Hela had no memory of her mother and had never met her father. Even her adopted auntie, who was brutally slashed nearly in two trying to protect her had not been saved to her childhood memories. She was only a couple days old at the time so this really wasn’t that unusual, just unfortunate that those who truly loved her unconditionally had left no trace in her life.
Her first memory was of the dead, as were most of her true memories. Several women who had died and left young children behind were her caretakers one after the other. They doted on her and gave her what love they could spare- directing the bulk of that to their living children in the different realms of the living.
They rocked her and told her stories. But they were cold and offered her little comfort. Often they would just cry over her as they missed their own offspring, especially the mothers of baby girls. These women would dress her like a dolly and put ribbons in her black and white hair. This was normal life for Hela, droplets of attention and oceans of sorrow.
As she grew older she played with groups of children. First toddlers, then groups of older kids. They were dead and she would grow and they would stay the same. She passed from age group to age group like grades in school, once graduating never looking back. She never truly had a friend as she outgrew every one of them, the dead do not grow up.
But this was her normal. It was all she had ever known and she had nothing to compare it to so she was content.
“It’s not right to leave that child all alone to be raised by the dead” Frigga said. “She needs live companionship and teachers in order to grow up healthy. She is not dead, she is a real child and very much alive”
Odin shook his head. “She is one of the monsters that Loki spawned with that Frost Giant hag. She needs to be kept away from the living. She is half death itself. There is no other place for her.
Frigga thought of the infant she only saw once. Split down the middle she was a beautiful dark haired child on one half of her body and on the other side she was a rotting corpse. “Will you at least visit her my husband? If you are going to forbid me to comfort her? I fear what the solitude with only the dead for company will do to a young girl”
Odin conceded and promised his wife that he would visit the child himself.
There was one special visitor who would show up randomly. Grandfather. The first time she remembered meeting him he came riding an eight legged horse who had a magical gate. She remembers petting the horse and that Sleipnir’s eyes seemed to speak to her comfortingly. She remembered going for a ride sitting in front of Grandfather who held her tightly to keep her from falling off the giant horse.
Later Grandfather would visit and bring her trinkets and toys. He would tell her stories about the living, about her uncle and her grandmother. She wondered why they never visited. He told her that she was the Goddess of Death and she had a special place on the great tree Yggdrasil. When she grew up she would rule over all who died, which is essentially every creature who ever lived.
She fantasized what it would be like to rule over the dead. She imagined herself grown up and dressed in a beautiful gown and sitting on a magnificent throne. Her black and white hair beautifully coiffed with a crown nestled into it. She would be a benevolent goddess and rule them fairly. They would all adore her.
She loved Grandfather’s visits and she loved Sleipnir. She loved to ride with grandfather, but as she grew into an adolescent it became difficult.
Grandfather Odin had an idea that would solve another problem and give Hela a companion.
He approached the giant wolf, Fenrir, who was actually Hela’s brother by blood. The wolf had been tricked by the einherjar and bound and left on an island with a sword through his mouth to stop him from howling his rage at the sky.
Fenrir had been old enough when their mother and friends were killed to know that Hela was his baby sister. Odin knew he would never harm her. In fact, Fenrir and his older brother the serpent Jormangandr had sworn to protect her.
He removed the sword from Fenrir mouth.
“Fenrir, I come to take you to your sister, Hela” said the Allfather.
“So you finally come to kill me, old man? To what do I owe this mercy?” Scoffed the wolf.
“You will not die, you will accompany her in the realm of the dead as a living companion.”
“And what if I tell her all that you have done, old man? What would you do if she knew what you did to our mother?” Fenrir would not give him the title of grandfather nor would he acknowledge his position of Allfather. Fenrir had nothing but hatred for the man who had his mother burned to death, kept his father from him and allowed him to be bound with unbreakable bindings.
“In that case I will enchant you so that you will never speak again,” said Odin with a wave of his hand.
Fenrir barked and growled but no words were formed. He howled in rage and glared at Odin, wishing he could just devour him and be done with it.
“When you calm down I will take you to Hela”
One day grandfather and Sleipnir brought someone new and alive into her world. A beautiful giant black wolf. Grandfather said his name was Fenrir.
His face was at the level of her face and she raised up a hand for him to sniff. He sniffed her and an enormous pink tongue came out to lick her hand and arm. It was warm and ticklish, she giggled at the sensation.
She threw her arms around the wolf’s furry neck and exclaimed “oh grandfather!! I love him!! Thank you for bringing him!”
Fenrir sat down and slowly thumped his tail on the ground. He was pleased to see his baby sister again after so long. He hated Odin even more realizing that he had missed seeing her grow up. Most of all he was furious that he couldn’t tell her what the old man had done to their family. It made him sick that she had such a good relationship with the old man and had no idea that he, Fenrir, was actually her older brother who had been taken from her.
Hela scratched him behind the ears and patted his head. He had to admit that this was a huge improvement to being bound to a rock with a sword holding his mouth shut.
