Far down beneath the root of Yggdrasil, in darkest and coldest
Niflheim, lies the fearful domain of Hel,
daughter of Loki and Angerboda. One half of her body has a livid
the other half the hue of human flesh; she is harsh and cruel,
prey, and tenacious of those who have once fallen under her rule.
dark, deep vales surrounding her kingdom are called Hell-Ways; to
thither men must cross the river Gjoll (“roaring,” “resounding”),
the Bridge of Gjoll, which is paved with gold. Lofty walls enclose
dwelling place, and the gate that opens upon it is called
Hell-Gate. Her hall
is known as Eljudnir; her dish or porringer, as Hunger; her knife,
Famine; her bondman and bondmaid, as Ganglati and Ganglt (both
meaning “tardy”); her threshold, as Sinking to Destruction; her
Sickbed; the curtains of her bed, as Glimmering Mischance. Her
bandog, Garm, is bloody of chest and muzzle. Her “sooty-red” cock
to herald the fall of the universe. In the midst of Niflheim
stands the well
Vergelmir, beside which lies the serpent Niddhogg. The brinks of
Vergelmir are called Nastrand (the Strand of Corpses); here is the
forbidding spot in Niflheim. All who did not fall in battle were
said to go to
Hell; but the general belief seems nevertheless to have been that
wicked found their way thither.
In the terminology of the skalds, Hel is not infrequently
the Daughter of Loki, the Wolf’s (the Fenris Wolf’s) Sister, and
the like. The
names Hell (and Niflhel) are often used of the realm of the dead;
expression in Norwegian, å slå ihjel (ihel), — “to strike into
Hell,” “to kill.”
When ghosts walked abroad, the saying might commonly be heard,
is open” (hnigin er helgrind); for then it was possible for
spirits to slip out.
Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods
and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New
York. 1926, pp. 37-39.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund
Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson.
Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906.
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