probably my fave thing about norse mythology is that nobody in scandinavia knew what mistletoe was so you end up with descriptions of it everywhere from some kind of tree to straight up a fucking magic sword
like mistletoe irl is this dweeb-ass parasitic motherfucker not entirely unlike somebody kicked a soccer ball into a tree, but it didnt grow in iceland or denmark and only grew in a few places in norway or sweden, but word on the street 1300 years ago was that misteltān down in england was pretty fucking magical n next thing you know it’s getting calqued to mistelteinn, and –teinn is only really used in sword names so it’s gotta be pretty badass right?
in denmark it becomes, understandably, a magic sword, and in iceland an oddly sword- or spear-shaped tree: “stóð um vaxinn, | vollom hæri, / miór oc mioc fagr | mistelteinn”, per voluspá.
anyway there’s no moral here i just think the idea of throwing mistletoe at somebody and them just……dropping dead for some gd reason is fucking hilarious, so @snorri i hate you with a passion but thanks for this
i just realized neither of those sources are english nor in fact in living languages, sorry im like this. here’s gesta danorum iii in english, it describes höðr using a magic sword that allows him to strike down the demigod baldr. and the old norse reads “stood full-grown, | high above the plain, / slender and very beautiful | was the mistletoe”, which… in no way, shape, or form is an accurate description of mistletoe. höðr proceeds to throw the whole fucking plant at baldr’s head and that just….kills him…….apparently………
slkdfjghdsflkgj i always wondered !!! how tf you were supposed to kill someone with mistletoe!
i mean it’s not even a woody vine, it’s like spinach or something, it’s tree salad, how do you kill someone with tree salad? by reimagining it as a juniper tree apparently.
Linguistics is fucking awesome and I am a nerd.
this is HILEROUS and i extra funny because i listened to the entire tale of balders death several times, misteloe included, as i child and i too, never considered that killing someone with a misteloe is a bit strange.
in the balder tale, misteloe is the ONLY thing that can kill Balder, so so far the choice is understandble. but now, i never questioned how the death happened in a practical manner. i do have a vague memory of it being “a arrow of mistletoe”.
so not ONLY did Loki found some wood spinach on a tree, he made it into a arrow. like that take some skills, and commitment to plan of “killing balder”. let us all imagne Loki sitting with a flobby misletoe and trying to sharpen it into a arrow with a pocket knife. i guess he could have bound the mistletoe around a stick????
also as a side – note, mistletoe grows in sweden. alot actually. so the mystery with how this Thing could remain without anyone going “but actually no, we all know how a misteltoe looks like, and you can’t make a killer weapon out of that!” remains… (well snorri might ofcourse have been seperated from this plant being icelandic and all. but one would think some swedish translators at some point would have gone “WAIT A MINUTE”, therefore resulting in the version told in sweden not involving a mistletoe. but no such thing as happened. its still a mistletoe allright)
all that being said though, they do also make a unbreakble chain out off among things “the sound of a cat’s footfall” in norse mythology. using things that actually are useless as strong material, but them becoming strong material via MAGIC, its a returning theme, so perhaps there too we can find some explanation of The Mistletoe Thing.