I've talked about Baldur a bit on the blog before, and in light of the fact that Baldur might very well be the Old Norse answer to Jesus, it seems like now would be a good time to give us all something of a refresher course regarding the events leading up to his death, especially after I just read this (admittedly older) post at the Smithsonian discussing the biological evolution of Mistletoe as a plant.
The evolution of Mistletoe itself is fascinating, and definitely told in a compelling way, and totally a cool read -- if you can overlook the first paragraph on Mistletoe's representation in Norse Mythology. Which brings us to today's post!
Baldur was the Son of Odin and Frigg (which made him Thor's half-brother), a god known both for his wisdom and his strength of character. He was Baldur the Shining, Baldur the Good, Baldur the fair and beautiful, and the most beloved of all the gods in Asgard. So beloved, in fact, that when his death was prophesied, his mother had no trouble exacting a promise from every living thing (and maybe less living things, too) that they would not harm him. She overlooked Mistletoe because it was too young and too small to be perceived as a threat (and I must give a nod to the author of the article for describing the roots as spears/arrows, which is pretty fascinating considering what comes next).
After these vows were made, the gods of Asgard made a sport of trying to "hurt" Baldur, because he had become invulnerable. In the evenings they would have a game of throwing things at him, shooting him with arrows, knives, rocks, branches for the fun of seeing it bounce off. It was a very merry time in Asgard, believing the Crisis was Averted (as Baldur's death was to herald the coming of Ragnarok, and the end of the world as the gods had known it).
But Loki found out that Frigg had overlooked the Mistletoe, and made a weapon from it. He placed it in Baldur's blind brother's hand, and encouraged him to take part in the game. Duped, Hod threw the mistletoe at his brother, all in good fun.
When the mistletoe struck Baldur, he fell down dead.
There was no greater moment of grief and sadness in Asgard. Not only because Baldur the BEST of them had been killed, his light extinguished, his goodness lost, but also because it meant the coming of Ragnarok -- which was fated to result in the death of so, so many gods, and the destruction of the world as it was known, and everything within it.
And that is the story of Baldur and his fatal encounter with Mistletoe, the plant that Frigg thought harmless.