Hel (Old Norse Hel, “Hidden”) is a giantess and/or goddess who rules over the identically-named Hel, the underworld where many of the dead dwell. Her name’s meaning of “Hidden” surely has to do with the underworld and the dead being “hidden” or buried beneath the ground.
According to the thirteenth-century Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson, Hel is the daughter of Loki and the giantess Angrboda (Old Norse Angrboða, “Anguish-boding”), and therefore the sister of the wolf Fenrir and the world serpent, Jormungand. This makes her part of a highly dangerous and disreputable family.
Hel is generally presented as being rather greedy, harsh, and cruel, or at least indifferent to the concerns of both the living and the dead. However, her personality is little-developed in what survives of Old Norse literature. She’s mostly mentioned only in passing. Snorri describes her appearance as being half-black, half-white, and with a perpetually grim and fierce expression on her face.
The only surviving myth in which she features prominently is that of The Death of Baldur.