The Norse God Hodr

Hodr
The Norse tale of Baldur and Hodr plays an important role in the coming of Ragnarok. Mike Raabe / Getty Images

Höðr, sometimes called Hod, is the twin brother of Baldr, or Baldur, and is a Norse god associated with darkness and winter. He also happened to be blind, and appears a few times in the Norse Skaldic poetry.

Mythology and Legends

Their father, Odin, was concerned about Baldr, who kept suffering from terrible nightmares. So, Odin traveled to Nifhelm, the land of the dead, where he resurrected a wisewoman and asked her for advice.

She told him that Höðr would eventually slay Baldr, so Odin went back to Asgard, not happy about these developments.

Odin spoke with Baldr’s mother, Frigga, who decided to have all the creatures on earth swear an oath not to harm Baldr–this way, Höðr could use no weapon against his brother. Unfortunately, Frigga missed her chance to speak with the mistletoe bush. Tricked by Loki, Höðr created an arrow from the mistletoe branch which pierced Baldr’s body, killing him instantly. In some stories, it is not an arrow but a spear instead.

The death of Baldr at Höðr’s hand signified the darkness ruling over the light. As the nights grew longer and colder, the sun faded away each year. There are some clear similarities between this story and many others which detail the changing of the seasons, such as the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, and the legend of the Holly King and the Oak King in NeoWiccan beliefs.

Despite being tricked by Loki, Höðr was the one responsible for the death of his brother, and there was a general rule that deaths like Baldr’s must be avenged. Odin tricked a giantess into conceiving a child for him–and this child grew rapidly, reaching adulthood in just one day, to become the god Vali.

 

Vali then journeyed to Midgard and killed Höðr with an arrow, mirroring the death of Baldr. In Norse mythology, Baldr's death is one of the signals that Ragnarok, the end of the world, is coming.

The legends of Höðr appear in the Norse Sagas and Eddas. In the Prose Edda, he is described  in the Gylfaginning with a bit of foreshadowing, saying of Höðr: "He is blind. He is of sufficient strength, but the gods would desire that no occasion should rise of naming this god, for the work of his hands shall long be held in memory among gods and men."

There are several verses in the Skáldskaparmál related to Höðr, in which he is called by a number of different names: the Blind God, Baldr's Slayer, Thrower of the Mistletoe, Son of Odin, Companion of Hel, and Foe of Váli.

Daniel McCoy of the excellent Norse Mythology for Smart People cautions against taking the eddas too seriously, 

"as if they were untarnished accounts of how the heathen northern Europeans saw the world. They point back to the ancient northern European worldview, yes, but that worldview is often visible only opaquely, and hidden beneath layers of later accretions. The sources are the starting points for our knowledge of the pre-Christian Germanic world, but they are not the ending points."

Höðr Today

A number of people have drawn connections between the god Höðr and the character of Hodor, and other Norse figures, in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Dorian the Historian at Game of Thrones & Norse Mythology draws a number of parallels, and says, 

"In the story of the death of Baldr, Loki tricks Baldr's blind & dim-witted brother, Hodr (also spelled Hodur), who is noted for his strength, into killing Baldr. The name piqued my interest, and the somewhat similar description really got me curious–dim-witted Hodor & blind Hodur."

Höðr is typically associated with the winter months, although it is hard to know much more than that about him. After all, he only appears in one Norse myth, in the tale of Baldr's death. However, because of his connection to the winter season, he is honored by some Norse Pagans in tandem with Baldr.

As in many tales of twin deities, it is presumed that we cannot have one without the other, because the two are so complexly linked. 

Brigón Munkholm of Ýdalir, a Norse myth-inspired website, says

"Höðr can be seen as a god of the wrongly accused, of atonement and redemption. If you have done something wrong, something hard to look at, Höðr can help you own up to it. Honesty has a way of wiping the slate clean. In the end, he rules side-by-side with his twin, redeemed. His role is as his brother’s adviser and he is fated to be his councilor in the world to come. Work with Höðr for help recovering from a tragic event, or for help with depression. He seems to be the Northern pagan answer to the Catholic-dubbed (but universally-experienced spiritual crisis) “Dark Night of the Soul” (loss of faith). Perhaps Höðr is a steadfast companion, who doesn’t push us to “make it better,” but rather sits with us right where we are, for as long as we need."

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Wigington, Patti. "The Norse God Hodr." ThoughtCo, Jan. 6, 2018, thoughtco.com/the-norse-god-hodr-2562422. Wigington, Patti. (2018, January 6). The Norse God Hodr. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-norse-god-hodr-2562422 Wigington, Patti. "The Norse God Hodr." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-norse-god-hodr-2562422 (accessed May 27, 2018).