Updated: Jan 5, 2020
Snorri gets accused by many for "adapting" Norse Lore to fit his own Christian agenda. Most argue this in Snorri's Prose Edda story of Baldr, as Baldr has several "christ-like" features, i.e. the "beloved son" who is "resurrected" after "Ragnarok" to rule the New Earth, like Christ will rule a New Heaven and New Earth in the book of "Revelation" in the Bible.
Snorri has an interesting comment in his introduction to the Prose Edda: “Beldeg, whom we call Baldr: he had the land which is now called ‘Westphalia.’” Westphalia is an area in Old Saxony. My last name "Sass" is a Westphalian Saxon surname, born in Westphalia. Other Old Saxon surnames were born in Westphalia, like the surname "Westphal." Nonetheless, Westphalia was one of the four subdivisions of Old Saxony, and Snorri was no doubt familiar with that fact. By claiming Baldag owned land in Westphalia, and using a Saxon spelling of Baldr, it implies that Baldr was a human. Snorri's prologue to the Prose Edda in itself proves that there was another tradition of Baldr, i.e. a Saxon tradition, that was different than Snorri's. Now, before you go off on this blog, please note that below, I am going to quote sources OLDER than Snorri, that state Baldr was indeed a human. There are parrellels in all the sources. i.e. Baldr is always killed by either a Sahs (or Seax) named "mistletoe", or by an arrow of mistletoe shot at Baldr. In all stories, the slayer is Hoðer, but only Snorri makes Hoðer blind, and a brother to Baldr. The other sources all claim both Baldag and Hoðer are humans who had a duel over a beautiful woman. Before we go all nuts at me claiming Baldag was a human son of Odin, please remember this: The most famous of the Norse Sagas (arguably) is the Ynglinga Saga, which relates the story of a human named Odin (later the deity) who became the divine Ancestor of the Swedish royal dynasty. For me to state that Odin was a human in Ynglinga Saga, is (or should be) common knowledge. Remember too, most of the Norse deities die at Ragnarok (Mutspelli to the Saxons). Therefore Germanic Gods would not meet the definition of a "God" in monotheistic thought, as Germanic Gods are not all-powerful, they can be killed, they can't grow back an eye taken out, or a hand bit off, etc. Odin is not all-knowing, but needs Ravens to act as his eyes throughout the nine (Norse) or seven (Saxon) realms, etc etc etc.
In terms of older sources (and there are many) about Baldr (or Baldag) than Snorri: Baldag is mentioned as Baldæg in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Anglian Collection, and as son of Woden. Beldeg is also mentioned in the genealogy of the kings of Wessex, Bernicia, and Daria, three different genealogies in England, dated to long before the 10th century. Please note, some are inclined to debate (or believe, like me) that genealogies trace descent to ONE God, and not more than one God. Some believe as I do that Beldeg son of Woden (the Old Anglish name for Odin) means that Beldeg is a human son of Odin. But to be fair, this is not proof enough, as it is an ASSumption, which could be correct (or incorrect.) All other genealogies in England trace descent to one God for example. But, we must turn to other sources, that flat out say that Baldr is a human: The Chronicon Lethrense, the Annals of Lund, and the Gesta Danorum, two of which are older than the Prose Edda. (The Gesta Danorum is only about ten years older than Snorri's Prose Edda, but the Chronicon Lethrense is dated to circa 1170, which is half a century older than Snorri.) Please keep in mind, most scholars believe that the Chronicon of Lethrense, which documents events much older than the twelfth century, is based on older sources. By using all of these sources, we can start to piece things together about Baldr, as the sources outside of Snorri line up together.
Before we venture into the sources that state Baldr is a human, let us discuss the Second Merseburg Charm, dated to the mid-tenth century. Many argue that Baldr is a God in this source, but in fairness, that too is an ASSumption. Here is a translation of the Second Merseburg Charm: "Phol and Wodan were riding to the woods, and the foot of Balder's foal was sprained. So Sinthgunt, Sunna's sister, conjured it.and Frija, Volla's sister, conjured it. and Wodan conjured it, as well he could: Like bone-sprain, so blood-sprain, so joint-sprain: Bone to bone, blood to blood, joints to joints, so may they be mended." Baldr could have been riding in a Westphalian forest as a human with his father Odin a deity, in fairness. Therefore, the Second Merseburg Charm doesn't prove or disprove Baldr being a human or a God.
