Hel is depicted in two ways, either she is half alive and half dead, with her face and upper body of a living woman and the thighs and legs of a corpse, or she is seen with her bones on the outside of her body rather than the inside.
From what is known as her 'sick bed' she rules her kingdom, the destination of those who have not lived a good life, a place disease, a place of the old and a place of those who did not die a brave death on the battle field. Helhiem is describe as thus:
Iron-barred, with massive wall;
Horrible that palace tall!
Hunger was her table bare;
Waste, her knife; her bed, sharp Care;
Burning Anguish spread her feast;
Bleached bones arrayed each guest;
Plague and Famine sang their runes,
Mingled with Despair’s harsh tunes.
Misery and Agony
E’er in Hel’s abode shall be!”
Lying within, are many levels most are for the dammed but there is a level for those souls who wish to repent. It is Hel who judges these poor souls, and it is she who decides in which of the nine levels of Heliem they should be sent. One level, it could be said, is a form of heaven, another is Nastrond, the room of punishment where snake venom is continuously dropped on the wicked. Helhiem, of course, is not dissimilar to our Hell and has nine levels just like Dantes nine circles within his Inferno. Dante has his Archeron and his Vestibule, a place where souls of the dead congregate before they enter hell. Heliem, no doubt has its equivalent.
In fact it is exactly where Hel is sitting rather ominously in the image below, welcoming a dead warrior.
The inscription "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" should be prominently displayed somewhere don't you think?