In the third episode of Loki Season 2, titled “1893,” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) visit the Chicago World’s Fair. And while there, we get one of the healthiest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Easter eggs ever dropped. So stealthy, the reference to Balder the Brave is almost an anti-Easter egg. Which may not be a thing, but now it is so there you go!
Here’s what goes down in the scene, and spoilers past this point. In the episode, the dynamic duo is chasing down the rogue Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Miss Minutes (Tara Strong). They track them to the World’s Fair but are kind of bumbling looking for clues, while Mobius is mostly looking for vintage snacks. There, they stumble on a building emblazoned with Norse gods. Was this an actual thing at the 1893 World’s Fair? More on that below.
But before real history, fake history. Loki and Mobius see three wooden pillars depicting Thor, Odin, and Balder. Thor is, of course, played by Chris Hemsworth in the MCU; Odin by Anthony Hopkins. Mobius needles Loki a bit about not being in the display, and the god of mischief rants about how “crass” the display is.
“And why did they even include Balder?” Loki continues. “No one’s even heard of him.”
“Sure they have,” Mobius answers. “Balder the Brave… You know sometimes I forget you’re one of them. Blows my mind.”
Mobius wanders off, and so does Loki after muttering, “Thor’s not that tall.”
But what does this all mean? And why did we call it an anti-Easter egg? Read on, best friends.
Who Is Balder The Brave In Mythology?
In Norse mythology, Balder is the son of Odin and his wife, Frigga (sometimes called Frigg or Friia). He actually doesn’t have the “Brave” moniker in mythology because he’s best known not for his bravery, but for dying.
If you’re not familiar with Norse mythology in general, a lot of it is very dark and is less about “here’s how we got animals” like in Greek mythology, and more about wars of the gods, and tragedies that befell them. Balder’s story is all about how he was invulnerable, and because he couldn’t be hurt, everyone liked to throw things at him. You know, what we all do for fun? Again, these myths are very dark.
Loki in these myths was also less of the lovable trickster from the MCU and more of an outright villain. In Balder’s story, he tricked one of the other gods into throwing mistletoe at Balder, his one weakness. Balder died, and then Loki refused to complete the one ritual that could bring him back to life.
And that’s why we kiss under the mistletoe! Just kidding.
Who Is Balder The Brave In Marvel Comics?
Balder is, surprisingly, far more prominent in the Marvel Comics source material than even in Norse mythology. There, he is called Balder the Brave, and his function is not just to be pulverized with stones for everyone else’s amusement. Instead, he’s a brave warrior, a good friend to Thor, and frequently at the center of the action in Asgard, and the Marvel universe.
Balder was first introduced in 1962’s Journey Into Mystery #85 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and is frequently seen teaming up with the Warriors Three (Volstagg, Hogun, Fandral). He’s even anchored his own solo title, though in recent years hasn’t appeared in the comics quite as frequently.
Who Is Balder The Brave In The MCU?
Despite Balder’s prominence in the comics, he’s never appeared on-screen in the MCU. He’s been seen in several animated series, and in the animated film Hulk vs. Thor. But he’s not MCU canonical, until now.
Balder almost was in the MCU, though. Several times. Four times, to be precise! As costume designer Graham Churchyard revealed in an interview with ComicBook.com, Balder was originally supposed to be included as far back as the original Thor movie, all the way through Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:
“We got very far designing Balder the Brave, and then we were waiting, and waiting, and waiting on casting,” Churchyard said. “I took it to a prototype stage, we were kind of in that design thing, getting fabrics together and ideas and waiting for an actor. Poor Balder the Brave, he almost made Thor 1, and Thor 2, and Thor 3, if I can simplify that. Then, it’s just like, ‘Yay! He’s gonna get an appearance!’ Poor guy. I’ve seen designs Marvel’s archive book of Balder’s helmet going back to Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. So, he’s been a long time waiting, and I don’t think he’s gonna make an appearance any time soon.”
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Balder was one of the characters who would have appeared in The Illuminati, the alternate-Earth organization controlling/protecting what’s called Earth-838. In the movie, he would have potentially been played by Daniel Craig. However, plans changed and instead, they got John Krasinski as Reed Richards. Same diff.
Loki Season 2 Balder The Brave Easter Egg, Explained:
So after all that wind-up… That’s why this is a stealthy anti-Easter egg. Mobius saying that everyone knows Balder the Brave is pretty clearly a little jab at the fact that he’s missed four or more chances to be seen in the MCU. In fact, fans of the movies and TV shows don’t know who he is, because he’s never been seen on screen.
That said, there’s also the reality that somewhere in the multiverse, Balder is far more popular than he is in our main MCU timeline. Does that mean Balder will show up in Lok season 2? Or Thor 5? Uh… Probably not. But keep tossing out that metaphorical mistletoe and see what happens.
Was There Really A Norway Exhibit At The Real 1893 Chicago World’s Fair?
Okay, last but not least, because we promised: yes, there really was a Norway exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. However, it’s nothing like what was depicted on screen in Loki.
Also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition, the event celebrated the 400 anniversary of Columbus landing in America. The World’s Fair had over 200 exhibits and stands, and 46 countries had exhibitions, including Norway.
The Norwegian exhibition was a replica of the Gokstad ship, a Viking vessel from the 9th century discovered in a burial ground. Named the Viking, the ship was sailed across the Atlantic Ocean by 12 men and installed in the World’s Fair. From there, it made its way to various locations in Chicago.
And in fact, you can still visit the Viking today. It’s been carefully preserved and is open most of the year to the public in Geneva, Illinois at Good Templar Park. However, the chances that Loki — or Balder the Brave — will also be there are extremely low.
New episodes of Loki stream Thursdays at 9 pm ET on Disney+.