Baldr the Beautiful, Odin's son, suffered from nightmares. Though by day he knew he was loved by all, night after night he dreamed he was about to be killed.
So Odin mounted his eight-legged steed, Sleipnir, and rode over the rainbow bridge to Niflheim, land of the dead. Past the hound of Hel he rode, to the grave of a prophetess long dead. With his magic he raised her from her sleep, asking, "Why are the halls of Niflheim prepared as if for a feast, with jewels and gold everywhere?"
She replied, "The mead is brewing for Baldr in Niflheim."
"Who shall slay him, the best of the gods?" asked Odin.
"The blind god Hodr shall strike the blow."
"And who shall grieve for him?"
"You shall, Odin. Ask me no more." And with that, the prophetess sank back into her sleep of death.
The new that Odin brought back from Niflheim was of no comfort to the gods. Still Baldr tossed and turned, dreaming of his own death.
So Baldr's mother, Frigg, set out through the world, asking everything she came across to swear never to hurt Baldr. Fire swore. Water swore. The beasts and birds swore. The snakes swore. The diseases swore. The earth and the trees swore. The metals swore. The very stones swore never to harm the wonderful Baldr. All things swore not to harm Baldr, but for one: A single sprig of mistletoe.
At last, Baldr was safeand soon, the gods discovered that they had new games to play. Baldr would stand still, and each of the gods would hurl some deadly thing at him. They pelted him with rocks, cut him with swords, and stabbed him with spears, but nothing hurt him at all. He came away without a scratch, and all the gods roared with laughter.
That is, all the gods but one. Sly Loki had no such taste for innocent fun. he took on the guise of an old woman and went to see Frigg. He asked her what all the laughter was about, and Frigg explained how everything in the world had sworn not to hurt Baldr.
"What, everything in the whole world?" exclaimed Loki in disguise.
"Everything, but for that sprig of mistletoe." replied Frigg.
Loki went straight away and plucked the mistletoe, sharpening it and took it to the assembly of the gods. He approached the blind god, Hodr, and asked "Why are you not throwing things at Baldr?"
"I cannot see where he is," said Hodr, "and I have no weapon."
"Why don't you throw this little stick?" said Loki. "I will guide your hand!"
So Hodr threw the mistletoe at Baldr, and it pierced him and killed him. That was the unluckiest deed ever done among gods or men.
The gods' laughter died in their throats. They could not speak or move. They just stared at the golden god as he lay dead.
No one lifted a hand against Loki, for the assembly was upon hallowed ground. They let him go, and then their tears burst out of them in great terrible sobs.
They built Baldr's funeral pyre on his great ship, and launched it with the help of the giantess Hyrrokkin. All of the gods were there when Odin bent to whisper his last farewell into Baldr's ear. Odin slid his gold ring, Draupnir, onto Baldr's arm. Then he lit the pyre, and sent Baldr on his long journey.
Frigg asked, "Is there any one among the gods who will ride to Niflheim and bargain with Hel to let Baldr return to us?"
Hermod, another of Odin's sons, leapt on Sleipner and set off. He rode to the gates of Nifleheim. He begged to be let in, and there he found his brother Baldr.
Hermod pleaded with the goddess Hel, queen of the dead, to let his brother return to the land of the living. "Everyone loves Baldr. Everyone weeps for him," he said.
"If it is as you say," said Hel, "Baldr may return to life. But everything in the world must weep for him. If one refuses, he must stay with me."
Hermod took leave of his brother, who gave him back the arm ring Draupnir as a token for their father, Odin. Forever afterward, on every ninth night, Draupnir has wept, and it's tears always form eight more arm rings of the same size.
Frigg went once again through the world, and everything that had sworn not to harm Baldr wept for him and his death. Even the mistletoe that had slain him wept for him. But at last she came to a cave with a giantess sitting in i. And the giantess told her, "I will weep no tears for Baldr. I had no use for him, alive or dead. Let Hel keep what she has." For, unknown to Frigg, this giantess was Loki in disguise, and Loki would not weep.
The gods had tolerated Loki's mischief-making, but his time, he had gone too far. Loki fled from their fury to a house on a mountain. The house had doors facing in every direction so that he could see anyone approaching. By day he hid under the waterfall, in the form of a salmon.
Sitting in his house one night, Loki began to wonder if the gods might catch him, even in his salmon form. Idly he wove a net and tossed it into the fire. Suddenly, he beheld the gods approaching, and he fled to the safety of his waterfall.
The gods entered the house, looked into the fire, and saw the net. Realizing that Loki must be disguised as a fish, they made a new net to the pattern Loki himself had devised.
They caught Loki, carried him to a cave, and bound him across three stones, tied down with the entrails of one of his own sons.
There was he left, with a serpent hanging above him, dripping venom into his eyes and face.
His faithful wife, Sigyn, still sits beside him, catching the venom in a cup. But every so often, the cup becomes full, she turns away to empty it, and the poison drops onto Loki's face. As he writhes in agony, the earth shakes.
Thus was the death of Baldr, Odin and Frigg's favorite son, avenged. But it is said that, one day, after Ragnarok, twilight of the gods, Baldr will return to life once more.