Jack's Twisted Kingdom
Loki; an essay
Norse Mythology Class 2001 Term 1
Loki is probably the most misunderstood of all the gods. Most people have come to see him as a most vile being, but this is a misconception. As everyone knows his actions will help destroy the gods, but there is more to him than that. What he gave to humanity as a whole outweighs what he has done and what he will do. He gave us choice; to understand that statement you need to know more about him, the events which led to his imprisonment, and
the events that will lead to his eventual death.
Loki is mentioned in Volsupa, Thrymskvitha, Hymiskvitha, Svipdagsmal, Reginsmal, Gylfaginning, Hyndluljod, and Baldrs Draumar. He is the subject of Lokasenna. Eilif Gudrunarson, Thjodolf of Hvin, and Ulf Uggason myths about Thor and Geirr�dr, Idunn and Thjazi, and Heimdall and Loki have Loki playing a part in them.
Loki came from the east. He is the son of the giant Bergelmir, or Farbauti ("the dangerous striker", ie, the storm), and giantess Laufey (or Nal, "needle"). His wife is Sigyn, who is included among the Asynjur by Snorri. They have two sons Vali and Narfi. In Hyndluljod, He also had three other children by the giantess Angrbodha (Boder of Sorrow), the Vanargand (Fenris Wolf), the Midgard Serpent (Jormungand or Ioemingang), and Hel. He is also mother/father to Sleipnir (Gylfaginning 42, Volupsa 25). Also in Hyndluljod, he ate the cooked heart of a woman which he found in the embers through this he came with child, and gave birth to an unknown monster.
In Gylfaginning (33) Snorri says that "Included among the Aesir is he whom some call the slanderer of the Aesir or the author of deceit and the shame of god and men. To outward appearance Loki is beautiful and comely, but evil in disposition and most fickle in nature. He excelled in sleight and had strategems for all occassions. He often brought the Aesir into great difficulties, but then delivered them with his cunning." He elsewhere says; "How shall Loki be referred to? By calling him comrade and table-companion of �din and the Aesir, Geirr�dr's visitor and casket-ornament, thief from giants, of goat and Brisingamen and Idun's apples, enemy of the gods, Sif's hair-
harmer, maker of mischief, the cunning As, accuser and tricker of gods, contriver of Baldr's death, the bound one, wrangler with Heimfdall and Skandi."
In Heimskringla �din is called "Lopt's friend," and Snorri speaks of him as "Evil companion and bench-mate of �din and the Aesir." Other descriptions by Snorri are: "Foe of the gods," "the sly god," "Slanderer and cheat of the gods," "Wolf's father," "the cunning Loki". He calls himself Lopt ("the airy one"), and this name is also given to him by others (Lokasenna 52), and may be connected with lopteldr ("lightning"). The name Lodur, which occurs only
in Volupsa (18), as that of an associate of �din and H�nir, is generally supposed to be an early name of Loki, who was "companion" and "friend" of H�nir according to Thjodolf of Hvin (Sk�ldskaparm�l 22).
As already stated, Loki and �din are blood brothers. This is how he came to be included among the Aesir, despite that the Aesir and the giants are maternal blood relatives. Yet he has always brought much woe to the gods. Loki does mischief for mischief's sake. He is a thief (of the Brisingamen) or he causes theft (Idunn and her apples). He dislikes others to be praised, even as a servant, as when he slew Fimafeng at Aegir's banquet (Skaldskaparm�l 33, Lokasenna Intro). He is foul-mouthed and slanderous, as Lokasenna shows.
However, he has also been the key in bringing about situations which have helped the gods. If it wasn't for Loki how would Thor come about having the hammer Mjollnir, or �din his spear Gungnir and horse Sleipnir? Loki was always welcome, to a certain extent, among the gods (until Lokasenna). Whenever anyone went to J�tunheim, he
was usually there as an intermediary. In those days he was a mischievous god bent on a little personal gain. His actions were never truly evil, but eventually his pranks took on a more serious turn.
