Why Did Loki Kill Balder?

One of the most tragic events in Norse mythology is the death of Balder, the most beloved of all the gods. Balder’s mother, Frigg, loved him so much that she did everything she could to make him immortal.

However, Loki found a way around that and killed him anyway, but why?

The surviving source material for the Norse myths never explicitly states why Loki killed Balder.

However, scholars and Norse mythology lovers have posited several reasons.

Some believe he did it simply because he loved chaos and trickery; others insist it was revenge for Odin taking his children.

These are only two of the possible reasons Loki had for killing Balder.

This article will explain them in more detail and provide readers with a few alternative suggestions for why Loki wanted Balder dead.

Also, see Are Loki and Thor Brothers in Norse Mythology? to learn more.

An artist’s depiction of Loki

Most Likely Reasons Why Loki Killed Balder

The following sections will examine Loki’s most likely motivations for killing Balder.

It Offended Loki That Balder Was Nearly Immortal

In terms of Jungian archetypes, tricksters are often chaotic and capricious. However, the duality of their nature also means they’re agents of order.

Their tricks and schemes are often wild and frenzied, but they reassert the natural order of things once the dust clears. [1]

With that in mind, it’s not impossible to think that Loki might have been offended by Frigg’s attempts to make Balder immortal. Unlike gods in other pantheons, the Norse gods aren’t immortal.

They live long, healthy lives, but eventually, they will die. 

Frigg tried to ensure that death never came for Balder, which upset the natural order of things. It also bothered Loki, who decided to set things right. 

This reason is the closest one to the source material, as the Gylfaginning says that “it pleased [Loki] ill that Baldr took no hurt.” [2]

Loki Loved Chaos, Trickery, and Pranks

Another possible reason for Loki’s ‘betrayal’ of the gods was that he loved chaos, trickery, and pulling pranks.

Killing Balder wasn’t the first time Loki did something that genuinely angered the gods in the name of causing mischief.

Throughout the tales, he also: 

  • Stole Idunn’s apples, which kept the gods young and healthy.
  • Cut off all of Sif’s hair.
  • Tricked the master builder into building a wall around Asgard and then double-crossed him.
  • Ruined the feast in Aegir’s hall. [3]

It’s possible this trick caused a bigger stir than he meant to make.

Also, see What Does Loki Look Like in Norse Mythology? to learn more.

Loki Killed Balder to Avenge the Mistreatment of His Children

No one would ever accuse Loki of being the World’s Greatest Dad. However, he was the father of three children with the giantess Angrboda. Their names were:

  • Fenrir (or Fenris)
  • Jormungandr
  • Hel [4]

The other gods feared Loki’s children, so Odin got rid of them. He gave Hel her own realm to rule, far away from Asgard and the land of the gods.

Then, he threw Jormungandr, the world serpent, into the ocean, barring him from ever returning. 

As for the giant wolf Fenrir, Odin commissioned a magical chain from the dwarves. The other gods used the chain to bind Fenrir and put him deep within the earth, so he could never escape. 

According to Norse mythology, all three of Loki’s children are still where Odin put them, and they won’t return until the events of Ragnarok.

Loki could have taken Odin’s favorite son as retribution. 

Norse mythology
How did Loki kill Balder? See below

Less Plausible Reasons Loki Killed Balder

Any online search about why Loki killed Balder will take readers to Reddit or Quora, where everyone has opinions on the matter.

Here are two reasons at least a few users have posited. However, they’re less likely to be true than the reasons above.

Loki Wanted to Trigger the Events of Ragnarok

Ragnarok, or the end of all things, happens in Norse mythology after the death of Balder. Some Norse mythology fans think that Loki killed Balder to set those events in motion.

However, it isn’t entirely clear whether all the gods know about the specific events of Ragnarok. 

Many people argue that all the gods know their fates at Ragnarok. However, the Eddas aren’t clear on this point. 

Odin sacrificed his eye for wisdom so he clearly knows what will happen. It’s also evident that the gods know Ragnarok will happen, but Odin was notorious for keeping his own counsel. 

It’s possible that he never told the other gods all the details of what he knew. 

If that is the case, then Loki probably didn’t know the death of Balder was what triggered the apocalyptic event, making this reason unlikely.

Loki Was Jealous of Balder

Some readers assume Loki killed Balder out of jealousy. Balder, sometimes called ‘Balder the bright’ or ‘Balder the beautiful,’ was a gorgeous god loved by all. Loki was less well-liked. 

Even so, Loki was a handsome god, as well. He even had a family and loved ones, after a fashion. Those things make it unlikely that he would go to such extremes simply because he was jealous.

Also, see Norse Gods and Greek Gods Compared to learn more.

What was Loki’s punishment for killing Balder? See below

How Did Loki Kill Balder?

Loki didn’t kill Balder himself; instead, he tricked Balder’s blind brother Hodr into killing him. He used his cunning and wits to discover that Frigg didn’t make Mistletoe promise not to harm Balder.

Then, he fashioned a spear (some say dart) from mistletoe and gave it to Hodr to throw at Balder.

In Asgard, the gods loved to play a game where they threw dangerous weapons at Balder.

No matter the weapon–knives, axes, lit torches, hammers, etc.–they all bounced harmlessly off of him because Frigg made every living and non-living thing promise it would never hurt him. 

The mistletoe was a small, inconsequential plant, though, and she didn’t feel she needed to ask it to give her its word.

When Loki found out, he used his knowledge by creating a weapon from mistletoe. He placed it in Hodr’s hand and helped him aim it at Balder. 

Encouraged to join in the fun, Hodr threw the mistletoe at Balder, not knowing it could hurt him. It struck true and killed Balder instantly. 

Loki then added insult to injury by being the one being on earth who didn’t weep for Balder, thus trapping him in Hel until the end of time.

What Was Loki’s Punishment for Killing Balder?

For killing Balder, Loki’s punishment was to watch his remaining two sons die. The gods then tied him in a cave using one of his son’s entrails and placed a venomous snake above his head.

The snake constantly dripped venom onto Loki’s head, and according to legend, he’ll remain there until Ragnarok.

Loki’s wife, Sigyn, tried to help him by holding a bowl above his head to catch the burning snake venom.

However, eventually, the bowl would become full, and she’d have to carry it to the river to empty it.

When she did, the venom would fall onto Loki’s head again, and he would scream and writhe in agony. [5]

Final Thoughts

It’s unclear why Loki killed Balder, though numerous possible reasons exist.

The most likely reasons are that Loki wanted to restore order, Loki loved chaos, and Loki wanted to avenge the mistreatment of his children. Despite this reason, it was always fated to happen to bring about Ragnarok.

Also, see 7 Norse Tattoos to Avoid to learn more.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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