Episode 9: Balder the Brave

BEHOLD: Balder the Brave #1-4! Balder rides forth to Hel and returns to a fallen Nornheim! Karnilla’s iron will is not easily broken! And in Jotunheim, the frost giants plan their invasion of Asgard!

17 thoughts on “Episode 9: Balder the Brave”

  1. Birds were all about the gossip in Norse myth. Sigurd got the ability to understand birds by tasting the blood of a dragon (nee dwarf), and he heard two birds chatting. “Oh Robin, look, there’s Regin and Sigurd. Did you hear? They’ve made a deal.”
    “Come on Sparrow, everyone knows that.”
    “Yeah but Pigeon told me that Crow overheard Regin plotting to kill him instead!”
    “No Way! Man, this I have to see. Wait, what’s Sigurd doing? He can’t hear us, can he? Damn it Sparrow, you ruined the ending!”

    Also, for fans of the TV show Vikings, Sigurd’s daughter Auslag inherited his ability, and heard birds gossiping about how Ragnar Lothbrok was getting married to someone else.

    And then of course there’s Odin’s ravens, whos entire job is to give Odin the lowdown on all the stuff they see.

  2. Sorry for dominating the comments so early on, but I have a lot to share today.

    Frey’s sword being traded away in the mame of lust has huge consequences in the myths. It’s the one thig that can defeat Surtur, and without it, Ragnarok happens.

    Back to the comics, in the recent Unworthy Thor it’s mentioned that he hasn’t slept in the three months since losing his hammer. So I suppose sleep is a habit for Asardians, not a necessity.

    One last tidbit. In the Eddas Baldur is a Christ-like figure beloved of all. But other sources, such as Gesta Danorum, paint him as a villainous warlord, invulnerable to metal as he’s the son of a god. Finally Hodor, a mortal king, is led to a magic sword named Mistletoe, by a “satyr” (probably Loki) that can kill him and end his reign of terror. This is possibly a folk hero myth, reversed in morality to suit a second group’s politics.

    1. Si: Would you be up for expanding a little on the last part, about “a second group’s politics”? I realize that the arguments about that sort of thing are always a bit speculative, but it would be interesting to hear more.

      1. Sorry, that’s all I have, and it’s speculation. That sort of thing happened a fair bit, especially in Insua and the Middle East, but Christian missionaries made local gods into demons a lot. It’s not unlikely that the Baldr story is the same.

        1. I’ll try to clarify this a bit better, not least because of the really weird typo for “India” there.

          Pure speculation here, but let’s say there’s a region in Denmark where Hodr is a folk hero or even a revered semi-mythological ancestor of a local king. Imagine Loki is a highly esteemed god locally. There are a couple of stories of Loki’s benevolence, such as in Loka Táttur, that suggests he was once one of the big three gods, at least in some Germanic areas. Anyway, then let’s say there’s another kingdom in Norway that hates the Danish group. They don’t like Loki there. So they start telling the same story, but with Odin’s son Baldr as the hero, Loki the god of the Danish tribe as the villain, and great king Hodr is just a blind patsy. Over time both stories drift from their original, and are eventually recorded in the two forms we know. One a tale of victory against the odds, the other a tale of foul murder.

          1. I’d add that Christians didn’t so much make the pagan gods into demons, as actually believed that they were demons. This was completely normal, orthodox Christian belief for hundreds of years (e.g. Augustine).

            I’m not sure when Christians switched over to thinking that the “normal” Christian position is that other gods are empty fictions that don’t exist (rather than that other gods are real and exist, but aren’t gods, just evil fallen angels). But I bet it didn’t become standard and unremarkable to think that earlier than the 18th century.

            Which is why it’s a shame that no Marvel writer has pitted Thor against his real arch-nemesis, St. Boniface: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donar%27s_Oak

  3. With all the shirtless power-ups, month-long training binges, talking to birds and teaching Agnar to DOOOOODGE!!, this is the most Dragonball Z Abridged-esque chapter of Simonson’s Thor.

  4. When the topic of gossip came up in the podcast it occurred to me that Heimdall knows everything about everyone, everywhere. Which would have been tough on Sif growing up. Now he’s not known as a gossip, so he’s discreet, but people must turn up a lot wondering where they’ve left their keys and with other questions.

    1. It says in the comic at one point that he can see everything, but he’s not omnicognizant*. So he has to actually be looking at something to see it, and I bet he got real good real quick at not looking at toilets and bedrooms.

      *Different writers no doubt do this differently of course.

  5. I like to think that Fandral got his jazzy tracksuit as a reward for completing the Balder exercise plan.

  6. Having listened to the podcast, a couple of scattered thoughts:-

    – The opening backstory for the sword is fascinating.

    It’s clearly meant to be Gerd who’s stealing the sword. And the caption boxes, combined with Skirnir’s vulnerable pose, seem very ominous: “But although the sword made its wearer unconquerable in battle… it did not bestow protection against guile and subtlety.” It’s not made explicit, but I think this hints that Gerd takes the sword and kills Skirnir with it?

    There’s this whole story here that we’re not getting, which seems to be Simonson’s imagined continuation of the story of the courtship of Gerd from the Eddas. Is this meant to be Gerd’s revenge for Skirnir’s nasty and unpleasant methods of persuasion in the Poetic Edda?

    – [Spoilers for the end of Simonson’s run]

    Our hosts commented that Balder is maybe not as compelling a figure as Thor or Sif, because he’s such an uncomplicatedly good guy. One thing I wonder is how this material would have worked if Simonson had integrated it into his Thor run as an ongoing subplot (lengthening the run to allow this). Flashing sideways to Balder and his adventures for a few pages an issue, over a larger number of issues (reworking the chronology as necessary) in a Claremontesque fashion.

    Not sure that it would have been better or worse, but I think it would have been possible. One thing that it would have done is set up the prominence of Utgard-Loki as a character at the end of the run. I can only imagine that for someone who read Thor, but not the Balder the Brave miniseries, at the time his appearance might have seemed a little off-putting.

  7. Although it was ambiguous, I read Balder’s story of Rattusk’s demise as the true story of what happened. Balder never explains even in a thought balloon about why he would tell a false story to Karnilla. The first flashback was told from Agnar’s point of view and his analysis of what happened. Agnar and Balder’s stories both agree on the physical aspects of what happened, but Agnar put his own beliefs and prejudices in the story the initial reader got. Then when Karnilla gets the real story, the reader also gets a bit of growth since we were all ready to believe the scary demon looking guy was evil.

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