His nature has been sought in the meaning of his name, which may be connected with Logi, German Lohi ("fire") which has the same destructive power as he delighted in. The name has also been derived from Lucifer and his personality regarded as a reflection of the devil's. Others connect it with luka, ljuka ("too close" / "to bring to an end"), lok ("the end"). Therefore Loki would be "the one who closes or brings to an end," because his deeds leads up to Ragnarok. His father Farbauti ("the dangerous striker", ie, the storm) and mother Laufey ("the leafy isle") or Nal ("needle", ie needle-tree or fir-tree). Thus, Loki is the creation of the storm which, in lightning, brings down fire on the wooded isle. Or Farbauti is a piece of stick, the drill, which by rubbing on a soft piece of wood, Laufey, produces fire (Gerring). Loki's dual character can, then, be related to fire, since it is both beneficent and dangerous.
Later folf-lore is also thought to point to Loki's connection with fire. A Norse saying when the fire crackles is: "Loki is beating his children," and the skin of the milk is thrown into the fire as a dole. On hot days when the air shimmers, or in spring when the mists rise from the ground in the sunshine, a Danish saying is "Loki is driving out his goats." The sun appearing through clouds and drawing up moisture seems to referred to in the sayings: "Loki drinks water," or "Loki is passing over the fields." In Sweden when a little child's tooth falls out, it is thrown into the fire with the works: "Lokke, Lokke, give me a bone tooth: here is a gold tooth." In Iceland chips and refuse for fire are called "Loki's chips," and subterranean sulphur fumes "Loki's vapor." The bright star Sirius is named
Lokabrenna (the burning of Loki).
The name Loki is also related to liechan or liuhan ("enlighten"), to the Latin luc-, lux, to the Old English leoht ("light"), and the Greek leukos ("white").
LOKI AS VICTIM
In several myths, Loki seldom acts out of his own free will, but that he "..acts under some sort of compulsion in more cases than of his own free will" (de Vries). The better known stories about Loki are: his responsibility for the death of Baldr, and that he opposses the Aesir at Ragnarok. These are his only truly "evil" acts without any compensating good, including perhaps the killing of Fimafeng at Aegir's feast (Skaldskaparm�l 33, Lokasenna Intro).
Loki is not always portrayed as absolutely evil or repulsive. Nor is he always portrayed doing harmful acts. He more often acts under compulsion. For all his flaws, Loki inspired a degree of loyalty not only in Sigyn, but in �din as well. Even though he has already played a part in Baldr's sojourn in Hel, his oath of blood-brotherhood with �din secures him a place at Aegir's feast, above the objections of the other Aesir. Sigyn, Loki's wife, remains steadfastly by him until Ragnarok, keeping him from as much harm as she is able. If he'd been truly awful to her, Sigyn could have just gone on her way. Njord and Skadi parted for far more trivial reasons without apparent censure.
Loki's relationship with �din and Thor would seem to support the claim that Loki often acts under compulsion.
LOKI AND �DIN
Loki is most often seen as the "comrade and table-companion of �din and the Aesir" depicting Loki not as a cleverly dangerous and manipulative deity who harms everyone around him, as is popular belief.
In Lokasenna he recalls to �din that in earlier days they had mixed their blood in the rite of blood-brotherhood, and �din had promised to pour no ale unless it were brought for both. Later, Frigg bids �din and Loki to preserve silence on the deeds they had done long ago. Idunn reminds Bragi that Loki had been chosen as "wish-son" or adopted son by �din (Lokassenna 9).
In Gylfaginning (41), the Aesir have hired a giant to fortify their stronghold in Asgard, and has promised him Freyja, the sun and the moon as his reward, provided that the walls would be finished within half a year. On the advice (or permission) of Loki, the giant is allowed to use his horse to help him in his work. He sets to work with his extraordinary horse Svadilfare, making tremendous progress each day, which worries the gods. The gods hold council; they adjudged Loki worthy of death unless he found a way to stop the giant from keeping his part of the deal. He then changed himself into a mare, which was pursued by the giant's helpful stallion Svadilfari. This caused the work to be suspended and it was not completed in the agreed time. Thor slew the giant and, some time after, Loki gave birth to Sleipnir, �din's horse (Gylfaginning 42, Volupsa 25). This myth shows Loki as acting in self-preservation rather than malice. Thus, Loki is a victim of circumstance, out to save his own skin. "Loki is again the cunning god, appearing in the well-known role of the man, who gives bad advice and afterwards has to remedy the dangers issuing from it " (de Vries). He also provides a gift for a god: he provided �din with Sleipnir. This will also become a recurring trait of Loki's.
