In Norse mythology, there was an immaculate god known as Balder (alternatively Baldr or Baldur), whose role is as ambiguous to us as it was important to the Vikings. Balder was a son of Odin and Frigg, the king and queen of the Norse pantheon, and described as being the most beautiful of the Aesir, the divine race from Asgard. Fair and handsome and kind, he was said to shine with purity, and was loved by all. Even his abode, Breidablik, was the best-looking of all the halls in the Nine Worlds. However, Balder’s purpose is unclear to scholars; some argue he was the personification of lordship and nobility, while others claim the etymology of his name strongly suggests an association with the coming of day.
One of the most famous and significant stories in the Norse myth cycle concerns the death of Balder. It was prophesised to Odin long before that his son’s demise would be a herald of Ragnarok (the Doom of the Gods), and that Balder’s dreams would foreshadow this. When Balder begins to have terrible visions, his mother Frigg makes all living things swear that they will not harm him, but forgets to ask mistletoe. The gods thereafter have much fun throwing things at Balder, knowing he cannot be injured. When Loki the trickster learns of Frigg’s oversight, he convinces Balder’s blind twin, Hod, to shoot him with an arrow made of mistletoe. Hod mortally wounds his brother, and is slain himself. By Odin’s command, the goddess of the Underworld (Hel), agrees to release Balder from her domain on the condition that every object – alive or dead – weeps for him. However, a giantess – believed to be Loki in disguise – refuses to do so, and initiates a chain of events that ultimately leads to Ragnarok. It is foretold, though, that Balder will return from the Underworld after the destruction of the Nine Worlds, a lead the gods into a new age.