Gesta Danorum's account of Balderus A summary of the Baldr story in the Gesta Danorum: Balderus and Høðerus were rival suitors for the hand of Nanna, daughter of Gewar, King of Norway. Balderus was a half-human and half-god and metal could not harm his body. Balderus and Hoðerus had a duel for the hand of Nanna. Though Odin and Thor and the other gods fought for Balderus, he was defeated and fled away. Høðerus married the princess.
Chronicon of Lethrense: The Chronicon Lethrense and the Annales Lundenses, of which the latter is included in the former, has a very similar story to the Gesta Danorum, which means the Gesta Danorum should not easily be dismissed. In the Chronicon's version of the story, Hoðer was a king of the Saxons and son of Hoðbrod and the daughter of Hadding. This is interesting on MANY levels. 1. It matches Snorri who puts Baldag in Old Saxon Westphalia. 2. Hoðbrod, being the father of Hoðr, is SUPER interesting. Hoðbrod, is a Norse hero. In the legends of the Ylfing Helgi Hundingsbane, Hoðbrod was killed by Halgi or Helgi. Halgi was a legendary Danish king living in the early 6th century. Scholars generally agree that Halgi appears in both Anglo-Saxon Beowulf and Scandinavian tradition, like the Saga Hralf-Kraki. Halgi was a Scylding, the son of Healfdene and the brother of Hroðgar, yes the Hroðgar who built a hall in Denmark that Grendel ravaged in the poem "Beowulf." Please note, I also have an unpopular view of the Old English Beowulf. I believe that since the Danes ruled England for 90 years in what was called "DaneLaw", Beowulf is Danish in origin. Beowulf is about Danes, Geats, and Swedes, the main character is a Geat, and the story is set in Scandinavia. England and the English (or even the 'Saxons") are NEVER mentioned in Beowulf. Beowulf has the same characters and similar story-line to the Danish Saga Hralf-Kraki, and our sources here on Baldr are lining up with my "unpopular" line of thought. 3. Hoðer being a Saxon "king" has a historical "issue", as we have two historical sources: Bede and Lebuin, who relate that the Old Saxons did not have kings. Therefore, many shoot down this source as being inaccurate. However, it is more likely that Hoðer was a Saxon Drohtin, leader of a warband, and not a king along the lines of a Roman Kaiser (or Caesar), which Saxon society outlawed. Even the tribes who became the Saxons (like the Marsi and Cherusker) forbade Kingships, and Hermann the Cherusker (or Arminius as the Romans called him) was supposedly killed by his own family for wanting to be a Kaiser (Caesar) to these tribes, who would in the future be a part of Westphalian Saxony. The Chronicon of Lethrense's story of Baldr can be summarized like this: Hoðer first slew Oðen's (i.e. Odin) son Balder in battle and then chased Oðen and Thor. Finally, Oðen's son Boð (Sahsnoð?) killed Hoðer.
It is safe to say that these other versions of the story of Baldr are quite different than Snorri. What is the real Heathen Baldr (or Baldag) tale? Since the Gesta Danorum and the Chronicon Lethrense state Baldr is human, and three genealogies in England imply Beldeg was a human, and Snorri also states Beldeg was a Westphalian, this is my "attempt" to reconstruct the REAL Baldag story in these sources. Please note, I will end this story before Baldag's funeral, and not tell the funeral story. I include all the source material but Snorri in this retelling, as I personally see Snorri's Baldr story to conflict with the other sources on Baldag. Please note, this is my "GUESS" at the full story, taken from all Baldr sources outside of Snorri. The recreated folktale (mine) is in bold below. Please also note, this story doesn't have a Christ-like Baldr. The "beloved son" who is "resurrected" after "Ragnarok" to rule the New Earth, like Christ will rule a New Heaven and New Earth in the book of "Revelation" in the Bible is removed entirely. I use the Old Saxon names below. Baldag, son of Uuoden was considered the most beautiful man in Middilgard. Baldag was beloved of all. Baldag had premonitions through dreams of his death. Fore-sayings also indicated that evil threatened him. The worried Gods turned to Mim and Uurd, the Irminsul’s guardians, for advice. Uurd saw Baldag’s hidden Fate but did not speak of it. Neither did Mim. The Soothsayers in Saxony also saw Baldag’s Fate.
