According to the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda the goddess Frigg made everything in existence swear never to harm Baldr, except for the mistletoe which she found too young to demand an oath from. The gods amused themselves by trying weapons on Baldr and seeing them fail to do any harm. Loki, upon finding out about Baldr's one weakness, made a missile from mistletoe, and helped Höðr shoot it at Baldr. After this Odin and the giantess Rindr gave birth to Váli who grew to adulthood within a day and slew Höðr.
The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus recorded an alternative version of this myth in his Gesta Danorum. In this version the mortal hero Høtherus and the demi-god Balderus compete for the hand of Nanna. Ultimately Høtherus slays Balderus.
|Höðr heitir einn ássinn, hann er blindr. Œrit er hann styrkr, en vilja mundu goðin at þenna ás þyrfti eigi at nefna, þvíat hans handaverk munu lengi vera höfð at minnum með goðum ok mönnum. - Eysteinn Björnsson's edition||"One of the Æsir is named Hödr: he is blind. He is of sufficient strength, but the gods would desire that no occasion should rise of naming this god, for the work of his hands shall long be held in memory among gods and men." - Brodeur's translation|
Höðr is not mentioned again until the prelude to Baldr's death is described. All things except the mistletoe (believed to be harmless) have sworn an oath not to harm Baldr, so the Æsir throw missiles at him for sport.
En Loki tók mistiltein ok sleit upp ok gekk til þings. En Höðr stóð útarliga í mannhringinum, þvíat hann var blindr. Þá mælti Loki við hann: "Hví skýtr þú ekki at Baldri?" Hann svarar: "Þvíat ek sé eigi hvar Baldr er, ok þat annat at ek em vápnlauss." Þá mælti Loki: "Gerðu þó í líking annarra manna ok veit Baldri sœmð sem aðrir menn. Ek mun vísa þér til hvar hann stendr. Skjót at honum vendi þessum."|
Höðr tók mistiltein ok skaut at Baldri at tilvísun Loka. Flaug skotit í gögnum hann ok fell hann dauðr til jarðar. Ok hefir þat mest óhapp verit unnit með goðum ok mönnum. - Eysteinn Björnsson's edition
"Loki took the mistletoe and pulled it up and went to the Thing. Hödr stood outside the ring of men, because he was blind. Then spake Loki to him: 'Why dost thou not shoot at Baldr?' He answered: 'Because I see not where Baldr is; and for this also, that I am weaponless.' Then said Loki: 'Do thou also after the manner of other men, and show Baldr honor as the other men do. I will direct thee where he stands; shoot at him with this wand.'|
Hödr took mistletoe and shot at Baldr, being guided by Loki: the shaft flew through Baldr, and he fell dead to the earth; and that was the greatest mischance that has ever befallen among gods and men." - Brodeur's translation
The Gylfaginning does not say what happens to Höðr after this. In fact it specifically states that Baldr cannot be avenged, at least not immediately.
|Þá er Baldr var fallinn, þá fellusk öllum ásum orðtök ok svá hendr at taka til hans, ok sá hverr til annars ok váru allir með einum hug til þess er unnit hafði verkit. En engi mátti hefna, þar var svá mikill griðastaðr. - Eysteinn Björnsson's edition||"Then, when Baldr was fallen, words failed all the Æsir, and their hands likewise to lay hold of him; each looked at the other, and all were of one mind as to him who had wrought the work, but none might take vengeance, so great a sanctuary was in that place." - Brodeur's translation|
|Því næst koma þar Baldr ok Höðr frá Heljar, setjask þá allir samt ok talask við ok minnask á rúnar sínar ok rœða of tíðindi þau er fyrrum höfðu verit, of Miðgarðsorm ok um Fenrisúlf. - Eysteinn Björnsson's edition||"After that Baldr shall come thither, and Hödr, from Hel; then all shall sit down together and hold speech with one another, and call to mind their secret wisdom, and speak of those happenings which have been before: of the Midgard Serpent and of Fenris-Wolf." - Brodeur's translation|
Snorri's source of this knowledge is clearly Völuspá as quoted below.
|Hvernig skal kenna Höð? Svá, at kalla hann blinda ás, Baldrs bana, skjótanda Mistilteins, son Óðins, Heljar sinna, Vála dólg. - Guðni Jónsson's edition||"How should one periphrase Hödr? Thus: by calling him the Blind God, Baldr's Slayer, Thrower of the Mistletoe, Son of Odin, Companion of Hel, Foe of Váli." - Brodeur's translation|
|Hvernig skal kenna Vála? Svá, at kalla hann son Óðins ok Rindar, stjúpson Friggjar, bróður ásanna, hefniás Baldrs, dólg Haðar ok bana hans, byggvanda föðurtófta. - Guðni Jónsson's edition||"How should Váli be periphrased? Thus: by calling him Son of Odin and Rindr, Stepson of Frigg, Brother of the Æsir, Baldr's Avenger, Foe and Slayer of Hödr, Dweller in the Homesteads of the Fathers." - Brodeur's translation|
It is clear from this that Snorri was familiar with the role of Váli as Höðr's slayer, even though he does not relate that myth in the Gylfaginning prose. Scholars have speculated that he found it distasteful since Höðr is essentially innocent in his version of the story.
