The best description of Balder comes from Gylfaginning. High One answers Gangleri's question about Odin's son this way: " Another son of Odin's is called Balder, and there is nothing but good to be told about him. He is the best of Them and everyone sings his praises. He is so fair of face and bright that a splendor radiates from Him, and there is a flower so white that it is likened to Balder's brow, it is the whitest of all flowers. From that description you can tell just how beautiful his body is, and how bright his hair. He is the wisest of the Gods and the sweetest spoken and the most merciful, but it is a characteristic of his that once he has pronounced a judgment it can never be altered. He lives in that place in heaven called Breidablik. Nothing impure can be there as it says here:" "There where Balder has built his dwellings, they call it Breidablik. In that land where I know there are fewest evil things. "
It was here in Breidablik that Balder took his bride, Nanna, the daughter of Nep, and together they had the child Forseti. In Gylfaginning it has this to say about Balder's son: " Forseti now owns the hall in heaven known as Glitner. Without exception all who come to him with legal disputes go away reconciled, that is the best court known to Gods and men !" Forseti seems to be following in his father's footsteps of being a judge. (I do have a UPG about him. He will survive Ragnarok ).
Balder's mother Frigga, (" who knows the future but says nothing" ) to protect Him , exacted an oath: " From fire and water, Iron and all kinds of metals, stones, earth, trees, ailments, beasts, birds, poisons and serpents, that they would not harm her beautiful son." She did such a good job that at assemblies, the Gods would amuse themselves by asking Balder to stand and be tested. Some Gods threw darts, others stones, but no matter what the weapon Balder was never injured. All of the Gods thought of this as a wonderful thing, except one, Loki. The mischief maker was annoyed at this and went to visit Frigga in Fensalir, disguised as an old woman. Through this trickery he got Frigga to reveal how she got everything to swear an oath to Balder, except a plant called Mistletoe. She explained to Loki: " Just west of Valhalla grows a little bush called Mistletoe, I did not exact an oath from it because I thought it too young."
Loki, of course, went to the spot described by Frigga and found the young plant and brought back a branch from it. Of this he made a dart, and tricked Hod, Balder's blind brother, into throwing it at Balder at the next assembly. Balder was immediately struck down when pierced by the missle. When the Gods realized that: " Balder had fallen the Aesir were struck dumb and not one could move a finger to lift him up." When the Aesir did try to speak , " Weeping came first so that no one could tell the other his grief in words." Odin was most affected by Balder's death because he knew best the implications that his death held for the Aesir and the nine worlds.
Balder's funeral is beautifully written about in Gylfaginning. " The Aesir however, took Balder's body and carried it down to the sea. Balder's ship was called Ringhorn, it was a very large ship. It was so large in fact that none of the Gods could launch it , so they had to send for a giantess named Hyrrokkin. She came to the shore riding a wolf with vipers for reins." The huge giantess it says had no trouble launching the great ship, but : " The rollers burst into flames and the whole world trembled." This angered Thor who would have killed her if not for the intervention of the other Gods. When Balder's body was carried out to the ship, Nanna could not stand her grief any longer, her heart broke and she died. Nanna along with Balder's horse were both laid next to Balder. Before the ship was set alight it is said that Odin whispered something into his son's ear. I would speculate that it was something like: " You will rise again one day my son, and rule great Asgard in my place." Thor it is also said consecrated the ship and its sacred cargo with Mjollinir.
To show how respected and revered shining Balder was, it says in Gylfaginning: " All sorts of people came to the cremation. First and foremost Odin accompanied by Frigga, and his Valkyries and Ravens. Frey drove in a chariot drawn by the boar called Gold - Bristle. Heimdall rode the horse called Gold - Tuft, and Freyja was driving her cats. A great crowd of Frost Ogres, and Cliff Giants came too ! " And we know that their were Dwarves there because Thor kicked the Dwarf, Lit, onto the funeral pyre when he got in his way when He was consecrating the cremation. I personally imagine that anyone and everyone would have been there to see the Great God Balder off to Niflheim. And of course, in the background, would have been Loki with an evil grin upon his face !
