Hodur’s Song

Lament that I listened – To Loki’s teasing words
“Honour our beloved brother Balder
You cannot harm him – Hurl the twig
Promise to protect him has been won from all things

No-one could know – None could Blame
Fair Frigg fetched oaths from all bar one
Too small to swear – Sweet mistletoe
It’s hardened heart became hates barb

Goaded and Guided – He gave me aim
Arrow flew fair and fast
Sliced the shining sun – And sent him falling
Such harm my hand hath wrought

Gentle Baldr gone – This grief eternal
My eyes were wasted now they weep
Blessed blindness – Blacks the scene
E’re more my days are darkened with depair 

This was my attempt at a ljóðaháttr poem – the metre used for songs to be sung in the meadhall. It’s a very simplified retelling of the death of Balder

Balder was the son of Odin and Frigg, Hodur was his twin brother. Baldur was the god of the summer sun, joy, purity and light, he was considered the most beautiful of the Aesir and loved by all. Hodur was the god of winter, he was blind so could never see his brother’s light.

A time came when Balder had a series of dreams that he was going to die. He asked his mother what the dreams could mean and like many mothers would the fear that the dream was prophetic sent Frigg into a bit of a panic. She told Balder not to worry and set out to extract an oath from every object in the whole nine worlds not to harm her brilliant shining son, Balder was so well loved that all agreed that they would never harm him. Well, almost all – Frigg hadn’t asked mistletoe, but it was so small and weak she didn’t think it mattered.

When the other gods heard how Balder was protected against all harm they thought it would be great fun to throw things at him and see how different things swerved or plummeted to the ground to avoid hitting him. They threw sticks and stones, then knives and hammers, then shot arrows at him – everything missed. It became a game they played whenever they were gathered together and Baldur’s fame grew as a result.

To begin with Loki found this as much fun as any of the others, but over time he grew uneasy, he kept thinking to himself that as the Havamal says, all things must die. Baldur was no different. Using all of his wiles he managed to find out that the insignficant little mistletoe hadn’t made the oath. He quickly gathered enough to make a small dart which he imbued with magic to turn it hard as iron.

Next time the game was being played Loki gave the dart of mistletoe to Hodur and said that he too should play. Hodur objected saying that he couldn’t see where he was aiming so there was no point but Loki’s honeyed words convinced him that it would be fun for everyone else and would honour Balder. As soon as he agreed Loki turned Hodur to face his brother and had him throw the dart. Hodur was blind but he was strong and with Loki guiding his aim the dart flew straight and true, cutting through Bladur’s chest and deep into his heart. Baldur died on the spot.

Frigg was distraughter, all of the other gods lamented, as did the men, the dwarves and the elves. Odin sent Hermod to petition Hel, goddess of death, to allow Balder’s to return to them. Hel said the only was he could return is if every soul, alive or dead, would weep for him. Again Frigg set out to travel the nine worlds on behalf of Balder. Everyone wept for the shining one except for one. A twisted old hag Thokk told Frigg her life had been so long and so hard she had no tears left to shed. Baldur was forced to remain with Hel.

The gods began the funeral for the God of Light, they wrapped his body in crimson silks and placed him upon his ship Ringhorn which would serve as his funeral pyre. His wife Nanna died of grief and was laid beside him, along with all manner of treasures. Before the fire was lit Odin kissed his son and whispered one word in his ear, “rebirth” and then he stepped away as the flaming boat was pushed out to sea.

Odin knew that when the end time came and Gjallarhorn sounded the coming of Ragnarok the gates of Hel would open and Balder would at last be free, when the old gods fell, Balder would be the new god, but he hoped those days were a long long time ahead. 

The whole world mourned the loss of Balder, the days were dark and long without his light. Eventually it was discovered that Thokk was Loki in disguise and he was punished for his treachery, but that is another story.

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