In the Sorla-thattr (13th century) Loki, son of a peasant Farbauti and his wife Laufey who was thin and meagre and hence called Nal or "Needle", is cunning, caustic, and tricky. He became �din's serving-man. �din always had a good work for him, all of which he performed. Loki knew almost everything that happened and told it to �din. In Lokasenna, this does appear to be the case, for Loki knows all the secrets of the other Aesir, which he throws into their faces.
Also in the Sorla-thattr, Loki's steals the Brisingamen, Gem of fire ( ie, human intelligence; "brisingr" means fire; brising means bonfire) from Freyja - this sets in motion a train of events vitally connected with the course of human evolution. According to Old Norse myth, another version of this story, obscurely referred to in a poem, appears as a fragment cited by Snorri (Skaldskaparm�l 8, 16). Here, Loki stole the Brisingamen for his own purposes. Heimdall contends with him for it and both are in the form of seals. This equates Loki with Promethean stealer of fire for the benefit of mankind, though it is never stated that this necklace did good to men, but more on Prometheus later.
Odin, H�nir and Loki are travelling together. They are confronted with a giant, Thjazi, in the shape of an eagle. Loki is separated from the two others by Thjazi. Thjazi forces Loki to promise to bring the goddess Idunn into his power or he will kill him. When the gods discovered this, Loki was threatened with torture or death - for it is Idunn who keeps the "apples which the gods have to feed on when they age, and they all become young, and so it will go on right up to Ragnarok." He escaped by borrowing Freyja's feather-dress, flying to J�tunheim in the form of a falcon, and brings back Idunn, whom he transformed for the occassion into a nut. The Aesir slew Thjazi
when he pursued Loki to Asgard in his eagle form, but in Lokasenna Loki claims to have been himself first and last in the fight with the giant. When Thjazi's daughter Skadi came to Asgard to avenge her father, she is offered a god of her own choice in marriage, on the condition that she will only be able see his feet when she makes her choice. She also demands that the Aesir makes her laugh, which is accomplished by one of Loki's more bizarre tricks. Loki caused her to laugh - one of the terms of reconciliation demanded by her. �din and H�nir are remarkably passive."..the only real hero of the tale is Loki, the two other gods doing nothing at all " (de Vries). This myth again shows Loki as acting in self-preservation rather than malice. For him, breaking his oath would be impossible, just as leaving Idunn in J�tunheim.
In Reginsmal, �din, H�nir and Loki again travel together. By slaying a dwarf, Otr, in the shape of an otter (they didn't know it was anything but an otter), he brings the wrath of Hreidmarr onto the Aesir. They are forced to pay weregild for the slain dwarf, and Loki is sent to Svartalfheim to fetch the gods' ransom. He catches another dwarf, Andvari, who was in the form of a fish, and takes all his gold. Loki borrowed Ran's net in order to catch Andvari. The dwarf tries to hide a ring of gold, but Loki finds out and takes that too. The dwarf then lays a curse on that particular ring and leaves. The ring would be the ruin of everyone who came into possession of it. Loki gave the gold to �din, who covered the skin with it but retained the ring. One of the otter's whiskers remained uncovered, and Hreidmarr insisted on it being covered, so �din gave up the ring. Loki said that now the ring and the treasure would be a curse to every posessor of them. When the ransom is paid, the Aesir are free to go. Again we find that the two other Aesir are merely passive spectators, and that the only active role, albiet a forced one, in the story is played by Loki.
