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Baldur, 19th century chromolithographic trade card advertising Petzold & Aulhorn Chocolate, artist unknown

Baldr, whose name may also be spelled Baldur, Balder, or Baldar, is a Norse god of sunlight and day, the son of Odin and Frigga and the half-brother of Thor, Hodr, and Vali, all sons of Odin. His name means "brave," "hero," or "prince," and is connected to the root-word for "shining." He is known as the most handsome, kind-hearted, and beloved of the Aesir, whose home is in Asgard. His tale is recounted or alluded to in numerous sacred texts, including "The Prose Edda," "The Poetic Edda," "Vǫluspá (The Seeress' Prophecy)," "The Lay of King Erik," and "Baldr's Dreams," as well as in several professedly historic chronicles, in which later Christian writers dismissed the Norse pantheon as mortal heroes whom Pagan people wrongly worshiped. Like many gods and goddesses of all religious traditions, the stories told about him vary across regions and through time, but one thing they have in common is the fact that his life came to tragic end.

Baldr had a dream foretelling his death, and so did his mother. In order to prevent this prophesied event from coming true, Frigga went about the world, asking every plant and animal and inanimate object on Earth to swear a vow not to hurt Baldr. They all did so, but she somehow overlooked asking the Mistletoe, and the mischief-making trickster god Loki found out about this and made an arrow from the plant. Meanwhile, the gods had come up with an entertaining game -- they threw every type of object imaginable at the seemingly invulnerable Baldr, and nothing harmed him. Loki, a jealous rival, gave the arrow to the Baldr's blind half brother Hodr, and Hodr shot the arrow, which assassinated Baldr. As his body was carried to his ship, Odin whispered something in his ear, and then a funeral pyre was lit. Baldr's wife Nanna threw herself into the fire, and some say that Thor kicked the dwarf Litr into the pyre and burned him alive as well. The giantess Hyrrokin sent the flaming ship to sea. Frigga begged Hel to free Baldr from the underworld, and she said she would if every object, alive or dead, would weep for him. Only one being, a giantess named Thökk, who may have been Loki in disguise, refused to mourn for Baldr, and thus he is destined to remain in the underworld until he will eventually be restored to life after most of the older gods are killed at the coming battle of Ragnarok and he will rule the new earth together with Thor's sons.

Baldr is generally depicted as a young, charismatic man, shining like the Sun. He is sometimes shown standing, with a smile on his face, basking in his supposed immortality, just as Hodr is about to let the fateful arrow fly, and he is sometimes depicted as a beautiful corpse on the ship that would carry his body to sea. Finally, the flames of his funeral pyre and the flames of the Sun may combine to show him as a transfigured emblem of the time to come when, after a destructive war that destroys the civilization of the old Norse gods, he will usher in an era of peace and harmony.

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