Voluspá Discussion XXXI - XXXII
I saw for Baldr, the blessed god,
Ygg's dearest son, what doom is hidden:
green and glossy, there grew aloft,
the trees among, the mistletoe.
The slender-seeming sapling became
a fell weapon when flung by Hoth;
but Baldr's brother was born full soon:
but one night old slew him Othin's son.
I wanted to put these two together because while they don't tell the full story of what is foretold in
Voluspa, together they lead in to the story of the death of Balder.
The first stanza of the pair (really a trio, but I didn't pull in the third here), struck me as interesting because we begin by stating in the first two lines the subject of this prophecy, Balder's fate. The next two lines of this stanza are very interesting to me. The subject matter is obvious, of course, because if you're familiar with the story you know that as a result of Balder's disturbing dreams his mother Frigg compiled a list of all the things in the world that might do him harm and made them swear that they would not hurt him. This stanza sets the stage for the story of how the mistletoe was overlooked, and eventually that would be the thing that kills him. What I find interesting, however, is how these two lines seem to step back from the story and almost feel like they're setting up a narrative outside of the narrative of the Seeress speaking of her visions.
The second of the two stanzas builds on the first by pulling the mistletoe in to the events and describing how Balder's brother Hoth threw a spear or similar weapon fashioned from the mistletoe at Balder and killed him. Following this, we lead in to how Odin was able to avenge Balder's death, but we'll talk a bit more on that one next time.
Aside from the delivery of the second two lines of the first stanza, the kennings used in this part of the poem also struck me as interesting.
We're still using Ygg to refer to Odin, Ygg, The Terrifier.
Balder, The Glorious. Also, and I'd like to be corrected where I'm mistaken, but Balder would be unique in that he is the son of both Odin and his wife, Frigg.
Finally, we have Hoth, War.
Odin, the Terrifier is father to both "The Glorious" and "War." War is blind in its rage and jealousy
(Hoth is also blind), guided by Loki (we know he is part of the story, and we can see that by this time Loki has gone beyond mischief to general and undirected chaos) and ultimately is the end of "Glory." How much can you really read in to this? Who knows. These were violent, harsh times, but mythology tends to be a reflection of the people who create the myths. From that perspective one might see a sense that these people recognized that war, especially war without cause or purpose, serves to do little more than destroy what is beautiful in the world.