Thor Kicks Litr onto Baldrs Burning Ship by Emil Doepler, ca. 1905

Thor Kicks Litr onto Baldrs Ship by Doepler 1905, #ThrowbackThorsday for 4/2/15

Thor kicks Litr onto Baldr’s burning ship, by Emil Doepler, published circa 1905 in Walhall, die Götterwelt der Germanen, by Martin Oldenbourg.

After Höðr strikes down Baldr due to Loki’s treachery everyone mourns, and at his funeral, his wife Nanna is so overcome with grief that she jumps onto his burning ship to be immolated along with him. Thor kicks the dwarf Litr onto the ship as well, to burn along with Baldr’s horse and other precious items.

Hermod's Ride to Hel by Johannes Minkowitz, 1880
Hermod’s Ride to Hel by Johannes Minkowitz, 1880

Baldr’s mother Frigga tries to make a bargain with the mistress of Hel to retrieve her most beloved son from the land of the dead,  and perhaps in that bargain even avert Ragnarök. The god Hermod volunteers to be her messenger to the dark queen and rides Odin’s swift eight-legged steed Sleipnir to the roots of the great world tree Yggdrasil.

Hel asks an unexpected ransom, but one that seems plausible given the promises Frigga extracted to make Baldr near-invincible in the first place. If every thing (alive and dead) will weep for Baldr’s death, the queen of the dead would grant his return to Asgard.

The gods are able to secure tears from every last living thing and inanimate object but one: the giantess Þökk (Tokk). They don’t yet know that Þökk is yet another disguise made up by Loki. And so Baldr is forced to stay with Hel until Ragnarök.

But the story doesn’t end there.

At Ragnarök, most of the gods fall in the greatest of all battles: Odin, Thor, Tyr, Frey, they all have heroic, but ultimately futile deaths. Surtr brings fire to the skies and all the lands are flooded even as Jormungandr falls to Thor – all life is destroyed.

A few gods survive. Thor’s sons Móði and Magni, the gods Víðarr and Váli, and Höðr, who was struck down by Váli for killing Baldr, returns from Hel. Two humans, named Lif and Lifthrasir, spring to life as the land is raised from the ocean and the world becomes green and bears fruit once more.

And Baldr, son of Frigga and Odin, is resurrected from Hel to be the new leader of the gods.

After Ragnarok by Emil Doepler, ca. 1905
After Ragnarok by Emil Doepler, ca. 1905

So in the springtime, as the world becomes brighter and life awakens from its months-long slumber, be sure to remember Thor’s brother Balder the Bright and Beautiful, the son of a god, whose death was prophesied, who is sacrificed and resurrected so that the eternal cycle of life might survive even the worst that gods and men have to offer.

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5 comments on “Thor Kicks Litr onto Baldrs Ship by Doepler 1905, #ThrowbackThorsday for 4/2/15

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