Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 222

Hermod then rode on to the palace where he found his brother Baldur occupying the most distinguished seat in the hall, and passed the night in his company. The next morning he besought Hela to let Baldur ride home with him, assuring her that nothing but lamentations were to be heard among the gods. Hela answered that it should now be tried whether Baldur was so beloved as he was said to be. "If, therefore," she added, "all things in the world, both living and lifeless, weep for him, then shall he return to life; but if any one thing speak against him or refuse to weep, he shall be kept in Hel."

Hermod then rode back to Asgard and gave an account of all he had heard and witnessed.

The gods upon this despatched messengers throughout the world to beg every thing to weep in order that Baldur might be delivered from Hel. All things very willingly complied with this request, both men and every other living being, as well as earths, and stones, and trees, and metals, just as we have all seen these things weep when they are brought from a cold place into a hot one. As the messengers were returning, they found an old hag named Thaukt sitting in a cavern, and begged her to weep Baldur out of Hel. But she answered,

  "Thaukt will wail
  With dry tears
  Baldur's bale-fire.
  Let Hela keep her own."

It was strongly suspected that this hag was no other than Loki himself, who never ceased to work evil among gods and men. So Baldur was prevented from coming back to Asgard. (In Longfellow's Poems, vol. 1, page 379, will be found a poem entitled Tegner's Drapa, upon the subject of Baldur's death.)

Among Matthew Arnold's Poems is one called "Balder Death" beginning thus:

  "So on the floor lay Balder dead; and round
  Lay thickly strewn swords, axes, darts and spears,
  Which all the Gods in sport had idly thrown
  At Balder, whom no weapon pierced or clave;
  But in his breast stood fixt the fatal bough
  Of mistletoe, which Lok the Accuser gave
  To Hoder, and unwitting Hoder threw;
  "Gainst that alone had Balder's life no charm.
  And all the Gods and all the heroes came
  And stood round Balder on the bloody floor
  Weeping and wailing; and Valhalla rang
  Up to its golden roof with sobs and cries;
  And on the table stood the untasted meats,
  And in the horns and gold-rimmed skulls the wine;
  And now would night have fallen and found them yet
  Wailing; but otherwise was Odin's will."


The gods took up the dead body and bore it to the sea-shore where stood Baldur's ship Hringham, which passed for the largest in the world. Baldur's dead body was put on the funeral pile, on board the ship, and his wife Nanna was so struck with grief at the sight that she broke her heart, and her body was burned on the same pile with her husband's. There was a vast concourse of various kinds of people at Baldur's obsequies. First came Odin accompanied by Frigga, the Valkyrior, and his ravens; then Frey in his car drawn by Gullinbursti, the boar; Heimdall rode his horse Gulltopp, and Freya drove in her chariot drawn by cats. There were also a great many Frost giants and giants of the mountain present. Baldur's horse was led to the pile fully caparisoned and consumed in the same flames with his master.

But Loki did not escape his deserved punishment. When he saw how angry the gods were, he fled to the mountain, and there built himself a hut with four doors, so that he could see every approaching danger. He invented a net to catch the fishes, such as fishermen have used since his time. But Odin found out his hiding-place and the gods assembled to take him. He, seeing this, changed himself into a salmon, and lay hid among the stones of the brook. But the gods took his net and dragged the brook, and Loki finding he must be caught, tried to leap over the net; but Thor caught him by the tail and compressed it so, that salmons every since have had that part remarkably fine and thin. They bound him with chains and suspended a serpent over his head, whose venom falls upon his face drop by drop. His wife Siguna sits by his side and catches the drops as they fall, in a cup; but when she carries it away to empty it, the venom falls upon Loki, which makes him howl with horror, and twist his body about so violently that the whole earth shakes, and this produces what men call earthquakes.