Baldr was a young god, a beautiful god. His eyes shone like the gentle morning sun on the steel blade of a sword, and he moved with the security and grace of the night spilling into the valleys over a mountain top. Many spoke his name in admiration when they told of their adventures, games, hunts, and fights together: because Baldr was a brave and skillful fighter who was loved by many.
One day, however, it so happened that Baldr took a wound, and wherever his blood touched the ground, everything that grew there began to die. Grass would wither away, moss would dry out; trees whose roots had touched Baldr’s blood let fall their leaves and became as white as bones. It saddened Baldr when he saw what was happening, and all those who were there with him, remained silent and looked away.
After a brief while, Baldr’s blood stopped flowing, and on the next morning, new trees had grown in the place of the old ones; young green was lurking from between the withered twigs and branches, and new buds stood right before their first bloom. Where Baldr’s blood had fallen into the stream, fish were cavorting beneath the surface.
And the gods forgot what they had seen. They forgot Baldr’s blood and the dying, and they even forgot his wound. They now spoke Baldr’s name in greater wonder than ever before, singing and telling during meals and feasts, how no one had ever been able to deal him even a cut.
All forgot what had happened. Only Baldr… Baldr slowly began to remember. In the beginning, he simply asked himself where the scars in his skin came from, if nothing had ever hurt him. But then, images of lifeless landscapes and rotting flesh began to haunt his dreams, and Baldr sleep got worse and worse. An impenetrable solitude surrounded him, whom everybody loved. And finally, one day, Baldr remembered, and great fear befell him.
He started asking the other gods and goddesses the reason for this dying, and for the forgetfulness, and what he should do in order to put a stop to it. Nobody could give him an answer, and it even seemed as though he struggled to find someone who would so much as listen to his questions. Nobody helped him or could tell him the meaning of it — not even Frigga, who was Baldr’s mother and possessed great wisdom. The all kept silent, and Baldr perhaps would have kept silent as well, had he not felt the strongest rage rise inside him.
He cut himself a wound, letting his blood fall to the ground as he ran across the wide lands and into the forest.
There, he was found by Loki who had followed Baldr’s trail. When Baldr saw Loki’s taunting smirk, he pierced him with an angry stare.
“What do you want from me?” he shouted at Laufey’s son. “Haven’t you grown tired of my predicament yet?”
Loki’s smirk grew wider, and into a grin, but otherwise he did not respond.
“After all, who says it wasn’t you yourself who put me under this spell!” Baldr accused Loki, who was most famous for nothing if not his reckless, sometimes less than benign tricks. “You! You’re all in cohorts, having a great laugh with each other at my ignorance!”
When he heard this, the grin disappeared from Loki’s face. “Enough!” he interrupted him, and moved closer in soft, cat-like steps. “Enough of this”, Loki repeated under his voice, “you don’t know what you’re saying.”
Like a predator its prey, Loki circled Baldr. “So, you want knowledge?” Loki didn’t wait for an answer. “You don’t even know what that is! I can give you what you search for. I can show you what all of this means”, spoke Loki, pointing at the trail of dying green around Baldr. “But you will not like what I have to say to you.”
“Why should I listen to you, Loki? Your words are lies, everybody knows this!”
“Oh, but you want to know better than ‘everybody’, don’t you?” Loki replied, completely unfazed by Baldr’s accusation. “You want to fathom what lies behind those stony walls of silence, and evermore towering heaps of worthless words, do you not?”
“You would have to call me a liar if I didn’t admit it”, Baldr spoke begrudgingly. “So tell me, word-swift Áss, tell me what I want to know.”
Loki instructed Baldr to break off a branch of one of the dead trees and burn it down to ash. Baldr did as Loki had told him, and when the fire had consumed itself, Loki reached into the smouldering ashes and drew out a sapling. The sapling grew and took root, and it became a tender young stem. All this Loki showed to Baldr without ever taking his eyes off him.
“Here. Look at yourself”, said Loki.
Baldr’s gaze followed Loki’s, and with fear-filled eyes he beheld the new tree. “No”, he shook his head, “no, this cannot be…”
Loki seized Baldr’s arm in an iron-tight grip. “Look at it, Baldr!” he hissed. “Look at it very closely. This is what everybody knows, but no one wants to know. This is what they have been keeping from you, and if some had their way, you would be the last one to know about it!”
Baldr looked into Loki’s wild face. “I am going to die, am I not?” he whispered, and touched the new stem lightly. “I have to…”
Loki nodded. “And I will be the one who kills you.”
Silence fell between the two gods.
“The world is still young”, said Loki. “But it won’t remain so forever.”