest and spoke to Sif, the wife of Thor and goddess of the earth.
Sif pledged her loyalty and instructed all earth-rooted plants and trees to assist and protect Balder.
It was with extreme caution that Frigga sought Surtr, a giant and keeper of fire. Surtr befriended none of the gods of Asgard and had even pledged to destroy them one day, but that day was far into the future, as Frigga well knew.
"With all my dignity and honor, I call to Surtr, Keeper of Fire, that he may hear my need," Frigga called out as she stood at the edge of Muspellheim.
Heat and flames belched through the earth about twenty paces in front of Frigga. "What have I to do with thee, woman?" demanded the fiery voice of Surtr.
"I know you have your place in creation, Surtr, and I did you a favor once," Frigga began.
Surtr's hot breath sent powerful waves of heat bursting against Frigga's face and front. "Yes, I remember," sighed Surtr. "You gave my element honor when fire was harnessed for the cottage hearth and became revered by man and woman as a comfort and a tool. What is it you seek?"
"Balder's life ended in a dream, which I am trying to avert. Will you protect him with your fire element for a time?"
"Only until Wintersnight," answered Sutr, "and only because you did me that favor once."
The purge of fire rescinded back into the earth, and Frigga sensed the air around her had retuned to normal. She left feeling assured she had done all she could to protect her son Balder.
The Legend Continues
Upon the completion of his mother's efforts, Balder immediately felt a sense of relief and went about his daily routine as if nothing had happened.
Now, one of the things the gods in Asgard loved was to engage in games. These games were similar to those of the ancient Greeks and included such things as hatchet throwing, arm wrestling, sword matches, and bow-dart shooting. The sports were mildly competitive and done with the intent of fun and as a means of keeping physically fit.
Balder happened to be walking by the courtyard where a sword match between Thor's sons Magni and Modi was being undertaken. In a surge to win, Magni missed Modi and acciently struck the passing Balder, who was not harmed by the blade.
"What's this? asked Tyr, god of war and sky. "Balder, you're not even bleeding. How is this possible?"
"I have no idea," replied Balder.
This stirred much attention among the gods who witnessed the event, and they gathered around Balder to touch and pinch him to see if he were real.
Loki, who was known for his tricks and deception to stir trouble among the gods, witnessed the attention Balder was getting and became jealous. In that moment, Loki determined that he would learn Balder's secret, so when Balder excused himself from the gods' prodding, Loki followed him.
Balder Consults Frigga Again
When Balder explained to Frigga that he had been struck by Magni's sword but was unharmed, Frigga explained that she had contacted the gods and Sif for allegiance.
"Then," concluded Balder, "I am truly immortal."
"That's correct, my son," replied Frigga.
Loki, who had followed Balder, remained quietly hidden in the bushes and overheard the conversation. He was determined more than ever to defeat Balder. Surely, there had to be something Frigga had overlooked, so he decided to pay a visit to Sif.
"Sif," began Loki, upon his approach, "I have heard that Frigga has received a pledge from your elementals to allegiance on Balder's behalf."
"Why should you care, Loki?" asked Sif with a cautious air.
"No particular reason," answered Loki. "I was just curious as to whether there was any truth to the rumor."
"It's no rumor," said Sif. "Balder has the safeguard of all earth-rooted plants."
Hearing this, Loki smiled because he knew of one plant, a lowly creation, that had no roots in the earth. "Thank you, Sif. I shall trouble you no further. Good day!" Off he went, unaware to Sif or Frigga, to begin his plot to destroy Balder.
Now, with the help of Loki, the sporting gods became aware of Balder's super immortality. It was one thing to be immortal to men's attacks, but now Balder was invincible even to the gods. Much talk commenced about this rare trait, and, for fun, Balder became the target of axe throwing, sword thrusting, and bow-dart practice. Balder remained unharmed by whatever struck him.
Meanwhile, Loki went to a spot in the forest where he knew mistletoe was growing on an oak. Mistletoe, he well knew, was a parasite that had no roots touching the earth. He harvested some of the plant and constructed several bow-darts from the branches.
The next day when the gods were having their fun with Balder, who, once again, happened to be walking through the courtyard, Loki went to Hoder, Balder's blind brother and god of winter to test him.
"Hoder, why aren't you joining in the games to celebrate Balder's invincibility?" Loki cunningly asks.
"Even if I could see," replied Hoder, "the effort would be pointless because the other gods are already testing him."
"I will guide you," offered Loki. "Just try. Balder will be honored because you are his brother."
"All right--once." Because of his blindness, Hoder could not see the type of bow-darts Loki had constructed, nor did he know of Loki's true intent. With bow in hand, Hoder placed a mistletoe dart into the weapon and, with Loki's guidance, aimed at Balder.
The dart pierced Balder's heart and immediately the sun god fell down dead.
Frigga quickly learned of Balder's death and hurried to Surtr to plead for Balder's life. "You pledged protection until Wintersnight," reminded Frigga.
"I had nothing to do with this death," replied Surtr in his hot breath. "If all of Asgard mourns for his death, however, I will return Balder to your world."
Frigga thanked Surtr and went back to Asgard to explain to the others the condition for Balder's return to life. For Frigga herself, tears and the burden of the heart came naturally. Because of Balder's benevolent nature in life, mourning came easily for the other gods as well. All mourned him--except Loki, who had taken the form of a witch as a disguise.
Nonetheless, Frigga's grief was so pure, the red berries of the mistletoe turned white and the plant was so touched by her sadness that it began emitting vibrations of love. From that day forward, the mistletoe has been Frigga's symbol and a blessing of love for which kisses are bestowed by and to those meeting beneath the plant. ***
A Dramatized Version of Balder's Death (Norwegian with English Subtitles)
Interestingly, this version does not show Frigga soliciting the elements herself, rather she approaches Odin with the problem, and he alone summons the powers of creation through his invocation.
Of the following, who is your favorite Norse God/Goddess?
Resources and Credits
http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/mistletoe.htm (Popular Legend)
http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/goddess-frigga.htm (Norse Goddess Frigga)
http://www.crystalinks.com/norsegods.html (Additional Legend Details)
http://www.viking-mythology.com (For Poll Creation)
The picture of the fire is my own work.
© 2014 Marie Flint