Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Höðr

Höðr (often anglicized as Hod, Hoder, or Hodur) is the brother of Baldr in Norse mythology. Tricked and guided by Loki, he shot the mistletoe arrow which was to slay the otherwise invulnerable Baldr.

According to the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda the goddess Frigg made everything in existence swear never to harm Baldr, except for the mistletoe which she found too young to demand an oath from. The gods amused themselves by trying weapons on Baldr and seeing them fail to do any harm. Loki, upon finding out about Baldr's one weakness, made a missile from mistletoe, and helped Höðr shoot it at Baldr. After this Odin and the giantess Rindr gave birth to Váli who grew to adulthood within a day and slew Höðr.

The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus recorded an alternative version of this myth in his Gesta Danorum. In this version the mortal hero Høtherus and the demi-god Balderus compete for the hand of Nanna. Ultimately Høtherus slays Balderus.

The name of Höðr occurs several times in skaldic poetry as a part of warrior-kennings. Thus Höðr brynju, "Höðr of byrnie", is a warrior and so is Höðr víga, "Höðr of battle". Some scholars have found the fact that the poets should want to compare warriors with Höðr to be incongruous with Snorri's description of him as a blind god, unable to harm anyone without assistance. It is possible that this indicates that some of the poets were familiar with other myths about Höðr than the one related in Gylfaginning - perhaps some where Höðr has a more active role. On the other hand the names of many gods occur in kennings and the poets might not have been particular in using any god name as a part of a kenning

In Gesta Danorum Hotherus is a human hero of the Danish and Swedish royal lines. He is gifted in swimming, archery, fighting and music and Nanna, daughter of King Gevarus falls in love with him. But at the same time Balderus, son of Othinus, has caught sight of Nanna bathing and fallen violently in love with her. He resolves to slay Hotherus, his rival.

Out hunting, Hotherus is led astray by a mist and meets wood-maidens who control the fortunes of war. They warn him that Balderus has designs on Nanna but also tell him that he shouldn't attack him in battle since he is a demigod. Hotherus goes to consult with King Gevarus and asks him for his daughter. The king replies that he would gladly favour him but that Balderus has already made a like request and he does not want to incur his wrath.

Gevarus tells Hotherus that Balderus is invincible but that he knows of one weapon which can defeat him, a sword kept by Mimingus, the satyr of the woods. Mimingus also has another magical artifact, a bracelet that increases the wealth of its owner. Riding through a region of extraordinary cold in a carriage drawn by reindeer, Hotherus captures the satyr with a clever ruse and forces him to yield his artifacts.

Hearing about Hotherus's artifacts, Gelderus, king of Saxony, equips a fleet to attack him. Gevarus warns Hotherus of this and tells him where to meet Gelderus in battle. When the battle is joined, Hotherus and his men save their missiles while defending themselves against those of the enemy with a testudo formation. With his missiles exhausted, Gelderus is forced to sue for peace. He is treated mercifully by Hotherus and becomes his ally. Hotherus then gains another ally with his eloquent oratory by helping King Helgo of Hålogaland win a bride.

Meanwhile Balderus enters the country of king Gevarus armed and sues for Nanna. Gevarus tells him to learn Nanna's own mind. Balderus addresses her with cajoling words but is refused. Nanna tells him that because of the great difference in their nature and stature, since he is a demigod, they are not suitable for marriage.

As news of Balderus's efforts reaches Hotherus, he and his allies resolve to attack Balderus. A great naval battle ensues where the gods fight on the side of Balderus. Thoro in particular shatters all opposition with his mighty club. When the battle seems lost, Hotherus manages to hew Thoro's club off at the haft and the gods are forced to retreat. Gelderus perishes in the battle and Hotherus arranges a funeral pyre of vessels for him. After this battle Hotherus finally marries Nanna.

Balderus is not completely defeated and shortly afterwards returns to defeat Hotherus in the field. But Balderus's victory is without fruit for he is still without Nanna. Lovesick, he is harassed by phantoms in Nanna's likeness and his health deteriorates so that he cannot walk but has himself drawn around in a cart.

After a while Hotherus and Balderus have their third battle and again Hotherus is forced to retreat. Weary of life because of his misfortunes, he plans to retire and wanders into the wilderness. In a cave he comes upon the same maidens he had met at the start of his career. Now they tell him that he can defeat Balderus if he gets a taste of some extraordinary food which had been devised to increase the strength of Balderus.

Encouraged by this, Hotherus returns from exile and once again meets Balderus in the field. After a day of inconclusive fighting, he goes out during the night to spy on the enemy. He finds where Balderus's magical food is prepared and plays the lyre for the maidens preparing it. While they don't want to give him the food, they bestow on him a belt and a girdle which secure victory.

Heading back to his camp, Hotherus meets Balderus and plunges his sword into his side. After three days, Balderus dies from his wound. Many years later, Bous, the son of Othinus and Rinda, avenges his brother by killing Hotherus in a duel.

1 comment:

  1. Cool...!!!
    That was a nice information you came up with...

    ReplyDelete