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.
"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"
Hel. Duh. It's in Niflheim, in case you're wondering.
Queen of the Underworld
The collected lifetime wisdom of many, many dead people.
I don't believe in parole. Once you're my prisoner, you're here to stay.
Loki and Angrboda
All the dead are my children, sort of. At least I give them room and board.
All the Asgard gods, but particularly Odin, who masterminded my exile.
Someone who'll bring a little life to this place.
"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
The Masque of the Red Death (and pretty much everything) by Edgar Allan Poe
Death and Dying
Children of Loki
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.
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
Hod and Balder
Servants Ganglati and Ganglöt
Her hall, Éljuðnir
Dark, cold places
Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019
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
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
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
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
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
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.