Baldag was a Saxon drohtin, owning land in Westphalia. Baldag’s armor had been forged by the smith Uueland. Baldag’s horse, in whose saddle he made his journeys, wrenched its foot and could not be cured by the healing charms of the Goddesses, but only by Uuoden. Baldag himself suffered weaknesses in his feet.
In Middilgard, a Saxon warrior named Hoðbrod gave birth to a son named Hoðer. Hoðbrod wanted to rule Nordmannia (Denmark) and fought Halga brother of Hroðgar. Hroðgar built a great wine hall in Denmark. Halga fathered a son named Rolf Krage. In battle, Halga slayed Hoðbrod. Hoðbrod’s son Hoðer was a great warrior, maybe the greatest of all men on Middilgard. Hoðer was a Drohtin in Saxony. A maiden named Nana, fell in love with Hoðer. One day Baldag was journeying in Saxony and saw Nana bathing. He fell violently in love with Nana. When he realized that Nana was in love with Hoðer, he vowed to slay Hoðer.
When Baldag attacked Hoðer, Hoðer plunged his long-sass named “mistletoe” into Baldag’s side. Hoðer killed Uuoden’s son Baldag in battle, and he even pursued Uuoden and Thunaer but to no avail. After this battle, Hoðer married Nana. Sassnoð then traveled to Middilgard and killed Hoðer, avenging his brother.
When the Ese heard the news of Baldag’s death they were devastated. Uuoden was so grieved, he rode Sleipnir down into the Underworld and asked Mim what he knew. Mim said that only self-sacrifice is demanded of him who would delve into such deep mysteries. Uuoden ripped out one of his own eyes and cast it into the Well of Wisdom. The eye sank deeply and the deeper it sank, the more Uuoden understood. For now, Baldag would travel to Hellea, as death doesn’t destroy the souls of the living. Then Baldag would make his journey to the Meadow, the place of the Halls of the Ancestors. Then Uuoden grew calm and rode from Mim to Uurd to learn something of the age’s end. Uurd answered that she already knew that Uuoden had sunk his eye into the Well of Wisdom and therefore Uuoden had seen what was necessary for him to know. Uurd asked him why he would tempt her. Uuoden laid down treasures from his Hall at her feet and begged her to speak the fore-saying she perceived rushing out of her well and murmuring through the Irminsul. She sang about the final days of this age, about Uuoden’s fall and death on the battlefield, and about Mudspelles’ flames. Uuoden listened but did not fear Uurd’s judgment on him. He had already commanded mankind, his followers, to gladly meet their deaths, thus he ought to do the same. To die on a battlefield befitted him. His restless spirit found some peace since he had received the news that Baldag would dwell peacefully in the Halls of the Ancestors in the Meadow.
Sassnoð took Baldag’s body and brought him to Esgard’s western shore, where a ship named Hringhorn laid moored in the sea of air. On the ship, they built a pyre of branches. Uuoden bore Baldag’s body in his arms and laid Baldag upon the pyre. When all was ready, Sassnoð ignited the fire with friction, and Uuoden removed his best arm-ring and placed it upon Baldag’s breast. Hringhorn drifted out into the sea of air and the Ese remained on the shore until the ship, engulfed by flames, had sunk behind the horizon. It ferried Baldag to the Underworld’s western gate. Here the dead were received by the power of the Underworld, Hellea, and guided through the glittering fields to Mim’s land of immortality and the castle Breidablik in the land of the rosy dawn, in Esgard’s Green Meadow. Baldag drank a mixture of water from the two wells. It is a drink that is extended to the blessed dead to erase the marks of death and gives them the ability to enjoy the life of bliss, completely free from care.
Please note, in this story, I make the ASSumption that Both and Sahnoth are the same. Many would rightfully say this is quite the leap. But this is my "theory" of who "Both" is, and there is no way I can prove that. I figured, I would be honest, and call this out. Also, as a Saxon Heathen, I feel that Baldag and Hoðer are human heroes. Baldag being a human hero and son of Uuoden (Odin) is not in any way an insult. Baldag and Hoðer are human heroes along the lines of Beowulf, and maybe Hoðer is the real hero in the story after all! Please join us in the group "Saxon Heathenry" on Facebook.