The cry throughout Asgard rang out, "Balder's death must be avenged !" Though Hod ( Hodr) was an unknowing pawn in Loki's evil deed, he still must pay for what he did and forfeit his life. In "Balder's Dreams", the witch, speaking to Odin, says : " Vali, born to Rind, in the westward halls, will one night old avenge Odin's son. He will not wash his hands or comb his hair until Balder's bane burns on the pyre ! "
After being cremated Balder is sent to Niflheim, as are all those who do not die in battle. Balder's stay with Hel seems to have been an enjoyable one, though confining. We know this because Odin is told by the sibyl / witch, that he awakened from her grave, that : " The mead was brewed to welcome Balder. A shield lies over the shining drink. " Even before Odin asks the witch any questions, in "Balder's Dreams", he notices that Niflheim is made ready for a special visitor. Odin then asks the sibyl : " Why are the benches bright with gold, the great hall gleaming , who will be the guest. This tells me that Balder is not only a welcome guest, but an honored one as well.
Balder may not be able to leave Niflheim, but he is able to receive visitors. In Gylfaginning, Hermod, another son of Odin, after a harrowing ride, " Went inside and saw his brother Balder sitting on the High Seat there. Hermod stayed there that night. In the morning Hermod asked Hel if Balder might ride home with him, telling her how much the Gods were weeping." Hemod is told by Hel: " Only if everything weeps for Balder. " "Then Hermod stood up and Balder lead him out of the hall, and taking off the ring, Draupnir, sent it to Odin in remembrance. But Nanna sent Frigga, along with other gifts, linen for a headdress, and Fulla a gold ring. Hermod then rode back to Asgard to tell his tale." Everything did weep for Balder except one old woman, who exclaimed, " I will shed dry tears for the son of Odin, let Hel keep what she holds !" It is believed this was Loki in disguise.
This generosity on the part of Hel clearly shows me, that although Balder is a prisoner in Niflheim, he is considered to be a very honored guest indeed, receiving special treatment and luxuries that the average arrival would not receive. Remember Hel herself does not have much, and what she has she has to share with all those who are sent to her and live in the halls of the dead. In Gylfaginning it says: " He ( Odin) threw her ( Hel ) into Niflheim and gave her authority over the nine worlds on the condition that she share all her provisions with those who were sent to her. " It goes on : " She has a great homestead there with extraordinarily high walls and huge gates. Her hall is called Eljudnir, her plate hunger, her knife famine, her man - servant Ganglati, her maid - servant Ganglot, the stone at the entrance drop to death, her bed sick - bed, its hangings glittering misfortune." That really tells you how little she has, and yet she shares great things with Balder to make him feel at home and welcomed, including giving him a High - Seat of honor.
Balder's death is of course the beginning, or trigger if you will, for Ragnarok. I will not go into detail about the destruction of the nine worlds, but after this catastrophic war at least some of the Gods and Goddesses survive. Vidar, Vali, Njord, Magni and Modi, all survive according to the ancient texts. It is written in Voluspa, that : " Hod and Balder will live in Odin's hall, home of the war Gods, seek you wisdom still. " Like most male written religious texts the authors always seem to forget about the female ( Goddesses ). We should assume that because Hod and Balder survived in Niflheim that Nanna will also escape and stand by her husbands side in a rebuilt Asgard. I also believe that Frigga's handmaiden Goddesses will also survive the great war as well. ( UPG)
Balder's life story leaves little to be conjectured about . The Eddas follow his journey, in life and death, and re - birth fairly thoroughly. His life's story is a beautiful and tragic tale that has a happy ending. Balder is the God of the pure heart, whose wisdom is matched only by Odin himself. He is the "Best of Gods", and is the only one wise enough, strong enough, and pure enough to rule over a rebuilt Asgard. I sometimes wonder if Odin didn't plan his death, or at least let it happen, to keep Balder out of the final battle so he could come back and rule over the God's domain. For surely Odin would have known that only Balder, The Great Shining God, could replace the All - Father. All Hail Great Balder !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love and Thor' s protection !