Thor is one of the most recognisable Marvel characters, but the Asgardian pantheon contains some of the most diverse characters in the Marvel Universe. Balder, the God of Light, is an Asgardian who deserves more mainstream attention. One of Asgard’s most powerful warriors, Balder has helped Thor deal with a variety of threats against their home and his backstory is worth exploring in greater detail.
The comic interpretation of Balder shares many similarities with the myth he is based on. Like the mythological version, Balder is the catalyst for Ragnarok and he has a weakness to mistletoe. Loki manipulated events so that Balder was killed by a mistletoe arrow from the blind god Hoder. However, Odin brought him back to life to avert Ragnarok from happening.
Baldur was slain a second time during a battle with the Celestials, and he was resurrected by Thor. The incident traumatised Balder and he sunk into depression, vowing never to kill again. The root of Balder’s depression came from his time trapped in Hel. In order to escape, Balder was forced by Hela to kill tens of thousands of souls that he’d faced in battle before. The experience was so traumatising that it turned his hair white.
Balder’s depression is a rare example of a god-like figure being depicted with a mental health disorder. Although Avengers: Endgame touched on depression with Thor and weight gain, I felt it was portrayed in a comedic way.
In contrast, Balder’s depression had a more realistic portrayal, with it affecting him on multiple levels. Balder’s friend, Volstagg, did everything he could to cheer him up, but it didn’t improve his mental health. Sometimes, the feeling of hopelessness that depression causes can seem impossible to overcome.
Balder came out of depression through his love-hate relationship with Karnilla, Queen of the Norns. The two of them had been at odds for centuries, due to Karnilla inadvertently causing the death of his love, Nanna. Feeling Balder’s light had been extinguished, Karnilla set out to help him overcome his depression. Rediscovering the warrior inside of himself, Balder went on to save Karnilla’s people from a rogue giant.
King of Asgard
Balder eventually became the King of Asgard after he was forced to exile Thor for killing their grandfather, Bor. This came about through Loki’s machinations. Although he felt regret over exiling his brother, Balder developed into a strong king, leading the Asgardians through a period of crisis when they were forced to relocate to Oklahoma.
During the Siege storyline, Balder defended Asgard against the invading Norman Osborn. After the failed siege, he considered stepping down from the throne because he believed his rule to have caused nothing but death. Thor convinced him to remain king and the two of them reconciled.
Balder’s struggle with his mental health makes him an extremely relatable character. It strips away his identity as a god and brings him down to a human level. His dedication to duty and his courage in the face of overwhelming circumstances has truly earned him the name Balder The Brave.