This account seems to fit well with the information in the Prose Edda, but here the role of Baldr's avenging brother is emphasized.
Baldr and Höðr are also mentioned in Völuspá's description of the world after Ragnarök.
The myth of Baldr's death is also referred to in another Eddic poem, Baldrs draumar.
Höðr is not mentioned again by name in the Eddas. He is, however, referred to in Völuspá in skamma.
The name of Höðr occurs several times in skaldic poetry as a part of warrior-kennings. Thus Höðr brynju, "Höðr of byrnie", is a warrior and so is Höðr víga, "Höðr of battle". Some scholars have found the fact that the poets should want to compare warriors with Höðr to be incongruous with Snorri's description of him as a blind god, unable to harm anyone without assistance. It is possible that this indicates that some of the poets were familiar with other myths about Höðr than the one related in Gylfaginning - perhaps some where Höðr has a more active role. On the other hand the names of many gods occur in kennings and the poets might not have been particular in using any god name as a part of a kenning.
In Gesta Danorum Høtherus is a human hero of the Danish and Swedish royal lines. He is gifted in swimming, archery, fighting and music and Nanna, daughter of King Gevarus falls in love with him. But at the same time Balderus, son of Othinus, has caught sight of Nanna bathing and fallen violently in love with her. He resolves to slay Høtherus, his rival.
As Høtherus is hunting he is led astray by a mist and meets wood-maidens who control the fortunes of war. They warn him that Balderus has designs on Nanna but also tell him that he shouldn't attack him in battle since he is a demigod. Høtherus goes to consult with King Gevarus and asks him for his daughter. The king replies that he would gladly favour him but that Balderus has already offered a like request and he does not want to incur his wrath.
Gevarus tells Høtherus that Balderus is invincible but that he knows of one weapon which can defeat him, a sword kept by Mimingus, the satyr of the woods. Mimingus also has another magical artifact, a bracelet that increases the wealth of its owner. Riding through a region of extraordinary cold in a carriage drawn by reindeer Høtherus captures the satyr with a clever ruse and forces him to yield his artifacts.
Hearing about Høtherus's artifacts, Gelderus, king of Saxony, equips a fleet to attack him. Gevarus warns Høtherus of this and tells him where to meet Gelderus in battle. When the battle is joined, Høtherus and his men save their missiles while defending themselves against those of the enemy with a testudo formation. With his missiles exhausted, Gelderus is forced to sue for peace. He is treated mercifully by Høtherus and becomes his ally. Høtherus then gains another ally with his eloquent oratory by helping King Helgo of Hålogaland win a bride.
Meanwhile Balderus enters the country of king Gevarus armed and sues for Nanna. Gevarus tells him to learn Nanna's own mind. Balderus addresses her with cajoling words but obtains a refusal. Nanna tells him that because of the great difference in their nature and stature, since he is a demigod, they are not suitable for marriage.
As news of Balderus's efforts reaches Høtherus he and his allies resolve to attack Balderus. A great naval battle ensues where the gods fight on the side of Balderus. Thoro in particular shatters all opposition with his mighty club. As the battle seems lost Høtherus manages to hew Thoro's club off at the haft and the gods are forced to retreat. Gelderus perishes in the battle and Høtherus arranges a funeral pyre of vessels for him. After this battle Høtherus finally marries Nanna.
Balderus is not completely defeated and shortly afterwards returns to defeat Høtherus in the field. But Balderus's victory is without fruit for he is still without Nanna. Lovesick he is harassed by phantoms in Nanna's likeness and his health deteriorates so that he cannot walk but has himself drawn around in a cart.
After a while Høtherus and Balderus have their third battle and again Høtherus is forced to retreat. Weary of life because of his misfortunes against Balderus he plans to retire and wanders into the wilderness. In a cave he comes upon the same maidens he had met at the start of his career. Now they tell him that he can defeat Balderus if he gets a taste of some extraordinary food which had been devised to increase the strength of Balderus.
Encouraged by this Høtherus returns from exile and once again meets Balderus in the field. After a day of inconclusive fighting Høtherus goes out during the night to spy on the enemy. He finds where Balderus's magical food is prepared and plays the lyre for the maidens preparing it. While they don't want to give him the food they bestow on him a belt and a girdle which secure victory.
Heading back to his camp, Høtherus meets Balderus and plunges his sword into his side. After three days Balderus dies from his wound. Many years later, Bous, the son of Othinus and Rinda avenges his brother and kills Høtherus in a duel.
It relates that Hother was the king of the Saxons and son of Hothbrod and the daughter of Hadding. Hother first slew Othen's (i.e. Odin) son Balder in battle and then chased Othen and Thor. Finally, Othen's son Both killed Hother. Hother, Balder, Othen and Thor were incorrectly considered to be gods.