Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 102

The goddess smiled, and resumed her work, saying that it was quite natural that nothing should harm Balder, as all things loved the light, of which he was the emblem, and had solemnly sworn not to injure him. Loki, the personification of fire, was greatly chagrined upon hearing this, for he was jealous of Balder, the sun, who so entirely eclipsed him and who was generally beloved, while he was feared and avoided as much as possible; but he cleverly concealed his vexation, and inquired of Frigga whether she were quite sure that all objects had joined the league.

Frigga proudly answered that she had received the solemn oath of all things, a harmless little parasite, the mistletoe, which grew on the oak near Valhalla’s gate, only excepted, and this was too small and weak to be feared. This information was all that Loki wanted, and bidding adieu to Frigga he hobbled off. As soon as he was safely out of sight, however, he resumed his wonted form and hastened to Valhalla, where, at the gate, he found the oak and mistletoe as indicated by Frigga. Then by the exercise of magic arts he imparted to the parasite a size and hardness quite unnatural to it.

From the wooden stem thus produced he deftly [204]fashioned a shaft with which he hastened back to Idavold, where the gods were still hurling missiles at Balder, Hodur alone leaning mournfully against a tree the while, and taking no part in the game. Carelessly Loki approached the blind god, and assuming an appearance of interest, he inquired the cause of his melancholy, at the same time artfully insinuating that pride and indifference prevented him from participating in the sport. In answer to these remarks, Hodur pleaded that only his blindness deterred him from taking part in the new game, and when Loki put the mistletoe-shaft in his hand, and led him into the midst of the circle, indicating the direction of the novel target, Hodur threw his shaft boldly. But to his dismay, instead of the loud laughter which he expected, a shuddering cry of horror fell upon his ear, for Balder the beautiful had fallen to the ground, pierced by the fatal mistletoe.

“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 clove;

But in his breast stood fixed 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.”

Balder Dead (Matthew Arnold).

In dire anxiety the gods crowded around their beloved companion, but alas! life was quite extinct, and all their efforts to revive the fallen sun-god were unavailing. Inconsolable at their loss, they now turned angrily upon Hodur, whom they would there and then have slain had they not been restrained by the law of the gods that no wilful deed of violence should desecrate their peace-steads. The sound of their loud lamentation [205]brought the goddesses in hot haste to the dreadful scene, and when Frigga saw that her darling was dead, she passionately implored the gods to go to Nifl-heim and entreat Hel to release her victim, for the earth could not exist happily without him.