A Book of Myths

Page: 112

One gentle thing only was her memory allowed to keep. When, not as an omnipotent goddess but as a heart-broken mother, she wept the death of her dearly-loved son, Baldur the Beautiful, the tears that she shed were turned, as they fell, into pure gold that is found in the beds of lonely mountain streams. And we who claim descent from the peoples who worshipped her—

“Saxon and Norman and Dane are we”—

can surely cleanse her memory from all the ugly impurities of superstition and remember only the pure gold of the fact that our warrior ancestors did not only pray to a fierce and mighty god of battles, but to a woman who was “loving and giving”—the little child’s deification of the mother whom it loves and who holds it very dear.

[Pg 234]


“I heard a voice, that cried,
‘Baldur the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!’
And through the misty air
Passed like the mournful cry
Of sunward sailing cranes.”


Among the gods of Greece we find gods and goddesses who do unworthy deeds, but none to act the permanent part of villain of the play. In the mythology of the Norsemen we have a god who is wholly treacherous and evil, ever the villain of the piece, cunning, malicious, vindictive, and cruel—the god Loki. And as his foil, and his victim, we have Baldur, best of all gods, most beautiful, most greatly beloved. Baldur was the Galahad of the court of Odin the king, his father.

“My strength is of the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.”

No impure thing was to be found in his dwelling; none could impugn his courage, yet ever he counselled peace, ever was gentle and infinitely wise, and his beauty was as the beauty of the whitest of all the flowers of the Northland, called after him Baldrsbrá. The god of the Norsemen was essentially a god of battles, and we are told by great authorities that Baldur was originally [Pg 235] a hero who fought on the earth, and who, in time, came to be deified. Even if it be so, it is good to think that a race of warriors could worship one whose chief qualities were wisdom, purity, and love.

In perfect happiness, loving and beloved, Baldur lived in Asgard with his wife Nanna, until a night when his sleep was assailed by horrible dreams of evil omen. In the morning he told the gods that he had dreamed that Death, a thing till then unknown in Asgard, had come and cruelly taken his life away. Solemnly the gods debated how this ill happening might be averted, and Freya, his mother, fear for her best beloved hanging heavy over her heart, took upon herself the task of laying under oath fire and water, iron and all other metals, trees and shrubs, birds, beasts and creeping things, to do no harm to Baldur. With eager haste she went from place to place, nor did she fail to exact the oath from anything in all nature, animate or inanimate, save one only.