In Norse mythology, "Hela's death realm" represents a corrupted form of "Hel," which originally named the actual world of the dead. However, "Hel," later became the name for the goddess of death. Hel herself was the daughter of Loki, the trickster god. Her kingdom was said to lie "downward and northward," in mythological texts. However, in Norse mythology, many worlds of the dead proliferate. "Hel" — that is, the land not the goddess — is, in some accounts, the last of the nine worlds of the dead, the whole of which comprises Niflheim or the World of Darkness. The nine worlds of Niflheim, situated below one of the roots of the world tree Yggdrasill, figures itself opposite to the heroic Valhalla, or the Hall of the Slain, ruled by Odin. Hel's realm, in contrast, is a cold, dark, and misty world where evil men came to after passing the region of death (which is also sometimes called "Hel"). Under her rule, these men suffer torments such as the ones found in the world Náströnd, the shore of corpses. There, a castle filled with venomous serpents stands, within which dishonorable men have their blood extracted from their bodies by the dragon Nidhogg.

Thus when Thomas Carlyle's "Hudson's Statue" (1851) condemns "Fitzsmithytrough," man of railways, as "doomed to Hela's death realm," he truly sends the man into eternal torment. However, Fitzsmithytrough's fate in Hel has different connotations than the rough Christian equivalent of "hell." Consignment to hell implies Fitz has failed in a set of Christian morals, has sinned in some way. Consignment to Hel means that Fitz was worse: dishonorable and cowardly.

Last modified 23 October 2002