Study Guide

Hel Sightings

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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.

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