Nordic god, variously considered a god of light or a god of vegetation. Often referred to as the "bleeding god" or the "dying god". Son of Odin and Frigg. Husband of Nanna in the Icelandic accounts. Father of Forseti.
Balder is best known for the story of his untimely death, of which there are two versions. In the version told by Snorri Sturluson in the Prose Edda, Balder began to have dreams foreshadowing his death. His mother Frigg extracted an oath from all things not to harm Balder, thus making him presumably invulnerable. But the trickster god Loki discovered that the mistletoe was the one thing from which Frigg had not extracted such an oath. He then tricked the blind god Hoder into shooting a branch of mistletoe at Balder, which, guided to its target by Loki, killed Balder instantly.
The Aesir were shocked at this turn of events, and Balder's wife Nanna committed suicide out of grief. Balder's brother Hermod rode to the underworld on the eight-legged horse Sleipnir to offer a ransom to the goddess Hel. Hel offered to release Balder provided that all things would weep for him. At the gods' request, all things did weep for Balder, save the giantess Thokk, who thus condemned Balder to remain among the dead. The gods, believing Thokk to have been Loki in disguise, bound Loki in a cave and placed a serpent over him so that its poison would drop onto his face, although Loki's wife Sigyn remained by her husband's side to catch the drops in a bowl.
A quite different version of the story was told by the Dane Saxo Grammaticus. In this version Balder and Hoder fought several battles with each other for the right to marry the goddess Nanna. It was Hoder who married Nanna, despite having been defeated by Balder in battle. Balder began to waste away, and eventually died as the result of a wound inflicted by Hoder with a magic sword.
Balder was expected to reappear after Ragnarok to rule over a new age that would emerge from the final cataclysm of this age. Some scholars see this as an indication that Balder was a vegetation god of the dying and rising type, like Adonis, Osiris and Dumuzi, but this theory is contested by others.