Study Guide

Hel

  • Profile

    In Loki and Angrboda's family, Hel is the odd one out. That's because unlike her brothers Jormungand and Fenrir, she's not a freakishly-large animal. She does have a pretty unusual complexion, though: half her face is black and half is white. Given this strange appearance, plus Hel's unfortunate family connections, Odin decides not to take any chances with her. He exiles her to the Underworld, condemning her to a life as landlady to the dead. Compared to her brothers, though, Hel's got it pretty good. She has her own enormous hall, Éljuðnir, and a few servants to keep the floors shiny. Plus, she has absolute control over a kingdom whose population just keeps growing and growing. It's even named after her! Of course, nobody who ends up in Hel really wants to be there, which might be why its mistress looks so grim all the time.

    Basic Information

    Name

    Hel

    Nickname

    "Monstrous Wolf's Sister" (Ragnarsdrápa stanza 9), "Grave-Guardian" (Ynglingatal Ch. 45), "Hellie" (But only my mom's allowed to use that one), "Hel-lo Gorgeous"

    Sex

    Female

    Current city

    Hel. Duh. It's in Niflheim, in case you're wondering.

    Work & Education

    Occupation

    Queen of the Underworld

    Education

    The collected lifetime wisdom of many, many dead people.

    Beliefs

    Political views

    I don't believe in parole. Once you're my prisoner, you're here to stay.

    Family & Friends (& Enemies)

    Parents

    Loki and Angrboda

    Siblings

    Fenrir Wolf
    Jormungand, the World-Serpent
    Half-Brothers Narfi and (possibly) Váli
    Half-Brother Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse

    Children

    All the dead are my children, sort of. At least I give them room and board.

    Friends

    Balder
    Hod
    Modgud (Móðguðr)

    Enemies

    All the Asgard gods, but particularly Odin, who masterminded my exile.

    Relationships

    Relationship status

    Single

    Interested in

    Someone who'll bring a little life to this place.

    Favorites

    TV Shows

    Dead Like Me 
    Six Feet Under 
    Grimm 

    Quotations

    "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
    – J. Robert Oppenheimer

    "Pale death beats equally at the poor man's gate and at the palaces of kings."
    – Horace

    "Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company."
    – Mark Twain

    "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
    – William Congreve

    Books

    The Masque of the Red Death (and pretty much everything) by Edgar Allan Poe 
    The Canterbury Tales: The Pardoner's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer 
    The Sandman by Neil Gaiman  
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 
    Inferno by Dante Alighieri 
    "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving 
    Macbeth by William Shakespeare 
    The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs 
    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James 
    "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson 
    "Acquainted with the Night" by Robert Frost 

    Music

    Alice in Chains 
    Marilyn Manson 
    Bring Me to Life by Evanescence 
    Phantom of the Opera by Nightwish 
    The Different Story by Peter Schilling 
    Kiss 
    Rosenrot by Rammstein 

    Movies

    The Addams Family 
    The Nightmare Before Christmas 
    What Dreams May Come 
    The Crow 
    Underworld 
    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 
    Dark Shadows 

    Activities & Interests

    Likes

    Death and Dying
    The Dark
    Heavy Eyeliner
    Pale Skin
    Long black dresses

    Interests

    Embalming
    Forensic Pathology
    Mortuary Studies
    Gothicism
    Hospitality Management

    Groups

    Children of Loki
    Residents of Hel
    Queens of the Cosmos
    International Mortuary and Embalming Association

    • Spotter's Guide

      Hel's stuck in Hel forever. Odin put her there to prevent her from ever becoming a problem for him. She's made the most of her exile, though. She hangs in her huge hall, Éljuðnir, bossing her servants around and planning feasts for the dead. Hel's pretty easy to recognize: Just look for her half-black, half-white face (split right down the middle!) and her loonnnggg dark hair. Finding Hel's not the hard part, though; it's getting out that's the problem.

      Sex: Female
      Age: Young
      Build: Thin
      Complexion: Unusual
      Hair Color: Black
      Facial Hair: Nope
      Scars/marks/tattoos: Half-black, half-white face
      Jewelry and accessories: A scepter, plus a dish called hunger and a knife called famine (Gylfaginning, Ch. 34)
      Clothing: Long, flowing dresses
      Armor: She doesn't need armor. She's already in Hel.
      Type of Weapon: High walls and strong gates

      Typical Companions

      Hod and Balder
      Gatekeeper Modgud
      Watchdog Garmr
      Servants Ganglati and Ganglöt

      Known Hangouts

      Her hall, Éljuðnir
      Hel, Thrymheim
      Dark, cold places
      Cemeteries

    • Sightings

      Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

      Migration Period Bracteates

      A bracteate is a plate-shaped piece of Viking jewelry. It's kind of like a picture that you wear around your neck. Although we don't know for sure, it seems pretty likely that bracteates that show a woman with a scepter greeting a rider at the bottom of a hill represent Hel greeting the dead. Because you don't usually just stand around with scepters, waiting to greet passersby. Unless you're Hel, apparently.

      Dec 20, 1099 - Dec 20, 1199

      Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus

      In his history of the Danish and Swedish people, Saxo Grammaticus depicts the gods as real historical people, but Hel is still kind of imaginary. She appears to the sick warrior Balder in a dream and warns him that he's about to die. Nothing like good news to raise the spirits.

      Dec 20, 2019

      Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson

      Count on Snorri to give you all the deets. Although Hel gets some shout-outs as caretaker of the dead in a few earlier sources, it's only with Snorri's Prose Edda that we really get a full picture of the Queen of the Underworld. Thanks to Snorri, we know that Hel was exiled from Asgard with the rest of Loki's children, and that she has a plate called hunger and a knife called famine (whatever that means—you decide). Plus, we hear the whole story of how Hel refuses to release Balder from her realm unless everything in the world weeps for him.

      Dec 20, 1964

      Journey into Mystery, Marvel Comics Thor, #102

      The Marvel Comics version of Hel is named Hela. She takes a much more active role in claiming the dead than she does in her earlier sightings. When Odin's not watching, she even tries to take over Valhalla! Hela's mainly interested in the souls of gods, though, and she can claim them with a single touch. This powerful lady can bench press 100 tons and hold her own in hand-to-hand combat with Thor.

      Dec 20, 1992

      Shin Megami Tensei (True Goddess Reincarnation)

      In this Japanese video game, players journey through dungeons, collecting demons to help them fight along the way. Hel is one of the demons you can collect. And she looks pretty cool (literally!). In this picture, she's encased in ice to reflect her location near Niflheim (frost-world).

      Dec 20, 2019

      Viking: Battle for Asgard

      Hel's the one to beat in this video game. She takes her exile to the underworld hard—so hard, in fact, that she frees Fenrir, resurrects some dead Vikings and marches on Asgard. It's up to you to prevent her from unleashing Valhalla.