The goddess Hel and her kingdom: the Nordic myth of death

In Norse mythology, Hel is the goddess of death and resurrection. She reigns over her own kingdom located in Niflheim, the icy, dark world of the dead. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the nature of Hel's kingdom, her role in Norse mythology and the beliefs associated with death among the Norse.

According to Norse mythology, Hel is the daughter of the god Loki and the giantess Angrboda. She was born deformed and, as a result, was banished by the gods to the depths of Niflheim, where she ruled over the realm of the dead. Although considered an evil goddess, she is nevertheless respected and feared by the other Norse deities.

Hel is often depicted with pale skin and frizzy black hair, and she wears a veil covering the lower half of her face. She is also often accompanied by her two brothers: the wolf Fenrir and the snake Jörmungandr.

Hel's kingdom

Hel's kingdom is the place where the dead who have not been killed in battle go. The dead in Norse mythology are not judged on the basis of their deeds on Earth; rather, their fate depends on the type of death they have suffered. Those who die in battle are taken by the valkyries to Valhalla, where they feast with the gods. On the other hand, those who die of old age or disease are overcome by pain and darkness, and their souls are taken away by Hel and her henchmen.

Hel's kingdom lies beneath the roots of the world, where it is surrounded by a thick wall to keep the dead inside. The realm is made up of nine different worlds, each dedicated to a particular type of death.

Hel's influence on the fate of the dead

In Nordic culture, life after death is influenced by many beliefs. Rather than focusing on good or evil, Nordic measure a man's worth in terms of courage, honor and vigor. Those who fail to die in battle, as previously mentioned, are taken care of by Hel. And once inside her realm, there is little chance of escape. The dead are supposed to be good-natured beings, indifferent to their fate and separated from their bodies. Hel, who welcomes them without emotion, is seen as the one who, with her henchmen, decides their place in the kingdom.

Hel's dark nature

In art and literature, Hel has often been depicted as dark and evil, reflecting the Nordic idea of death as something frightening and dangerous. She is also seen as the mother of all evil creatures, as if her dark and deformed nature extended to the world of the living.

But a closer look reveals that Norse mythology is not really afraid of death, but rather of the way it is experienced. Fear comes from the idea of dying in pain, alone and in darkness. Death itself is not seen as evil or destructive ; it is simply the necessary end of a life cycle.


The figure of the goddess Hel is very important in Norse mythology, as she perfectly encapsulates the complexity of beliefs associated with death and life after it. In Scandinavian culture, death was seen as something natural and necessary, but it was also something frightening and dangerous, making the idea of life after death obscure and uncertain.

Ultimately, Norse mythology teaches us that death is not the end, but simply the beginning of a new journey. Hel is therefore more than a simple goddess of death; she is the guardian of the passage between worlds, the mistress of the dead, a respected and feared figure without whom life could not exist.