Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 103

Hermod’s Errand

As the road was rough and painful in the extreme, none of the gods would volunteer at first to go; but when Frigga promised that she and Odin would reward the messenger by loving him above all the Æsir, Hermod signified his readiness to execute the commission. To enable him to do so, Odin lent him Sleipnir, and the noble steed, who was not wont to allow any but Odin upon his back, set off without demur upon the dark road which his hoofs had beaten twice before.

Meantime, Odin caused the body of Balder to be removed to Breidablik, and he directed the gods to go to the forest and cut down huge pines wherewith to build a worthy pyre.

“But when the Gods were to the forest gone,

Hermod led Sleipnir from Valhalla forth

And saddled him; before that, Sleipnir brook’d

No meaner hand than Odin’s on his mane,

On his broad back no lesser rider bore;

Yet docile now he stood at Hermod’s side,

Arching his neck, and glad to be bestrode,

Knowing the God they went to seek, how dear.

But Hermod mounted him, and sadly fared

In silence up the dark untravell’d road

Which branches from the north of Heaven, and went

All day; and daylight waned, and night came on.

And all that night he rode, and journey’d so,

Nine days, nine nights, toward the northern ice,

Through valleys deep-engulph’d by roaring streams.

And on the tenth morn he beheld the bridge

Which spans with golden arches Giall’s stream, [206]

And on the bridge a damsel watching, arm’d,

In the straight passage, at the further end,

Where the road issues between walling rocks.”

Balder Dead (Matthew Arnold).

The Death of Balder

The Death of Balder

Dorothy Hardy

The Funeral Pyre

While Hermod was speeding along the cheerless road which led to Nifl-heim, the gods hewed and carried down to the shore a vast amount of fuel, which they piled upon the deck of Balder’s dragon-ship, Ringhorn, constructing an elaborate funeral pyre. According to custom, this was decorated with tapestry hangings, garlands of flowers, vessels and weapons of all kinds, golden rings, and countless objects of value, ere the immaculate corpse, richly attired, was brought and laid upon it.

One by one, the gods now drew near to take a last farewell of their beloved companion, and as Nanna bent over him, her loving heart broke, and she fell lifeless by his side. Seeing this, the gods reverently laid her beside her husband, that she might accompany him even in death; and after they had slain his horse and hounds and twined the pyre with thorns, the emblems of sleep, Odin, last of the gods, drew near.

In token of affection for the dead and of sorrow for his loss, all had lain their most precious possessions upon his pyre, and Odin, bending down, now added to the offerings his magic ring Draupnir. It was noted by the assembled gods that he was whispering in his dead son’s ear, but none were near enough to hear what word he said.