I have always had a crush on Balder, or Baldr as he was called in old Norse. My crush is mostly due to the wonderful illustration of him in the D'Aulaires book I had as a kid, in which he stands in a field of multicolored flowers, a star-shaped halo emanating from his mesmerizing white eyebrows. I wish I could find this illustration on line to post it, but the D'Aulaires heirs/agents seem to have done a good job at keeping their art from circling for free on the Internets. The only things you can find are the covers.
It's great that the NYRB has reprinted so many of these classic books. They are stunning.
From pantheon. org: " The god of light, joy, purity, beauty, innocence, and reconciliation. Son of Odin and Frigg, he was loved by both gods and men and was considered to be the best of the gods. He had a good character, was friendly, wise and eloquent, although he had little power. His wife was Nanna daughter of Nep, and their son was Forseti, the god of justice. Balder's hall was Breidablik ("broad splendor"). "
The D'Aulaires translate Breidablik "the far-gleaming," which I like better. Even though I think it's pretentious to name a house, I do think it would be cool to say, "Ethan and I are, like, off to Far Gleaming for the long weekend. We're grilling."
According to the D'Aulaires' Norse Myths:
The Aesir (the Norse pantheon) always turned to Balder when they were troubled, for he was the kindest and gentlest of the gods. No one could think anything but pure thoughts in his presence. Flowers sprang up from the ground wherever he stepped, but even the whitest and most beautiful of them, the Balderblom, was not as fair as his brow.
Everybody loved him; not even the spiteful gnomes and uncouth jotuns could dislike Balder.
The light from his shimmering hall shone into the farthest corners of the world, and it was there that he sat in judgement on his golden throne. He never took sides, and was so kind he could not bear to mete out punishment. Although the Aesir brought their disputes to Balder, they seldom followed his advice. It was too gentle and forgiving.
Balder lived in great happiness with his loving wife Nanna and their son Forsete. Forsete was as constant as Nanna, his mother, and as just as his father, Balder. Calmly he studied the laws of this world and laid down judgements according to them, and his rulings always held. He became the chief judge of the Aesir.
Fans of mythology will start to get a bad feeling when they read about all this peace and stability. Sure enough, such happiness cannot endure. To read about the tragic death of Balder, see my earlier post on Loki.