LOKI AND THOR
In Skaldskaparm�l (18), Loki flew to J�tunheim in the guise of a falcon (using Frigg's feather-dress), and has been captured and starved by the giant Geirr�dr. The giant releases him only if he promises to bring Thor to him without his hammer, belt and gloves, and after having made his promise he is free to go. Loki manages to make it back to Bilkskirnir, home to Thor and Sif and convinces Thor to leave his weapons at home, but on their way he is supplied with a belt of power, a pair of iron gloves and a power staff by a giantess named Grid. After having crossed a dangerous river with Loki hanging on his belt, Thor confronts the giant and his daughters, kills them and heads back to Asgard. Loki is not even mentioned after the river incident: "Loki, as it seems, accompanied Thor on the first part of his journey, but he disappears from the scene " (Turville-Petre). Snorri's version of the myth in Skaldskaparm�l differs somewhat from the older poem Haustlong where the original story is told, where Thor is accompanied not only by Loki but also by Ialvi. There is no account of this myth in the Poetic Edda. This myth shows Loki as acting in self-preservation rather than malice. Thus, Loki is again victim of circumstance, out to save his own skin.
In Thrymskvitha Thor wakes up only to find that his hammer is gone. He approaches Loki, tells him about his loss, and Loki assumes Freyja's falcon shape in order to go looking for the hammer. He finds out that the giant Thrymm has stolen the hammer and that he keeps it safe, eight miles underground, and that he will not give it back unless he is promised Freyja's hand in marriage. Freyja herself does not approve of being married to the giant, and the gods are quite at a loss about what to do. They hold council, and Heimdallr suggests that Thor could disguise himself as Freyja and go to �rym and recover his hammer. Loki readily offers to follow as the false "Freyja's" bridesmaid, and hence they arrive in Jotunheim in order to celebrate the wedding. Thor is almost disclosed twice due to his excessive eating and red-hot gaze, but the cunning Loki quickly saves him by his witty explanations. At last the hammer is produced to be used in the ceremony and put in Thor�s lap, only to be picked up by the most furious of gods and used to smash the giants to atoms. We are not old that Loki had caused the hammer to be stolen, but this may once have been the introduction to the story. Otherwise, this is a myth where Loki volunteers to help another Aesir. No threats or pain of death was involved.
LOKI AS CREATOR
In Volusp� 18, �din, H�nir and Lodur create the first human beings out of two pieces of wood, a man called Askr and a woman called Embla: "Then from the host three came, Great, merciful, from the God's home: Askr and Embla on earth they found, Faint, feeble, with no fate assigned them. Breath they had not, nor blood nor senses, nor language possessed, nor life-hue: �din gave them breath, H�nir senses, Blood and life hue Lodur gave."
It is argued that Loki and Lodur are one and the same. �inn and H�nir are, when they are mentioned together, always accompanied by a third god, sometimes Lodur and sometimes Loki. Lodur is not mentioned in the Poetic Edda except for in this passage. Snorri does not mention him at all.
LOKI AND SIF / LOKI AS PROVIDER
In the halls of Bilskirnir Sif and Thor were just wed. The next night, Loki crept to Sif's chamber. She glanced up at Loki's approach and smiled in welcome. She knew why Loki chose to visit her, since she could forsee things. Without any further prompt, Sif unknotted her long fair hair and shook it loose about her shoulders.
He grabbed the shears from Sif's workbox and chopped off every strand of the goddess's shining locks, leaving only prickly tufts on the Sif's head, all that remained of Sif's wonderful ornament. She seemed so diminished in presence by the loss that tears came to his eyes. 'Forgive me.' he whispered. Sif hugged him close 'Be brave' she
said 'or all will be for nought'.
The next morning, Thor (her husband) would have broken all his bones, had not an apologetoc Loki sworn to the Black Elves in svart�lfar to make Sif hair of gold, which would grow like other hair. It is unclear how Loki found himself in a position to lop Sif's hair off in the first place. In Lokasenna, it is said he was already in Sif's bed when he did it. In the Hyndlulj�d, the ferryman (none other than �din) tells Thor that "With Sif someone sleeps in her bower." Adding gratuitous insult to the injury already done to her marriage vows seems perfectly in keeping with Loki's character. The injury could not have been too great, however, since we still see Thor and Loki wandering around together after this. There is a reason for this.
