Partly out of desparate grief – and partly in defiance of the harshness of the Norns or fates: Odin begs Hermod to ride his own steed, Sleipnir, down to Hell and beg Hela to release Balder. Hermod executes the seemingly hopeless task: and receives from Hela the unexpected promise that she would release Balder should everything in the upper worlds mourn Balder’s death. Before returning to Asgard, Hermod speaks with Balder’s shade: Balder warns him that Hela’s “promises” are never what they seem – and will only bear bitter fruit. Loki himself undertakes to frustrate the Æsir’s hopes: appearing as an ugly hag in Middle Earth, he refuses to mourn for Balder – thus breaking Hela’s stipulated conditions.
Hermod returns to Hell to acquaint Balder with the gods’ failure. Balder accepts what has happened without surprise, and they soon part: after Balder relates his vision of the end of the worlds in the approaching conflagration of Ragnarök.
- Is this the final end for Balder? Or…
- Will Balder too burst his bonds – as will the other shades – at Ragnarök: and yet play an important part in the new age as it comes into being?
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