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Hel (hĕl) [key], in Norse mythology, the underworld (sometimes called Niflheim) and the goddess who ruled there. In early Germanic mythology, Hel was the goddess who ruled the majestic abode for the dead. Later, particularly after the advent of Christianity, Hel became a place of punishment, similar to the Christian hell.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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