The dwarfs are so eager to please they produce not only golden hair for Sif, but also a marvelous ship for Heimdallr and a magic spear for �din. Loki challenges two other dwarfs to make even better things, and puts his head at stake. The dwarfs set to work, and Loki who is afraid of losing his head tries to disturb them, and by transforming himself into a fly, he interferes with their work. Nonetheless, the dwarfs manage to produce a golden boar and a golden ring, both of which are flawless, and a hammer, Mjollnir, which shaft is a bit too short. Who really won the bet becomes a matter of dispute, which is settled by the Aesir, who deem that Loki has lost his bet and that he therefore must lose his head. Loki escapes but is captured by Thor and brought back. He then agrees to let the dwarf cut off his head, as long as he does not touch his neck, which, of course, is impossible. The dwarf then sews Loki's lips together in wrath with a string called Vartare.
This myth demonstrates Loki's dual nature, putting him in deep trouble because of some harmless trick, only to save his skin in the last second. "First he offends the wife of the thunder god by cutting off her hair, and secondly he succeeds in damaging the hammer of Thor." (de Vries).
Yet something is overlooked. Loki brings more good things to the Aesir than would suffice to cover the loss of Sif's hair: he provides not only Thor with a hammer: �din receives not only a spear but also a golden ring, Frey a golden boar and a ship that easily can be folded up and fitted into a pocket. All this for something that began as a prank.
LOKASENNA / A BITTER LOKI
In Lokasenna, Loki's attitude becomes bitterer when he cuts down each god and goddess in turn during the feast of Aegir.
The prose Introduction tells how Aegir invited many of the gods and elves to a feast. All went well until Loki kills one of Aegir's slaves, Fimafeng, because he could not stand hearing the gods' praising of his skill of serving and pleasing the guests. The Aesir shake their shields and howled at Loki, and drove him out of the forest. Loki returns and asks Eldir, another of Aegir's slaves, of what is going on in the hall. Eldir tells how the talk is of weapons and war, and that none has a friendly word for him. Loki says he will go in, mixing hatred to the gods and mixing venom with their ale.
Loki enters and says that he has come from a far journey and asks for a drink. The gods are silent, till Bragi speaks and says there is no place for him here. Loki appeals to �din on the ground of their old brotherhood sworn in the morning of time, and �din bids Vidar find a place for the "wolf's father," lest he should speak evil. Vidar obeys and Loki pledges all present, excluding Bragi.
The poem then becomes a "flyting" between Loki and the other guest present, a quarrel that cannot be stopped by force as the gods had taken a vow of peace inside the hall where the feast was held. Loki is therefore allowed to verbally abuse each and every one of the gods as he sees fit.
He accuses Bragi of cowardice. Idunn begs him to weigh Loki's kinship with �din and speak no taunt with him. Loki turns on her and accuses her of promiscuity and of having embraced the killer of her husband. She doesn't refute this taunt, but merely tries to calm Bragi, who is overcome with ale. Gefjon intervenes and begs that no bandying of words will continue, for Loki is known as a slanderer and hates everyone. Loki accuses her of having committed adultery with a youth who gave her a necklace.
�din tells Loki that he is mad to raise Gefjon's anger, for she knows men's destinies just as �din himself does. Loki turns on �din and tells him that he does not justly assign victory, and often gives it to those who deserve it least. �din says this may be, but reminds Loki of his own faults, of having spent eight winters in the underworld as a woman, milking cows and giving birth to children. Loki retorts that �din had once wrought magic spells in the guise of a witch in Samsey. These two taunts, a man bearing children as a woman and a man taking woman's form, were not uncommon in the Scandinavian north, but were regarded as most deadly insults. The Aesir in turn to address Loki and strive to silence him, but in vain.
Loki points to Frigg's affair with �din's two brothers when she thought �din to be dead. She also says "Forsooth, had I in Aegir's hall a son as Baldr so brave: Thou'dst not get thee gone from the gods foregathered before thou had'st fought for thy life" (27-8).
