Höðr, sometimes anglicized as Hod, is a significant figure in Norse mythology. He is depicted as a blind god and is a son of Odin and Frigg. While he may not be as renowned as other Norse gods like Thor or Odin, Höðr plays a critical role in the mythological narratives, primarily due to his involvement in the death of his brother Baldr (Baldur).
The Death of Baldur
Baldur – the Norse god of light, happiness and warm season
Baldr, another son of Odin and Frigg, began to have ominous dreams about his death. Disturbed, Frigg extracted promises from every creature, object, and force in existence not to harm Baldr, except mistletoe, which she overlooked, thinking it too insignificant and young to impose a threat.
Loki, the trickster god, learned of this vulnerability and crafted a dart or an arrow made of mistletoe. During a gathering of gods, where it became a sport to try to harm Baldr, seeing him invulnerable, Loki approached the blind Höðr. Loki manipulated Höðr into throwing the mistletoe projectile at Baldr, claiming it was part of the game. Unknowingly, Höðr threw the mistletoe, striking Baldr and causing his death.
Baldr’s death had profound repercussions and is considered one of the events that led to Ragnarok, the end of the world in Norse mythology. Following Baldr’s death, another brother, Vali, was born and grew to adulthood in a day to avenge Baldr. Vali killed Höðr, fulfilling the retribution for Baldr’s death. Baldr’s death and Höðr’s actions, whether unintended, set a series of apocalyptic events into motion.
Loki was punished by the gods for his involvement in the death of Baldur | The Punishment of Loki by Louis Huard
It is mentioned in some texts, like in “Gylfaginning” from the Prose Edda, that after Ragnarok, both Höðr and Baldr will be resurrected and will reconcile, living peacefully in a renewed world, highlighting a theme of renewal and reconciliation in the Norse vision of the post-apocalyptic world.
The tale of Höðr and Baldr has been interpreted in various ways by scholars and mythologists. It is often seen as a myth explaining natural phenomena, with Baldr representing light and purity, and Höðr representing darkness and blindness. Others view it as a story emphasizing the inevitable and tragic nature of fate, where even the gods are not exempt from suffering and death.