Named after the goddess Hel, who is its guardian, the northern underworld, the Hel, Helheim or Nibelheim, is an underground place like most other realms of the dead in mythology. The name for hell will be taken again in English to give hell and in German with hölle close to the word hole meaning hole. At the time, the church will name Hel under the term Inferi in pagan countries and Infernum in Latin countries.
A gloomy, sinister and cold place, all the deceased, be they men, Aesir, Dises, Vanes, giants or other races of Yggdrasil wander in the Hel after their death, whether they were good or bad while they were alive. Reaching it is a long journey most often done by boat, so far away and dangerous is it. In some versions, sent to sea on a ship, the deceased is recovered by the goddess Hel who takes him to her kingdom. Only the einjerhars, warriors selected by the Valkyries to fight in Ragnarök, do not go, but stay in Valhalla in Asgard.
There are few precise descriptions of this kingdom, but it is much more dangerous than the Celts' kingdom and does not have to envy the Greeks'. If we know mostly generalities about it and the atmosphere that reigns there, we know only a few details through the account of the adventures of Hadingus (or Hermod) including the fact that to reach it, one must cross a river and a bridge, then descend nine floors (which would be related to the nickname of Hel, goddess of the nine worlds).
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