He then tells her, "Be mindful, Frigg, what further I tell of wicked words of mine: my rede wrought it that rides nevermore hitherward Baldr to hall." He admits then that he is the cause of Baldr's absence, possibly referring to his refusal to weap over him to keep him in Hel. Freyja, a "witch strong in evil," is accused of adultery with all the gods and Alfar, and with being her brother's lover.
Loki taunts Njordr of having been used as a chamber pot by some giantesses and of having a son, Frey, by his sister. Tyr says that Frey is best of heroes. Loki bids him be silent, for not being unable to solve juridical problems, lost his hand by the Fenris-wolf (Loki's offspring) and of not being the father of his own son, Loki himself claiming paternity. Frey reminds Loki that "By the River fettered Fenris will lie till draws night the doom of the gods; and nigh to him, but thou hush thee now, wilt be bound, thou breeder of ill."
Loki says that Frey bought Gerd with gold and his sword, and is now weaponless must await Muspell's son when they ride through Myrkwood. Byggvir, Frey's servant, intervenes, and says that if he were of such birth as Frey, he would crush Loki to marrow and break all his bones. Loki taunts him, little creature that he is, with cowardice. Now Heimdall speaks and tells Loki he is drunk. Skadi says, "Thou art lusty, Loki, but long thou wilt not a loose tail wag as thou list; for on a rock with thy ice-cold son's guts will bind thee the gods" (49). Loki cries that he was first and last among those who slew her father, and reminds her of his armour with her.
Sif comes forward, pours ale for Loki, and says that she at least is blameless, but she is slao reminded of misconduct with him (she sleeps with him, and he cut her hair for it). Beyla, wife of Biggvir, cries that the mountains are shaking and Thor, absent slaying trolls, is coming, and will silence the slanderer. She is also vilified, and now Thor enters and bids Loki, wretched wight, be silent or his hammer will close his mouth. Loki says he need not threaten so much. He will be less fierce when he fights the Fenris Wolf. Thrice again does Thor threaten him. Loki taunts him still, with hiding in a giant's glove and with his difficulty in opening Skrymir's wallet.
Finally he says that he has spoken all he wished to say. Now he will go, because Thor is such a great fighter but he warns the Aegir that no more feasts will he give, for the fire will soon consume all that is here.
DEATH OF BALDR & RAGNAROK / AN EVIL LOKI
Loki's worst actions, as stated earlier, showing him as a foe of the gods, are connected with the myth of the sun-god Baldr (Gylfaginning 48). Ragnarok has once been translated as the "age of fire and smoke," probably because rok in Swedish means smoke. If, as noted above, you take Loki's name and nature as fire-related, this name falls into place with Loki's involvement.
Baldr has been having dreams which reveal to him that he soon will be dead. The Aesir decide to try and stop this and Frigga makes every creature, living as well as dead take an oath not to harm Baldr in any way. The mistletoe is left out, as it was believed to be too weak to harm anyone. Baldr then becomes practically invulnerable, and the
Aesir make it their sport to try their weapons against him, inflicting no harm on him whatsoever. This annoys Loki, who assumes the shape of a woman in order to trick Freyja into telling him how Baldr can be harmed, and he is told that the mistletoe were exempted from the oath. He then designs a missile weapon out of mistletoe, and talks the blind god H�der into using it on Baldr. The missile hits and kills Baldr. The Aesir decide to bring him back from Hel,
where he lives after his death. They send a messenger to Hel, who returns with the answer that Baldr may return to the living if all creatures on earth would cry over him. Every creature does so, except for one giantess, who refuses to shed a tear for Baldr. This is, of course, Loki in disguise, and the Aesir decide to catch and punish him, not only for being the instigator of Baldr's killing, but also for keeping him from coming back to life again.
This lead to Loki's punishment, and thus he ran off and hid in a mountains, making a house with four doors, so that he could see in all directions. He transformed himself into a salmon by day and hid in Franang Falls. When he sat in the house he took twine and knitted meshes as a net is made. When he found that the Aesir were at hand (�din having seen his hiding-place from Hlidskjalf), he cast the net into the fire, and leapt as a salmon into the stream. The Aesir went into the house and there Kvasir (the most clever of the gods) saw the ash made by the burning net and realized that it was a device for catching fish. The Aesir now made one of the same pattern and, by its means, tried to catch Loki, who evaded them, until Thor waded to mid-stream. When Loki tried to leap over the net, he caught him. Loki slipped thrugh his hand, but Thor was able to grip him by the tail (hence the salmon has a tapering tail).
