HELA

Real Name: Hela

Occupation: Ruler of Hel and Niffleheim, goddess of the dead

Legal Status: Exiled citizen of Asgard

Identity: The general populace of Earth is not aware of the existence of Hela except as a mythological character.

Other Aliases: Hel, Hella, Hellia, Hellawisi, Hellawite, Hellviti, Hellvete, Hellevede (alternate spellings of name),

Place of Birth: Jotunheim

Marital Status: Single

Known Relatives: Loki (father), Angrboda (mother, possibly deceased), Fenrir, Jormungard (brothers), Gymir (step-father), Beli (half-brother), Gerda (half-sister), Frey (brother-in-law), Farbaut (grandfather, alias Laufey, deceased), Laufey (grandmother, alias Faubauti, deceased), Utgard-Loki (possibly great grandfather, alias Skymir),   

Group Affiliation: The Gods of Asgard, member of an unnamed cabal of gods of the dead, ally of Loki

Base of Operations: Niffleheim

First Appearance: Journey into Mystery #102

History: Hela was born ages ago to parents whose names have not been revealed. According to Norse myth, Hela was born in Jotunheim, the other dimensional land of the giants, one of the "Nine Worlds" of Norse mythology, to the Asgardian god of mischief, Loki and the sorceress-giantess, Angrboda but this might be the Loki of a previous incarnation of Asgard. It is known that the Asgardians have been trapped in repeating cycles of Ragnarok, and that Hela has survived at least one Ragnarok that had occurred and other successive versions of it. The three Asgardian goddesses of fate, the Norns, are said to have warned the Asgardian gods that Hela would prove to be a great danger to them.

It is known that Odin, ruler of the Asgardian gods, decreed that Hela become goddess and ruler of the spirits of the Asgardian dead on the day of her maturity. These spirits dwell in the other dimensional realms of Hel and Niffleheim, two more of the Nine Worlds, both of which Hela rules. However, Odin himself directly rules the souls of Asgardians end their human worshippers who died in battle as heroes, and had the palace of Valhalla built in a distant section of Asgard, also known as Valhalla, to house them. Hela has sought for ages to bring more Asgardian souls under her control, and especially longs to possess the souls of Odin and his son Thor. In recent years, when Odin's attention had strayed from the rule of Valhalla, Hela tried to annex that realm to her own, hoping to consolidate her power over all of Asgard's dead.

Eventually Odin grew aware of her ambitions and opposed them. Hela finally withdrew to her own realms, and Odin reestablished his control over Valhalla. Asgard continues to rule Valhalla to this gigantic ship, Naflgar, said to be made of the fingernails of the dead. Hela planned that when Naflgar was finished, she would send an army of the dead to Asgard in it to destroy the gods. However, the Executioner destroyed Naflgar as it neared completion.

It is said that should the forces of evil in the Nine Worlds ever succeed in destroying Asgard, Hela and her army of the dead will be at their side. Indeed, after Thor replaced the fallen Odin as Ruler of the gods of Asgard, Hela followed Loki into conquering Asgard and Valhalla. Thor meanwhile realized the recurring cycles of Ragnarok were initiated by the mysterious They Who Sit Above In Shadow and ended the cycles as Asgard fell to Hela.

Hela and the Asgardians were eventually restored to life shortly after Thor returned to Earth. Living in Las Vegas, Nevada, she was a cursory ally of Loki as a part of Norman Osborn's plans for political power and was later contacted by Cull the Serpent in his plan to conquer Earth, but Loki manipulated these events in order to break their alliance. 

Hela remains the goddess of death in Asgard and its realms. Although a cold distant goddess with no interest in mortals, she stands ready to stand by the forces of darkness should the forces of Ragnarok rise again.

Height: 7’ 0”
Weight: 500 lbs.
Eyes: Green
Hair: Grey (Black in her youth - almost wholly on her right side)

Unusual Physical Features: The right side of Hela's body is fully alive, with the appearance of a normal woman, but the left side of her body is dead and decayed. Certain illusory forms can render her entirely normal in appearance only.

Strength Level: Hela possesses Class 100 strength, enabling her to lift (press) over 100 tons under optimal conditions.

Known Superhuman Powers: Hela possesses the conventional attributes of an Asgardian goddess, although in fact her parents were both members of the race of giants of Jotunheim, as well as certain special abilities that pertain to her role as a death goddess. Like all Asgardians, she is extremely long-lived but she is not immortal like the Olympians, at least as long as she wears her cloak. She is immune to all diseases and resistant to conventional injury. Her Asgardian metabolism gives her far greater than human endurance at all physical activities. (Asgardian flesh and bone is about three times as dense as similar human tissue, contributing to all Asgardians' superhuman strength and weight.)

As a goddess of death, Hela holds the power of life and death over the gods of Asgard. Death for an Asgardian is somewhat different from death for an Earth human being. In both cases, the corporeal body ceases all functions and activities, but whereas mortal spirits abandon the physical form at the moment of death, the spirits of gods remain in their bodies until the death goddess draws them out and dispatches them to her final destinies. These astral bodies or “spirits” remain integral for eternity and reside, apparently forever, in the other dimensional realms of Hel and Niffleheim, where they take on a quasi-physical existence. The souls of those who die heroically in battle remain within their bodies and are accompanied by Odin's Valkyries into Valhalla, where the deceased heroes lead a new physical existence. These "dead" heroes are known as the Einherjar. Hela too accompanies these heroes on their journey to Valhalla, but she has no right to govern them. Although Hela is usually content to wait until an Asgardian is on the verge of succumbing to fatal wounds before she touches him or her and draws the spirit from his or her body, she can also kill perfectly healthy Asgardians with her touch if she so chooses. Although Hela's touch of death is effective even when she touches someone with her gloved hand, she must contact that person's bare skin for him or her to die. However, Hela can also project mystic bolts that will cause their target to age or die, even if they strike a portion of the target's body that is covered by clothing.

