2019-02-08 08:59:01 8 Comments

While listening to the song Death of the God of Light, I noticed the following sentence.

His downfall was a mistletoe

Now I only know a mistletoe as the plant/Christmas decoration, which does not really help make sense of the sentence.

With a bit of searching around on Thesaurus and Google I couldn't really find any other meaning for the word, beyond what I already describe above.

Which brings me to the question, what does this sentence mean? Is this some sort of proverb or symbolism?


@Criggie 2019-02-10 18:58:36

Not knowing the lyric/song, the phrase might have been taken as the sum of the words.

His downfall was a mistletoe

  • His: there is a male involved, who is the subject of the sentence
  • Downfall: Something has happened to decrease the status of the subject
  • was: past tense, so it has already happened
  • a mistletoe: Singular - one piece of mistletoe was the cause.

According to the plant is toxic but not normally fatal.

In pre-christian era, mistletoe is a symbol of fertility and virility.

In western culture mistletoe is associated with Christmas as a decoration under which lovers are expected to kiss. It may be hung from the rafters or ceiling or perhaps in an entranceway to allow people to stand underneath.

Put all that together and one might get

A male suffered after an event in late December. The problem may have involved a romantic companion, and/or a pregnancy.

@Snow 2019-02-08 09:20:38

The song is about Ragnarok from Norse mythology, so it's that story that you need to research to find the meanings in the lyrics.

The wily and disloyal Loki sensed an opportunity for mischief.

In disguise, he went to Frigg and asked her, “Did all things swear oaths to spare Baldur from harm?” “Oh, yes,” the goddess replied, “everything except the mistletoe. But the mistletoe is so small and innocent a thing that I felt it superfluous to ask it for an oath. What harm could it do to my son?” Immediately upon hearing this, Loki departed, located the mistletoe, carved a spear out of it, and brought it to where the gods were playing their new favorite game.

He approached the blind god Hodr (Old Norse Höðr, “Slayer”) and said, “You must feel quite left out, having to sit back here away from the merriment, not being given a chance to show Baldur the honor of proving his invincibility.” The blind god concurred. “Here,” said Loki, handing him the shaft of mistletoe. “I will point your hand in the direction where Baldur stands, and you throw this branch at him.” So Hod threw the mistletoe. It pierced the god straight through, and he fell down dead on the spot.

I have bolded the important parts here.

(Source -

@Carl Witthoft 2019-02-08 12:47:14

Hodr, Hodr, Hodr! (yeah, I know, not very original)

@Kevin 2019-02-08 12:55:59

+1. Without context, I would have assumed it was because European Mistletoe is poisonous

@Sentinel 2019-02-08 14:44:05

So it's like a Norse version of the Achilles heel? Or is it supposed to mean like "never trust a woman to do the job properly?"

@Mindwin 2019-02-08 14:53:26

@Sentinel Yes, it is the same allegory as the Achilles' Heel. It is not supposed to mean like that second part. I don't even want to know where that sexist inference came from.

@Chris H 2019-02-08 16:01:56

I can recommend Neil Gaiman's telling of the Norse Myths if you want a nice version of the story and many others. (After pausing to listen that track it's back to Amon Amarth for me, as we're on Viking-ish metal)

@Snow 2019-02-08 16:07:03

I also enjoyed the book. The key thing here is that Loki is a trickster - he's a master at finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in people. Much like a modern-day hacker. Sometimes he does this for good, sometimes not, sometimes things don't end up how he expects them to.

@Mason Wheeler 2019-02-08 20:08:06

@snow And sometimes his brother must have words with him.

@T.E.D. 2019-02-08 21:29:26

This answer is otherwise correct, but I don't believe this particular story had anything to do with Ragnarok. Am I criticizing the song, rather than this answer?

@Andrew Morton 2019-02-08 21:32:47

"Bolded" -> "emboldened" would fit better with the mythology strain, I wager.

@Sentinel 2019-02-08 21:48:06

@Mindwin Sexist? Because they said "goddess". I mean, if they said "god" I would have assumed some bloke screwed up, but in general in those days they tended to have gender differences.

@tshirtman 2019-02-09 15:14:01

sexist because if a guy had screwed up would you come to the conclusion of "never trust a bloke to do the job properly"? I assume not, you would have blamed that particular one, not the whole gender, assuming on the other hand that an example of one woman messing up is indication that the whole lot is untrustworthy is sexist.

@ruakh 2019-02-10 05:33:48

@T.E.D.: As I understand it, the death of Baldur is a harbinger of Ragnarok; as Wikipedia puts it, "His death is seen as the first in the chain of events which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the gods at Ragnarök" [link].

@Hot Licks 2019-02-10 14:00:35

it might be relevant that mistletoe is a parasitic plant that commonly grows in the branches of trees. (A clump of mistletoe might be mistaken for a birds nest.) It produces a sort of berry, and, in addition to being carried about by birds, it sometimes propagates by literally shooting a seed/pit out of the berry so that it might land in nearby trees. As the berry is moderately poisonous, it's plausible that legend could hold that being "shot" by a mistletoe can kill you (though in fact this is highly unlikely).

@hobbs 2019-02-10 20:18:59

@tshirtman one shouldn't assume.

@tshirtman 2019-02-11 11:25:59

@hobbs actually i don't assume, that's pretty much what the comment says.

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