The Death of Baldr

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series The Songweaver's Vow: Easter Eggs & Background

Spoiler alert: Baldr dies.

River Song warns you of spoilers.Okay, seriously, there be spoilers ahead. Mythology nerds likely already know some of what goes down in The Songweaver’s Vow, but if you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you grab a copy and then come back for the background material. (Though to be perfectly fair, even knowing the base myth won’t give you a complete picture, so as long as you’re fully apprised of the spoiler-ific nature of this post….) 

Odin's Last Words to Baldr, by W.G. Collingwood

Odin’s Last Words to Baldr, by W.G. Collingwood

Baldr dies.

This isn’t too much of a shock, really; most translations or retellings put The Death of Baldur right in the chapter heading. (Though Baldr’s Dreams are an important and somewhat less know-it-all prologue.) But how it happens and what it instigates are the real story. And because it’s a linchpin for the events of The Songweaver’s Vow, I wanted to share the original.

Or originals, as the case may be. Though there are several surviving versions of the story, I chose to use a more popular one in The Songweaver’s Vow so that readers already familiar with the better-known mythology would not be confused. (And so I’d get less correction mail. That’s not how it happened when I read that Norse Myths book in school….)

Rather than relating the source story as I have before, I thought I’d let you get this one in video form.

Dr. Jackson Crawford is a historical linguist and an expert on both Old Norse and Old Norse literature, and I really wish I’d discovered him at the beginning of my research instead of at the end. He has a great series of videos on Youtube, where you can not only learn a lot but also hear just how sexy Old Norse can sound. (Seriously, I love the aural aesthetic. Is there a word for that? One can see why Tolkien took it as a special subject.)

I knew Dr. Crawford and I were going to get along, at least in a one-sided digital education sense, when I found he had done a video on the Lokasenna as “Loki’s Locker Talk,” and also rendered a cowboy translation of the Hávamál in honor of his Wyoming grandfather.

In this video, he first gives a brief overview of the original names and why they are written so variously in English (from Óðinn to Odin, and the many variants of Hodr), and then he addresses the various sources of the tale of Baldr’s death and goes over the story in its several parts.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the linguistics and literary history? Okay, not everyone is as much of a nerd as I am. For a slightly less academic take, please enjoy Dael Kingsmill’s fun retelling of this tale.

She, too, has a delightful Youtube series covering not just Norse myths but other mythologies as well. Check it out!

There will be more background and research notes coming, but if you have particular questions — or just want to comment — let me know!

Recommendation:

 If you’ve read The Songweaver’s Vow, you may have realized by now that it’s a myth itself, a retelling of Eros and Psyche but among the Norse pantheon instead of the Greek. If you have not read Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, you’re missing a fantastic iteration of the Eros and Psyche story — powerful, feminist, and perennially just a hair above my grasp to fully comprehend (in a good way).

What, attempting the Psyche story after this magnificent oeuvre by Lewis? No, I didn’t feel any pressure at all, why do you ask? /hides ragged fingernails behind back/

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The Norse Pantheon Family Tree
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