7) But from the beginning, scholars have remarked on the similarity between the apparently naturalistic killing of Herebeald in Beowulf and the mythic account of the killing of the god Baldr in Norse tradition; in both, one brother (Haedcyn/Hodr) shoots dead another (Herebeald/Baldr) without intending to.
The fullest account of the death of Baldr in Old Norse is found in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, a thirteenth-century treatise on earlier Old Norse poetry, and it is this account which is commonly cited as representative of Old Norse tradition.
In contrast to the simple, unmotivated accident of Herebeald's death, which hardly even requires Chambers's scholarly gloss that a horn bow would make the accident more likely, Snorri tells a story of an elaborately planned murder by proxy: Hodr (Hod) did not mean Baldr to die, but Loki certainly did, and went to some trouble to achieve his end, disguising himself to discover the misdetoe's exemption, and ostensibly taking advantage of Hodr's blindness to set him up as the innocent perpetrator.
Gabriel Turville-Petre, in his discussion of the god Baldr in Myth and Religion of the North, is certainly not impressed by the minimal residual similarity between the deaths of Baldr and Herebeald, dismissing it as 'too superficial to force the conclusion that there was any relationship between them'.
15) Frank goes on to suggest that, in his picture of the grieving, if resigned, Hrepel, the poet of Beowulf is making an implicit but pointed contrast with Odinn, father of the slain Baldr.
48) with the Beowulf-poet's linguistically cognate reference to Hrepel as 'gomel ceorl', but in his view the poet is recalling Odinn precisely in order to emphasize a parallel between the killing of Herebeald and the killing of Baldr.
For our purposes, the most important aspect of both of these claims for close connection between Beowulf and Scandinavian pagan tradition is that in their different ways, neither North nor Frank makes use specifically of Snorri's version of the death of Baldr which, as Turville-Petre comments, is so different in its details of the killing itself.
24) Nevertheless, as Turville-Petre concludes, although Saxo has thoroughly medievalized his material, 'every reader must wonder what were the sources of Saxo's story, and whether he presents the Baldr myth in a more or less archaic form than the West Norse authorities'.
His account of the death of Baldr is especially striking, because Snorri does not quote any poetic source even though there is an allusion to Baldr's death in the Eddaic poem Voluspa, from which he does quote other strophes.
The death of Baldr is recounted just as the volva moves from recollection to prophetic vision, and his killing is presented as a decisive event in the inexorable progress to Ragnarok:
Ursula Dronke has established beyond doubt that the killing of Baldr is represented by the poet of Voluspa as a sacrifice to Odinn, engineered by Odinn himself : The volva speaks of Baldr as tivorr, "a sacrifice", and the manner of his death, as it is described in stanza 32, is indeed that recorded elsewhere of a sacrifice to Odinn, with the same ironic reversal of expectations, the same transformation of the slender plant into the relendess spear of the god.
However, in Gylfaginning, while Snorri does quote extensively from Voluspa, it is suggestive that he does not quote either of the verses about the death of Baldr, even though it is quite possible that these two strophes would have been available to him.