I saw the movie Thor and was instantly intrigued by the character Loki. On closer inspection, I found Loki in Norse mythology to be different than how Marvel portrayed him in the movie. To be honest, all the gods were cruel, self serving, and malicious towards humans. Thor and Loki were the only two portrayed as caring about the humans. The movies and comics have created their own spin on each character.
But that’s enough of that.
What I’m going to inform you of is Norse mythology where Loki is concerned.
There are three major opinions of the creature Loki. One, that he is a malicious, cruel, and loathsome trickster who takes pleasure in the pain of others. Two, he is not unlike most other tricksters in mythology, sometimes good, sometimes bad. And three, that of the Pagan’s opinion. I’ll go into that briefly towards the end.
Norse mythology was written down eighty bajillion years after it was first practiced and everyone, their brother and, their cousin twice-removed has their own theory on what went down, why, and how. There are more variations of Norse Mythology than you can shake a stick at. It’s crazy ridiculous. Because of this, I’ve decided to only share with you a highlighted version of Loki’s lore – giving you the main points and only those parts of his lore that are agreed upon by multiple sources.
GOD OF: Mischief. Deceit. Lies.
SPECIE: Loki is a giant but considered a god.
PARENTS: The giants Farbauti and Laufey (spelling differs from source to source).
WIFE: Loki’s current wife is Sigyn. His first wife was Glut.
Loki slept around with anyone that caught his fancy and as a result, he had many children. It was with Angerboda that Loki had his three most known/feared children; Hel, Fenrir, and Jormungandr.
Hel is the goddess of death. Fenrir is the wolf who will escape imprisonment and eat Odin at Ragnarok. Jormungandr is the serpent surrounding the world that will kill Thor at Ragnarok.
Sleipnir is another of his well known children, being the eight legged horse that Loki himself gave birth to.
According to some, Loki had two sons who were so evil, that they turned into wolves and fought each other to death. The surviving son being Fenrir.
Shapeshifter. Often uses the shapes of the horse, fox, hawk, and oddly enough salmon and fly. Can and does take the shape of other humans. Loki is also a shifter of the sexes. He has many magical abilities; the capacity to excel at trickery and cunning, moreso than others. He is often connected with fire and magick.
LOKI IN MYTHOLOGY
One thing survived as the same through all mythology, through all opinions, and throughout time itself. Loki was always majorly good looking. However, to some he had long dark hair – to others he had bright red hair and eyes.
All sources agree that Ragnarok – the end of all things in Norse mythology – is said to be brought on by Loki, when he escapes his eternal prison, where he now resides. During Ragnarok, many major gods (including Odin, Loki, and Thor) will die along with the Sun and the Moon, and all species on Earth. Only two humans will survive, who’ve hidden in Yggdrasil, the World Tree (a few offspring of the dead gods will also have survived). A new world will begin.
So even in bringing about the destruction of the world as we know it – Armageddon – Loki will have kept to his never ending pattern of bringing about change; bringing creation from within destruction.
Loki often did things to help Odin and Thor and the other gods. In most accounts, he was buddies with the two and they were most often found together.
In the most common story, Loki had issue with the Svartalfar (they’re dwarves) and ended up bringing home Odin’s spear, Thor’s hammer, and Freya’s ship – which the Svartalfar created. He gave these to the three as gifts, taking nothing for himself and issuing no price.
As I said earlier, Loki gave birth to his child Sleipnir in the shape of a mare. The most commonality to the story is thusly put: The gods hired out a builder to create the walls around Asgard but they didn’t want to pay the builder. So they set a deadline; if the builder didn’t finish before the deadline, he wouldn’t receive payment. The builder and his horse set out to do as they were bid and were about to finish before deadline. In order to help the gods, Loki took the form of a mare to distract the builder’s male horse away from helping him. Loki was thus impregnated by said horse and gave birth to an eight legged horse. Odin liked Sleipnir and took him as his own horse. Afterwards, Odin was always depicted as riding Sleipnir.
Some accounts tell of Loki thinking he could outrun the builder’s horse, not having expected it to go the way it did. No one ever gave detail as to how Loki felt about his creating offspring in a female, animal form…
Loki often pissed off the gods. Half the time he was doing something that benefited them and the other half they got left to suffer. They mostly didn’t punish him and if they did, it wasn’t something all that brutal. However, the last straw for the gods was pulled when Loki tricked the blind god Hod into shooting Balder the Beautiful – Odin’s most favored son – with mistletoe, the only thing in existence that hadn’t sworn an oath not to hurt Balder.
The gods would not let this one go. Loki convinced them that if they were able to make every creature on the Earth cry for the loss of Balder, then he would come back to life. The gods set out to do so, bringing not only all the humans, gods, and giants to cry for Balder, but the trees and all of nature as well. All except for one giantess who lived in a cave and thus, Balder remained dead forever.
When the gods found out the giantess had been Loki in disguise, they bestowed upon him the punishment he will remain ensnared in until he escapes during Ragnarok.
The gods bound Loki to a cliff with his dead son’s (the one in wolf form who died by Fenrir’s hand – or paw I suppose) entrails. In some lore, his entrails turned to an impenetrable metal once tied around Loki. Not only that but a serpent remains above Loki for the whole of his punishment, dripping its venom onto his face. But Sigyn, loyal to a fault, stays by his side always, holding a bowl to catch the venom as it falls. It is only when she must turn away to empty the bowl that the venom hits Loki, causing him to writhe in pain – thus being the explanation behind earthquakes.
BEFORE MIDIEVIL CHRISTIANITY
According to Pagan claims, Loki was not a malevolent being until Norse mythology was recorded by the Christians. As history proves, when the so called “Christians” (because in my opinion, most of the medieval Christians were people using religion for control and NOT real Christians – but I’m not going to get into this because I am most definitely not one for political and/or religious debates) found something they did not like or approve of, they took its history and meaning, stripped it bare, and made it out to be evil.
Due to this, Loki evolved into a malicious trickster, no longer only tricking the gods for positive purposes. (Because really, all the gods hate humans and someone should have massacred them in Norse mythology.)
Some pagans also believe that Loki predates all of Norse mythology, having started as a fire elemental. In fact, according to most lore – pagan or not – Loki is associated with both magick and fire. I find this to be awesome!
Which leads me to the wrapping up part of this post – why I like Loki.
I don’t really know. Can’t quite put my finger on it. I like all tricksters in mythology – if you couldn’t tell. Well I shouldn’t say that, some were really stupid and annoy me as badly as the Norse gods (Greek gods also irk me but that’s a story for another day).
I think its the tragedy of Loki. Complexities, contradictions. He’s hated for his differences and it turns him bitter, molds the flames inside into something virulent and desperate.
Those who are different are treated wrongly. Those who wrong them don’t understand how instrumental they are in creating a monster out of said individual. Maybe they don’t care. Whatever the case, I have a soft spot for those who are treated badly due to being different. I do believe in some cases, that the pain inflicted on the wrong doers who treat differences as abominations to be justified.
If you first create the monster, then punish it for being monstrous, how am I expected to feel sympathy for the one who created the monster?
The Norse gods were monsters. Loki was different. In pagan lore, he rose above it, outwitted the gods on occasion, and resisted the urge to become a true monster because of how he was treated. I believe that is what sets him apart from other tricksters for me.
I chose “Shadows” as my pen name for a reason. I don’t like everything or everyone to be all sunshine. I like depth, I like the fragmented darkness lurking inside. Its all in how you use it.
Loki just intrigues me.
*This is the third in a series of four Tricksters in Mythology. The last trickster I covered was the Japanese Kitsune, which can be found here.*