Hela also has the power to restore life to recently deceased gods as long as their spirits have not left the sheaths of their bodies. She does not exercise this power often. While Hela's touch is also fatal to mortals, she does not generally come to Earth or have much traffic with human lives. The souls of immortals are her province, not those of human mortals.

Hela can generate great mystical power within her hand, enabling it to strike a powerful blow that can rend even the strongest Asgardian flesh. She calls this power that of her "hand of glory."

Hela can levitate herself with ease. She has great power to cast illusions, and thus can disguise herself and even the true appearance of as much of her realm as an observer in one area can see. Presumably Hela has other, unrecorded powers as well, which enable her to maintain her control over the vast numbers of the dead in her two realms. The dead warriors in her realm are virtually mindless when acting on her behalf, and are governed solely by her mental control.

Hela is able to travel about in her astral form, possessing the same powers of death as her physical form has. Because of her Asgardian metabolism, she does not have any limitation on the amount of time she can spend out of her physical form, unlike human astral projectionists.

Limitations: When wearing the garment that serves as her cloak, cowl, and headdress, Hela's body is fully alive and healthy. However, deprived of her cloak, Hela reverts to her true form. The right side of her body is fully alive, but the left side is dead and decayed. Legend has it that Hela was born in this condition. It has been theorized that without her cloak, Hela would be unable to leave cloak, Hela's life force is insufficient to maintain her usual physical strength. Indeed, she is unable to stand or levitate herself, or to project mystical bolts, and can barely crawl. Donning her cloak once more will restore Hela to full vitality; even simply touching it would again enable her to stand.

Base of Operations: Hela rules Hel (Helheim in some myths) and Niffleheim, two of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology. The two realms lie on the same dimensional plane, which is different from that of either Earth or Asgard. Mystical conditions are such in both Hel and Niffleheim that the spirits of the dead become tangible there, and live a quasi-physical existence.

Niffleheim, the land of eternal ice, and Muspelheim, land of flame, are the oldest of the Nine Worlds. Ymir, eldest of the Frost Giants, and the rest of his race lived in Niffleheim until ages ago, their race was virtually wiped out by the young Odin end his brothers Vili and Ve. The surviving Frost Giants moved to Jotunheim, and Odin eventually put Hela in command of Niffleheim. It is in Niffleheim that the souls of the dishonored dead, the greatest evildoers among the deceased, dwell.

The spirits of the dead who were neither great evil-doers nor heroic warriors dwell in Hel, a grim, dark, barren realm. There, Hela lives in her great hall, Eljudnir. There is a cavern in Asgard called Gnipa Cave, which serves as the entrance to the underground road from Asgard to Hel, known as the Helway. This road is a passageway through an inter-dimensional nexus connecting the two realms. Gnipa Cave's entrance is guarded by the immense Hellhound named Garm, who is held to his post by mighty chains. Garm, who is capable of speech, allows the living to enter the Helway, but will attempt to prevent anyone from leaving Hel by this route except his mistress, Hela.

It takes nine days and nights riding by horseback, with stops for rest, to travel from the opening of Gnipe Cave to the bridge Gjallerbru over the river Gjoll, which serves as the entrance to Hel. (By unknown mystical means, Hela can greatly compress the amount of time it takes to travel this distance.) The bridge is guarded by the goddess Modgud, who, like Garm, will allow individuals to enter Hel but will attempt to prevent anyone except Hela from leaving. 

Although Loki, for example, has traveled into and out of Hel with Hela's permission, there are only two known instances of living beings leaving Hel against Hela's wishes. The spirit of the Asgardian god Balder, whose body still lay in a mystical coma in Asgard, not truly dead, single-handedly fought his way out of Hel and rejoined his body. More recently, Thor, Balder, and the Einherjar successfully entered and left Hel, taking with them the souls of Earth mortals, which Hela had held captive.  

Comments: This bio describes Hela as she has appeared in the Marvel Universe; she has also appeared marginally in the DC Universe (Inferior Five #4).

Norse myth goes on to describe Hela as eating off a plate called Hunger and using a knife called Famine (or Starvation). Her bed was called Disease and her curtains Misery (or Glimmering Misfortune).

The Norse tradition of Hel was later adapted into Judeo-Christian religion as the concept of an underworld for those spirits who passed on and were beyond salvation. 

In Norse myths, Hela's father, Loki, is the son of Farbaut, the Norse version of Charon, and his wife, Laufey. However, in Marvel Comics, Laufey is male and Farbauti is female, identified as Jotuns in the realm of the Asgardian gods.

It should be noted that both Garm and Fenrir (the Fenris Wolf) are both described as being chained at the gates of the underworld. The different names for this figure might be regional (Germanic and Scandinavian), but this is unconfirmed.

Clarifications: Hela is not to be confused with:

Last updated: 11/13/13

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