Váli is one of the lesser known gods, but he plays a vital role in the events of Baldr’s death, one of the most popular of the Norse myths. He is one of the Norse gods of vengeance, and he is attested in the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and the Gesta Danorum.
Váli is the son of Óðin and the jötunn goddess Rindr – who Óðin, dressed as a woman, had seduced and impregnated for the sole purpose of spawning a son to avenge Baldr’s death. He is described as unkempt and unwashed, and “he is daring in fights, and a most fortunate marksman.” He grows at a remarkable rate after his birth, achieving manhood in a mere night. He slays Höðr, Baldr’s brother (his own half-brother) and accidental slayer.
The reader (or listener when the myth was still oral tradition) knows, of course, that it is Loki who has framed Höðr, and is the real culprit behind the murder of Baldr, the most beloved of all the Æsir. In some versions of the story, Váli is also there at Loki’s binding. After the trickster is finally caught and brought to justice, it is Váli who slays one of Loki’s sons and ties Loki to the rocks with his own son’s entrails.
Váli is fated to survive Ragnarök, along with his brothers – Baldr, Höðr, and Viðarr.
Thoughts on Váli
The circumstances of Váli’s conception and birth are odd, but considering that he was to kill his own kin, one of the most horrific acts in ancient Norse culture, it’s not surprising that the story is a bit all over the place. We have to look to Saxo’s Gesta Danorum to piece it together, but essentially, after Baldr’s murder, Óðin consults seers in an attempt to find a way to avenge his son’s death. It is fated that the giantess Rindr is to bear Óðin a son, and that this son will be Baldr’s avenger. Rindr is tricked or seduced into sleeping with Óðin (or in some versions, raped while drugged) while he is dressed as a medicine woman.
Váli take a vengeance vow of abstinence, similar to his brother Viðarr’s. It is described in Vegtamskviða:
“Rindr will bear Váli in western halls:
he, Óðin’s son, will fight when one night old;
he’ll neither wash his hands nor comb his head
before he conveys Baldr’s shooter onto the funeral pyre.”
We get the sense also, that avenging Baldr does not cheer the gods in the slightest, nor is it a glorified duty for Váli. Not only is Baldr dead, but now so is Höðr and Nanna. In addition, Váli has now killed his own half-brother. The foretold beginning events of Ragnarök have now played out. It really is one of the great tragic stories.
Signs and Symbols
Vála, Ali, Bous