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Balder, also spelled Baldur, is a male deity in the Norse pantheon. He is a god of beauty, and one of twelve seated upon the council at Asgard.[2]

Description

Appearance and personality

Balder is famed for his incredible beauty. It is said that mortal women cannot look upon him without being enchanted.[2] He appears as a handsome well-dressed human with golden hair and a neatly-trimmed beard.[3] He enjoys basking in the grace bestowed by his followers,[1] and is often accompanied by an entourage of women.[4]

He has no ulterior motives in his actions.

Balder is as wise as he is handsome.[4] He is Neutral Good in alignment, and often seeks to reward those who do good deeds.

Abilities

It is said that Balder cannot be harmed by any weapon, except one fashioned from mistletoe.[2] By tradition, wooden weapons and tools are forbidden from his temples.

Balder can automatically recall every person or thing of beauty. He is instantly aware of any beautiful object or discussion of comparative beauty, and can sense everything within 14 miles of any of his followers, holy sites, or any place where his name was spoken in the past hour.

He can appraise or craft objects or artworks of stone or metal instantaneously. He can also create magic instruments, art tools and art supplies as he wishes.

Balder's skill at performance is truly legendary, even by divine standards. His performances can turn enemies into friends.[5][3]

In combat, he fights with the skill of a berserker. He can enter a berserk rage for an hour, can do so 14 times per day, and is not tired afterward. He is particularly skilled with the greatsword.

He can cast various spells, including healing and protective spells. He has the ability to return the dead to life, and to improve the charisma of worthy individuals.[4]

Balder's dreams are said to be prophetic, to an extent.[1]

Portfolio

Balder is a god of beauty, light, poetry, music, and rebirth. He rules over the domains of good, healing, and knowledge.[3]

Worship

Dogma

Balder's followers believe that creating objects of beauty brings one closer to divinity. The gods serve as ideal representation of artistic expression, and should be revered as such.[3]

Following Balder's death, his cultists also believe that one should accept fate with laughter and a smile. This tendency to believe that fate cannot be changed and should be accepted is popularly held by followers of the Norse pantheon.

Worshipers

While the people of Midgard typically worship the Norse pantheon as a collective group, Balder is particularly followed by bards and gnomes.[3]

Clergy

Priests of Balder tend to have exceptional beauty, and are often skilled artists. They dress fine, but understated clothing. Their duties include sharing works of art with talented individuals, in the hopes of inspiring future great artworks. Since the death of Balder, they also serve counseling for those bereaved.

Proxies and avatars

Balder has no known proxies.[1]

Holy sites

Balder's temples are always beautifully designed. They possess a simple, understated elegance. These temples are decorated with great artworks, including carvings and paintings. Gnomish architects and craftsmen are often involved in their construction, and temples to Balder are more common where gnomes live.[3]

These temples contain workshops where the clergy and visitors may create works of art and hope to receive inspiration from Balder. Visitors sometimes report being overwhelmed by the grace and beauty of his temples. Like most temples to the Norse gods, Balder's temples are also well fortified.[3]

Temples of Balder often host performances by skalds—bards—including particularly famous poets.[3]

Holy symbol

Balder's holy symbol is a gem-encrusted silver chalice.

Favored weapon

Balder favors the greatsword.

Balder's own weapon is a supremely enchanted keen holy greatsword. It is particularly lethal against fiends.

Relationships

Family

Balder is the son of Odin and his wife Frigga. He is twin brother of the blind god Hod. By relation to Odin, Balder is half-brother to Thor, Heimdall, Bragi, Vidar and Vali.

Balder is the husband of Nanna. Forseti, god of justice, is their son.[3]

Enemies

Loki caused the death of Balder, and earned his enmity.

Allies

Balder is the most beloved of all of the Aesir.[3] He is loyal to Odin and the Aesir, and has never failed in his duties toward them.[4]

Artifacts

Balder's own weapon is a supremely enchanted keen holy greatsword. It is particularly lethal against fiends.

