Hel, Ruler of Helheim
Submitted by: swampy
“Thaukt will wail
With dry tears
Let Hela keep her own.” (from The Death of Baldur)
In Norse mythology, Hel (also known as Hell, Hela or Hella) is the ruler of Helheim, the realm of the dead. She is the youngest child of the God Loki (Loki is a giant who became a member of the Aesir when Odin made Loki His blood brother. Loki is the god of mischief, a trickster, and very cunning.) and the giantess Angurboda. Hel has two brothers: Fenrir (Fenris-wolf) and Jormungand (Midgard serpent).
Hel is usually described as a horrible hag, half alive and half dead, with a gloomy and grim expression. Her face and body are said to be those of a living woman, but Her thighs and legs are those of a corpse, mottled and moldering. Other descriptions of Her say She is half white and half black
The other Gods feared the offspring of Loki and had abducted Hel and Her brothers from Angurboda’s hall. They then had cast Hel into the underworld. She now resides in Helheim (“house of Hel”). This cold, dark and misty abode of the dead is located in the world of Niflheim, on the lowest level of the Norse universe. It is in this land that Hel distributes those dead who are sent to Her, the dead referred to as the ‘dishonored dead’. The dead who die of old age or disease and those not killed in battle go to Helheim – while those who die bravely on the battlefield go to Valhalla. Once they enter Helheim, not even the Gods can leave the place, because the impassable river Gjoll flows from the spring Hvergelmir and encircles Helheim. The entrance to Helheim is guarded by Garm, a monstrous hound, and Modgud. The giant Hraesvelg (“corpse eater”) sits at the edge of the world, overlooking Helheim. Hraesvelg has the form of an eagle and with his flapping wings he makes the wind blow.
Hel built Her hall called Eljudnir (misery) in Helheim. She is tended in Her hall by a manservant and maidservant named Ganglati and Ganglot, both of who’s names mean ‘tardy’. They are so slow that no one can tell that they are moving. On Her table sits Hel’s plate which is called Hunger, Her knife which is called Famine. In Her hall is Her bed named Sick Bed and Her bed hangings are called Glimmering Misfortune.
Hel will make Her last stand at the twilight of the Gods when She brings Her hoard of dead up and out of Nifilheim to join Her father and the other giants in the final battle of Ragnarok.