Balder was the son of Woden and Frigga and was described as being an extremely beautiful man with bright blue eyes and sparkling hair that resembled the sun. His name means ‘Glorious’ or ‘Lord’ and he was seen as the most beloved of the Gods; personifying the life force of the sun’s warm rays. Balder’s wife was Nanna and together they had a son called Forseti. They all lived in Breidablik which means ‘The Broad Gleaming’.
In the myth ‘Balder’s Dream’, Balder foresees his own death and tells his mother Frigga about what he saw in his dream. Frigga is understandably worried that this is a prophetic dream and decides to go and discuss this with Woden. In one version of the myth Woden goes to Helheim to question a dead volva about his son’s fate and in another version he actually raises a volva from her grave to find answers he seeks.
Now knowing what Balder saw was the truth, Frigga desperately travels through the nine worlds, making every living thing swear not to harm her son. She passes over the mistletoe plant, however, because she believes that it is too small to hurt Balder.
When the other Gods find out that nothing can hurt Balder, they decide to invent a fun game, taking it in turns to throw dangerous things at him.
Loki, probably enraged with jealousy, disguises himself as an old woman and sneaks into Frigga’s home, where he discovers that the mistletoe plant can harm Balder. He immediately goes about carving an arrow out of mistletoe and tricks Hodur, who is Balder’s blind brother, into throwing it at him. Unsurprisingly, the arrow kills Balder and everyone mourns his loss deeply.
Woden, not wanting this to pass, calls on a volunteer to come forward to and speak with Hella to convince her to release Balder. The God Hermod bravely accepts this quest and on the back of Sleipnir, Woden’s horse, he rides to Helheim. After talking to Hella she agrees to allow Balder to return to earth, but only on one condition, that every living thing sheds tears for the dead God. Before Hermod leaves Helheim, Balder gives him Woden’s ring Draupnir to return to Woden to remember him by.
Every living thing cries for Balder, who is also known as the God of Tears, except one person, the giantess Thokk, who is actually Loki in disguise.
So Balder is eventually laid to rest on his funeral boat Hringhorni, which is so heavy the giant ogress Hyrrokkin is called to help push it into the water. She arrives by the shore on a giant wolf holding reins of poisonous vipers. Thunnor hallows the boat and Woden whispers something into Balder’s ear, which the dead Balder can hear.
As Balder’s boat is set alight and pushed out onto the water, Nanna suddenly dies of grief and falls onto the burning boat with her husband.
Sometime later, it is said that Hella agrees to allow Balder to return to the world for half of every year, which explained the division of summer and winter. Balder is reborn at every Yule and dies at every summer solstice.
At Ragnarok, Balder will be resurrected and will return to his rightful place in Asgard.