Years went by and Hela and Fenrir grew. He was so big she could actually ride him like a horse! When Grandfather and Sleipnir came to visit they would ride beside the Allfather and the eight legged warhorse.
As Hela grew to be a young woman the voices started manifesting. They told her that she was really a great warrior princess, brutal and unflinching. At first she brushed them off. She couldn’t see who was speaking to her and Fenrir never seemed to notice them.
But they were relentless and told her stories of her and Grandfather conquering many realms. They told her of the rivers of blood the two of them created and urged her to continue down that path. She would shush them but they did not obey.
The next time Grandfather came she told him about the voices and the stories. “Hela, I’m sorry my dear, these things never happened” Grandfather would tell her. “Those are terrible things and we would never do that”.
Hela loved her grandfather and decided that the voices must be lying to her.
After Grandfather left the voices started talking again. This time more insistently. They were telling her how to invade Vanaheim. She got out a notebook and started writing down everything that they told her. She didn’t want to forget a single detail.
Fenrir was worried. He whined at her and she would scratch his ears and pet him. He wished he was able to talk to her, but he was afraid it would make no difference. He loved her regardless and he would stand with her and protect her no matter what.
Hela kept filling notebooks with the strategies that the voices gave her. She would go back to earlier notebooks and study them just to be thorough. Her life was now about these detailed conquest plans. She couldn’t wait to show Grandfather! He would be so happy and proud of her!
She decided that she needed a distinctive helm to help to strike terror into their enemies. The voices agreed and they designed one for her.
She drew it out on paper as they dictated it to her. Jagged angular antlers that spanned wider than her shoulders with smaller versions one the top. They wove together in a violent pattern. When the voices were happy that she had drawn it correctly they told her to conjure it.
She was confused, she had no training in seider and no idea how to do this. The voices were firm though, they insisted that she could do it so she focused on making it appear on her head. She brought her hands up to her head as though pulling up a hood and to her amazement and delight the jagged headdress appeared on her head.
She admired her reflection in the mirror. She was truly terrifying. She WAS Death and it was death that she would spread to the nine realms and beyond.
When Odin and Sleipnir came to visit next they were shocked at what they found.
Hela greeted them wearing black and green leather and a huge horned headdress. The resemblance to her father was uncanny. Even her walk was a feminine version of his strut. Fenrir followed at her heels, huge and menacing.
She beckoned the Allfather inside and he was amazed at the stacks of notebooks, maps and copious writing on the walls.
Fenrir sat beside him, his head at least a foot over Odin’s. Fenrir looked down at his hated grandfather and whined, hoping the old man would understand that he was afraid for his sister.
Hela sat down at a table full of notebooks and grabbed a worn and crumpled notebook. “Here Grandfather, I have written out our strategy for conquering Vanaheim! Get the einherjar ready! We shall strike tomorrow!”
The Allfather hesitantly accepted the notebook and opened the first page. It was gibberish, no recognizable words were formed. Only random groups of runes pressed hard into the paper in groups that said nothing.
He turned a page and saw a drawing of mjolnir covered in blood and surrounded by broken bodies.
“My war hammer, Grandfather, did you bring it this time?” She smiled hopefully.
Odin looked up at her and saw her nod at the empty space beside her. She mumbled something in that direction and then turned to face Odin.
“We will strike terror into all that live! All of Yggdrasil will bow before us or die!!”
“Hela, my child where is this coming from? A good ruler never seeks out war.
“Grandfather! We will rule the cosmos, Yggdrasil...” she stopped in the middle of a thought and looked at the space she had been mumbling to earlier. Then she turned back to Odin “Yggdrasil is only the start of our journey. We will paint a trail of blood wherever we go!”
“Child, stop this madness” Odin requested gently. “We are not going to do this”
Hela stared at him in confusion, then looked to the side and seemed to be concentrating on something. She grimaced and nodded her head to the unseen and unheard person at her side.
“Grandfather”, she said firmly, “what is the matter? We have unleashed rivers of blood together, millions have fallen at our feet. Why do you hesitate now that I give you plans and strategies, do you fear that I will prematurely take your place?”
“Hela, these things didn’t happen” said the Allfather sadly. “Our job is to protect the nine realms, not destroy them”
“Then I will continue alone. I will start with Asgard”
“No Hela, you won’t”
She stood up and glared at the old man. Fenrir whined and barked desperately. He hated being put in a position where he had to side with Odin.
Odin stood up “Hela, I hereby bind you to Helheim. So long as I live you shall not leave your realm. Nothing you do will affect any of the other realms and you will not communicate outside of Helheim.”
She screamed in rage and began throwing anything in her reach at the old man. “You weak old fool!” She shrieked “You will regret this day, you will bow before Death”.
Fenrir howled in horror and laid down. He couldn’t harm his sister and he knew the old man was right. He whined softly, not knowing what to do.
Odin walked to the door. He turned around to look at Hela one last time only to see a heavy chair flying towards him. He blocked it with his seider and left, mounted Sleipnir and never returned or spoke of Hela until the end of his life.