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This is the gathering of the dead. If you liked it, there would be something wrong with you. Only I like it. And it is not a matter of whether she likes it or not. It must be done and done swiftly... for there are worse fates than Hel.
~ Hel.

Hel, also known as Hela, is Loki's daughter and sister to the wolf Fenrir and serpent Jormungandr and presides in the realm with the same name (Helheim).

Overview

She was appointed by Odin to be the ruler of Niflheim. Warriors who fell in combat did not become her subjects but went instead to the hall called Valhalla to live with Odin.

In this realm Hel has grand mansions with extremely high walls and immense gates, a hall called Eljudner, a dish called "Hunger," a knife called "Famine," the servant Ganglati (Old Norse "lazy walker"), the serving-maid Ganglot (also "lazy walker"), the entrance threshold "Stumbling-block," the bed "Sick-bed," and the curtains "Gleaming-bale." High describes Hel as "half black and half flesh-colored," adding that this makes her easily recognizable, and furthermore that Hel is "rather downcast and fierce-looking."

She is also said to be the only one capable of controlling the dragon Nidhoggr. Not only was Hel the queen of Helheim but she was also the queen of greed, cruelty, and harshness

Appearance

Hel is said to appear as a fearsome woman whose appearance could scare the lookers off. Hel appears as a thin woman, beautiful on one side but like a rotting zombie on the other. For this horrid visage she is outcast among the gods, but admired by the dead.

Her appearance is described as half-black and half-flesh colored, and also has a gloomy, down-cast appearance. Hel's visage is frightening for mortals to view. When she reveals the undead half of her face, it inflicts fear in even the bravest of mortals.

History

Child of Death

Hel was born from the union between Loki and the giantess Angrboða alongside Fenrir and Jörmungandr. Her childhood is unknown but Loki states that she was a recluse and quite shy. It is said that once the gods found that these three children are being brought up in the land of Jötunheimr, and when the gods "traced prophecies that from these siblings great mischief and disaster would arise for them" then the gods expected a lot of trouble from the three children, partially due to the nature of the mother of the children, yet worse so due to the nature of their father.

Goddess of the Dead

After this discovery, Odin sent the gods to gather the children and bring them to him. Upon their arrival, Odin threw Jörmungandr into "that deep sea that lies around all lands," Odin tossed Hel into Niflheim, and bestowed upon her authority over nine worlds, in that she must "administer board and lodging to those sent to her, and that is those who die of sickness or old age."

Hel was once approached by the Dark Prince, Mundus, with an offer involving the collaboration between their kingdoms where they would trade souls and resources but the goddess immediately, and threateningly, turned his offer down as she does not take kindly to the likes of Mundus even setting foot into her domain and moreover that she is well aware of how deceitful and power hungry Mundus truly is. The Dark Emperor left at Hel's demands in the end, preventing any rising animosity that would spark a chthonic war between two underworlds.

Sometimes, Hel was depicted alongside with a black hound Garm who actually guarded the gate of Helheim and the mortal enemy of Tyr in Ragnarok. According to some materials, Hel provided many dead warriors for Loki’s army during the Ragnarok event. Her army teamed up with the Jötunns from Jötunheim came to the stronghold Asgard to wage a bloody war.

Death of Baldr

After the death of Baldr at the hands of Loki, the goddess Frigg asks who among the Aesir will earn "all her love and favor" by riding to Hel, the location, to try to find Baldr, and offer Hel herself a ransom. The god Hermodr volunteers and sets off upon the eight-legged horse Sleipnir to Hel.

Hermodr arrives in Hel's hall, finds his brother Baldr there, and stays the night. The next morning, Hermodr begs Hel to allow Baldr to ride home with him, and tells her about the great weeping the Aesir have done upon Baldr's death.  Hel says the love people have for Baldr that Hermodr has claimed must be tested. This test being that if all the things in this world, living or dead, mourn for Baldr then he will return to the land of the living. If one refuses, then he will remain in her domain. The latter predicament came to be due to the machinations of Loki and Baldr consequently remained her realm.

Despite his confinement within the realm of the dead, Baldr was treated with fine hospitality from the Underworld goddess although she would be cold and distant from the light god due to his contrasting theme and characteristics from her own. At some point, Baldr eventually fell in love with the death goddess to whom she returned the feelings of affection which surprised her subjects as Hel would not be one to mingle herself with the concept of romance, but nevertheless she relented as Baldr was known to be quite respectful and affectionate towards her, and it is said to be one of the reasons why Hel did not wish for Baldr to leave the underworld. Regardless, Hel and Baldr have conceived a child together though the child's purpose after Ragnarök is unknown.

Trivia

  • In early Norse mythology, Hel was also the name of the world of the dead.
  • The phrase "Go to Hell" actually originated from "Go to Hel" meaning the same thing, which is "go die", since Hel was the name for both the ruler of the underworld as well as the name of the underworld.
  • In January 2017, the Icelandic Naming Committee ruled that parents could not name their child Hel on the grounds that the name would cause the child significant distress and trouble as it grows up".

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