Komiði sæl og blessuð, vinir mínir,
(Come happy and blessed, my friends,)
Since yesterday, I have been thinking about Baldr quite a bit. I have been thinking about the way he is treated by Snorri Sturluson in the Prose Edda, and how revered Baldr is. I have begun to get the impression that Baldr represents and stands for the ideals of peace, kindness, and mercy. His description by Snorri makes me think this, although it takes some work to get there, I suppose, so here is the passage for reference:
“Odin’s second son is Baldr, and there is good to be told of him. He is best and all praise him. He is so fair in appearance and so bright that light shines from him, and there is a plant so white (in terms of light) that is is called after Baldr’s eyelash. It is the whitest (again, in terms of light) of all plants, and from this you can tell his beauty both of hair and body (thus comparing Baldr to everything light and bright). He is the wisest of the Æsir and most beautifully spoken and most merciful, but it is one of his characteristics that none of his decisions can be fulfilled.”
One thing that really stands out to me is the constant comparison Snorri makes to light. The Poetic Edda does not seem to emphasize this quality of him as much as Snorri does here. I may be wrong, but the Poetic Edda primarily focuses on his death, rather than his appearance or likenesses. Regardless, Snorri introduces Baldr as if he were light itself (but still in a very symbolic way meant for comparison), which is very important considering that Ragnarök, the end of times, begins after his death. The two sources of light in the world must vanish before Ragnarök can begin: Sol, the literal sun that warms the worlds, and Baldr, the symbolic light within each living soul. To think these references to be to anything other than light ruins the symbolic role that Baldr plays.
I would also like to single out the ending of the quotation:
…it is one of his characteristic that none of his decisions can be fulfilled.”
If Baldr is so wise and so good, why do none of his decisions end up fulfilled? Perhaps it is because he, representing ‘good nature’, is often consumed by hatred and cruelty. Think about Ragnarök again. When the world ends, ‘evil’ forces consume the world because ‘good’ itself has perished. The situation is more complicated than that, though, because determining what is evil and what is not is in itself a complicated matter. Thinking only in the way that Snorri depicts these events, though, it is evil that brings the world to its end.
I also cannot help myself but notice the concepts of Christianity that are imbedded into Baldr’s image, especially in the Prose Edda. Think about it. Baldr is as pure as light, he is the most merciful, and his death is almost like that of a martyr. Not to mention his pacifist nature (he gets attacked, but does not fight back). Furthermore, although he is not the only one to return after Ragnarök, he does indeed return from the dead. This is peculiar because the world is now a perfect, peaceful place; it is no surprise, then, that Baldr returns and fills it with his goodness once again. (All of this should also sound a bit Jesus-like, but maybe it is just me).
I find Baldr to be goodness itself. He is an ideal that we should try to achieve and admire. After all, he is so highly spoken of, and all of the Æsir lament his loss. Their rage towards Loki seems to be more out of despair for Baldr’s death than an actual hatred for Loki (or is it?). Their actions show how difficult it is to show mercy and kindness to others, especially when in despair. Even after Baldr’s death, the Æsir show no mercy to Loki. Baldr was the merciful god.
Without mercy and kindness, the world will fall in turmoil; Ragnarök will come. Evil will arise from neglect and abuse. Loki was not shown mercy nor kindness; he was treated terribly. Loki resented Baldr because he was an ideal that the rest of the gods pretty much worshipped. Loki resented Baldr because Loki represents our imperfections (which is very human and not mean too be demeaning). We struggle to reach these ideals of kindness and mercy; we struggle to reach to Baldr’s heights. After all, even the gods could not live up to these ideals that Baldr symbolized.
But perhaps some of us can still learn from their troubles and embrace the kindness and mercy of Baldr. We must not simply revere Baldr’s perfections and ideals, for that will only bring resentment and hurtfulness. The real problem, then, is when we have standards that are too high. If we constantly judge others based off of such high standards, it will be painful and difficult for those struggling to reach those ideals. Therefore, we must try to kept Baldr in mind and in heart, rather than force others to be in his image. We must show kindness and mercy to others so that we may quell the anger and resentment of this world. It is the act, not the appearance or complete likeness, of Baldr that we must emit. We must make our ideals reality, rather than using them to cast judgement upon others.
Then again, I’m just a rambling wanderer.
Let me know what your thoughts are, if you want to! I can’t be the only person who understands Baldr in such a way.
Með vinsemd og virðingu,
(With friendliness and respect,)