Realm

Balder's hall at Asgard is Briedbalik, or Breidablik, whose name means "broad splendor". It is a place of incredible beauty, and only the most beautiful of visitors are allowed entry.[1]

Following his death, he is consigned to Hel's realm of Niflheim.[6]

History

Death of Balder

Balder was so beloved by the gods that they sent his mother Frigga to visit every thing in creation and ask it to swear an oath not to harm him. She did this, but ignored mistletoe, thinking it too weak to harm anyone. Thereafter the gods entertained themselves by throwing weapons at Balder.

Loki, the trickster god, became jealous. He discovered Balder's weakness and sharpened a piece of mistletoe into a dart, giving it to Balder's blind brother Hod and guiding his hand so that it hit Balder's heart. Balder was slain.

Thereafter, Frigga sent Hermod to Hel to offer a ransom in exchange for her son. Hel agreed to return him to life, but only if all of Asgard shed a tear. Loki refused. The Aesir burned Balder's body on a funeral pyre, and his wife Nanna joined him on the pyre.[7]

Ragnarok

Balder does not partake in the final battle at Ragnarok, due to being in Hel's realm. Following the death of Hel and her guardians at Ragnarok, Balder returns to rule over the new world.[6]

Publication history

Original D&D

Balder first appears in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.27.

AD&D 1st edition

Balder appears in Legends & Lore (1e) (1985) and Deities & Demigods (1e) (1980).

AD&D 2nd edition

Balder is detailed in Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.178 and the Planescape sourcebook On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.142.

D&D 3rd edition

Balder is detailed in Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.171-173.

D&D 4th edition

The Norse pantheon does not appear in D&D 4th edition.

D&D 5th edition

Balder is one of twenty Norse gods listed in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014).

Creative origins

Balder, also spelled Baldr or Baldur, appears in Norse myth. He is best known for an event known as The Death of Balder, in which he is accidentally slain by his blind brother Hod. A summary of the story appears in Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.171.

In the Norse poem Baldrs draumur, "Balder's Dreams", the Balder suffers ominous nightmares. Odin raises a dead witch or seeress, who tells that Hod will be the one to kill Balder, and that Odin shall have a son, Vali, who will be only one day old when he kills Hod to avenge the death of Balder. The death of Balder is also mentioned in Voluspa.

Balder and Hod are not mentioned in Vafthruthnismal, which predicts that Vithar, Vali, Modi and Magni will be the ones who survive Ragnarok. However, Voluspa ends with a prophecy that Balder and Hod will return after Ragnarok and join those who inhabit Odin's hall.

A much more detailed version of the death of Balder is told in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda. After Balder's ominous dreams, his mother Frigga made all things swear an oath not to harm him, such that he was invulnerable to fire, water, iron, metal, stone, earth, trees, diseases, animals, birds, poison, and snakes. However, she secretly omitted a single shoot of mistletoe which grew west of Valhalla, considering it too young to swear an oath.

At a gathering where the Aesir threw weapons at Balder for sport, Loki became angry at his invulnerability, and disguised as a woman to learn the secret of Balder's weakness from Frigg. He picked the mistletoe shoot and handed to the blind Hod, directing him to shoot, which killed Balder. However, none could enact vengeance against Hod's killer as they were in a place of sanctuary.

Snorri's retelling is followed by the funeral pyre of Balder in elaborate detail, during which Nanna dies of grief and is placed upon the fire too. This is followed by a quest in which Hermod travels to Hel and attempts to offer to pay a ransom for Balder's return. Hel agrees, on the condition that all things in creation weep for Balder; to this day, the condensation which forms on cold objects brought into heat is their weeping. However, a giantess named Thanks refused to weep; she is suspected to be Loki in disguise.

Reception and influence

In Dungeons & Dragons, the name Balder is perhaps best known in the name of the city of Baldur's Gate in Faerûn. However, the city is canonically named for its founder, the hero Balduran, as first mentioned in Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990).

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.142.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.27.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.171-173.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.178.
  5. According to Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), Balder's Perform skill is +105, and he automatically receives a roll of 20 on the check. By D&D 3e's epic rules, his performances are sufficient to turn enemies into friends, and turn even unfriendly observers into fanatic followers. He has the highest Perform skill of any deity in the book, with the runner-up being Aphrodite with +103.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.165.
  7. Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.171.
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