Hel (also known as Hela), also referred to as the "Two-Faced Terror", is an ancient goddess of the dead within the Norse mythology who presides over the realm of the same name which serves a basis for the Christian concept of Hell, where she recieves a portion of the dead. She is quite usually described as a horrible hag, half dead and half alive, with a gloomy and grim expression. Her face and body are those of a living woman, but her thighs and legs are of a corpse, mottled and moldering.
Role in Myths
Hel is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In addition, she is mentioned in poems recorded in Heimskringla and Egils saga that date from the 9th and 10th century respectively. An episode in the Latin work Gesta Danorum, written in the 12th century by Saxo Grammaticus, is generally considered to refer to Hel, and Hel may appear on various Migration Period bracteates.
In the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, and Heimskringla, Hel is referred to as a daughter of both the divine trickster Loki and the immortal giantess Angrboda (his first wife), and to "go to Hel" is to die. In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm of the same name, located in Niflheim. In the same source, her appearance is described as half-black and half-flesh coloured and as further having a gloomy, down-cast appearance. The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions, her servants in her underworld realm, and as playing a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.
Scholarly theories have been proposed about Hel's potential connections to figures appearing in the 11th century Old English Gospel of Nicodemus and Old Norse Bartholomeus saga postola, potential Indo-European parallels to other deities that reigns over the dead such as Bhavani, Kali, and Mahakali, and her origins.
Hel is arguably the least malevolent of three siblings, simply cold and detached rather than evil like her portrayals in popular culture. Despite having animosity towards the Gods of Asgard for casting her into Helheim at which she allowed to have dominion over, she wholeheartedly accepted her role as the Goddess of Death. She also holds similar resentments towards her father for being born as half-undead Jötunn, but nevertheless aiding him in his fateful war against the Gods during the Ragnarök by giving him command over the legion of dishonorable dead who join his cause, proving that she poses a threat against the Gods as much as both Jörmungandr and Fenrir would.