Noiselessly they carried the body tenderly to the seashore and laid it upon the deck of the majestic ship, Ringhorn, which had been his. Then they stood waiting to see who would come to the funeral. Odin came, and on his shoulders sat his two ravens, whose croaking drew clouds down over the Asa’s face, for Thought and Memory sang the same sad song that day. Frigga came,—Frey, Gerda, Freyja, Thor, Hoenir, Bragi, and Idun. Heimdall came sweeping over the tops of the mountains on Golden Mane, his swift, bright steed. AEgir the Old groaned from under the deep, and sent his daughters up to mourn around the dead. Frost-giants and mountain-giants came crowding round the rimy shores of Joetunheim to look across the sea upon the funeral of an Asa. Nanna came, Baldur’s fair young wife; but when she saw the dead body of her husband, her own heart broke with grief, and the gods laid her beside him on the stately ship. After this Odin stepped forward and placed a ring on the breast of his son, whispering something at the same time in his ear; but when he and the rest of the gods tried to push Ringhorn into the sea before setting fire to it, they found their hearts too heavy to do it. So they beckoned to the giantess Hyrrokin to come over from Joetunheim and help them. She, with a single push, set the ship floating, and then, whilst Thor stood up holding his hammer high in the air, Odin lighted the funeral pile of Baldur and of Nanna.
So Ringhorn went floating towards the deep sea and the funeral fire burnt on. Its broad red flame burst forth heavenward, but when the smoke would have gone upward too, the winds came sobbing and carried it away.
When at last the ship Ringhorn had floated out so far to sea that it looked like a dull red lamp on the horizon, Frigga turned round and said, “Will any one of you, my children, perform a noble action and win my love forever?”
“I will,” cried Hermod, before any one else had time to open his lips.
“Go, then, Hermod,” answered Frigga, “saddle Sleipnir with all speed and ride down to Helheim; there seek out Hela, the stern mistress of the dead, and entreat her to send our beloved back to us again.”
Hermod was gone in the twinkling of an eye, not in at the mouth of the earth and through the steep cavern down which Odin went to the dead prophetess’s grave; he chose another way, though not a better one; for, go to Helheim as you will, the best is but a downward road, and so Hermod found it—downward, slanting, slippery, dark, and very cold. At last he came to the Giallar Bru—that sounding river which flows between the living and the dead, and to the bridge over it which is paved with stones of glittering gold. Hermod was surprised to see gold in such a place; but as he rode over the bridge, and looked down carefully at the stones, he saw that they were only tears which had been shed round the beds of the dying—only tears, and yet they made the way seem brighter. But when Hermod reached the other end of the bridge, he found the courageous woman who, for ages and ages, had been sitting there to watch the dead go by, and she stopped him saying: