Hel (or Hela)
In Teutonic mythology, the goddess of death, one of the offspring
of Loki and the giantess Angurbodi. The gods became
alarmed at her and the other monsters that were coming to life
in Jotunheim, so All-father advised that they be brought before
him. Hel was cast into Niflheim, the realm beneath the roots
of the world tree Yggdrasil, reserved for all those who die of
sickness or old age. According to the myth, Hel governs this
world, which is composed of nine regions into which she distributes
those who come to her and in which she inhabits a
strongly protected abode.
Niflheim is said to be ‘‘a dark abode far from the sun,’’ its
gates open to the ‘‘cutting north;’’ its walls ‘‘are formed of
wreathed snakes and their venom is ever falling like rain,’’ and
it is surrounded by dark and poisonous streams. ‘‘Nidhog, the
great dragon, who dwells beneath the central root of Yggdrasil,
torments and gnaws the dead.’’
It is said that one-half of Hel’s body is livid and the other
half flesh-colored. Hunger is her table, starvation her knife,
delay her man, slowness her maid, precipice her threshold,
care her bed, and burning anguish forms the hangings of her

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