Odds and Ends
Off to the rave
15 12, 12:37am
My interpretation of Valhalla, Folkvangr, Hel's hall, and that hall of snakes and venom is that the way to look at all of them is in the context of an viking or early medieval feasting or King's hall; The people who go to the various halls after they die are guests, with all the rights, responsibilities, privileges, and duties of a guest. So the gods will provide you food and drink and entertainment, because that's what a good host does, and Odin and Freyja and Hel are presumably good, model hosts suiting their status as Kings and Chieftains of the Aesir.
So, under that interpretation I look at Hel's hall not as a punishment, but rather a quite, humble, comfortable hall. All the murder crazy psycho pirate warriors get snatched up by Odin and Freyja, not necessarily as a "eternal reward" in the sense that Christians would think of it, but in the sense of viking age and early medieval warriors; Odin and Freyja are literally picking the best warriors among the slain and gathering them up in to their war-bands. They'll feast and host the valorous, and when the Sons of Muspelheim come to burn the world the valorous will fulfill their obligation in kind by serving in Odin and Freyja's war-host. Meanwhile those who do not fight in life will dwell in Hel's hall, which is more suited for the temperament of farmers, merchants, fishers, and artisans; Quiet, comfortable, and not full of drunken murder-vikings fighting and raising a ruckus at all hours of the day and night.
If you're one of the warrior class that was considered the most socially and culturally prestigious at the time you'd certainly want to go to Valhalla to enjoy roast pork and sweet mead every night until the final battle, but I have a suspicion that the rest of society would be quite happy to be welcomed in to Hel's hall, whatever protestations they might make in public for the sake of appearances.
And, if I'm remembering my Edda, Snorri does mention another hall, woven from snakes that face inward and spit venom on the denizens there, which is reserved for oath-breakers and kinslayers and other reprehensible persons.