Loki's sons were taken and Narfi was changed into a wolf by the Aesir. Narfi then kills his brother Nari by tearing him apart. Nari's entrails were used to tie Loki to three stones set beneath the Nether-gates of the Underworld. One under his shoulder, the second under his loins, and the third under his knees. These bonds then were changed to iron. The myth of Loki’s bonds resembles one in Iranian mythology. The hero Thraetana conquered the dragon Azhi Dahaka and bound him to the rock Damavand. There he lies until the Last Day, meanwhile causing earthquakes by his struggles. In the end, he breaks loose and takes part with hosts of evil against the gods. It is also similar to the account in Revelation of Satan's binding and breaking out of the abyss.
The rest of the myth is given by Snorri as it is told in the prose appendix to Lokasenna. Skadi took a poisonous snake and placed it over his head, so the venom would always drip upon his head until the last days. Sigyn, his wife, held a shell under the poison, but when she drew it away full of venom, some drops fell on Loki's face. He then struggled so much that all the earth shook, and that is called an earthquake.
At Ragnarok his children will play some of the most deadly roles. To this the dead seeress, consulted by �din about Baldr's death, refers. No one shall consult her until Loki free himself, shakes off his fetters, and the destroyers come to Ragnarok.
Thus, at the beginning of Ragnarok all fetters and bonds will be released. That is how Loki and Fenris will become loose. His children will go directly to the battlefield called Vigrid. Loki himself, with Hrym and the forest-giants, will come at the head of a giant army on the boat Naglfar. Fenris kills �din and in turn is killed by Vidhar.
Jormungand will die at Thor's hands, but he himself will succumb to the effects of the poison from the World Serpent. Loki will grapple with Heimdall, they will kill each other (Gylfaginning 51).
Loki here plays a more violent role than usual. Instead of using his wits he actually joins the fray, which in some ways contradicts the very essence of his character as the sly manipulator who would rather run off than take the heat. Instead of balancing between good and evil he makes his stand against the Aesir, joining forces with their enemies. This could be in part because of his imprisonment and torture while bound. He could have merely been acting out of vengeance for what they did to him, or out of madness, or both.
Loki does not have obvious counterparts in Greek mythology, although many other cultures, such as North American aboriginals, Oceanic, West African and Chinese, have myths which feature tricksters. There is one Greek god, Hermes that is considered somewhat of a trickster, although not to the same extent as Loki. As soon as Hermes was born, he displayed this trait by stealing Apollo's cows. He was taken for judgment to Zeus after this crime, but he used his cunning, offering the lyre he invented, to escape punishment. In many ways this is much like Loki's behavior, in that Loki often was able to talk his way out of predicaments and bringing about situations which have helped the gods.
As god of fire, Loki could be compared to Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire. One of the major stories about Loki is his exile from Asgard for being indirectly responsible for the death of Baldr. This punishment was meted out by �din. Similarly, Hephaestus was ejected from Mt. Olympus by Zeus over an argument about one of Zeus' favorites,
Loki is can also be compared to Prometheus, primarily again because of their association with fire. Loki being the god of fire, and Prometheus being the bringer of fire to the humans. Prometheus was a Titan, admitted into Olympus for remaining neutral in the revolt of the Olympians against the Titans.
However, Prometheus knew who would be responsible for the death of Zeus. This can be looked at in the same light as Loki's both knowledge and responsibility of �din's death, as he fathered the beast Fenris who would kill him.
Also, Loki is a major palyer and provokes Ragnorok, the final battle that will destroy everything including the gods. Prometheus caused the creation of Pandora therefore damning mankind. However this was not enough punishment in the eyes of Zeus, so he caused a flood that destroyed mankind.
In both myths, humanity renews itself. Fire also plays a very large role in the destruction of the world in the Norse myths, as Surtur engulfs the world in flame after the battle of Ragnarok. Some would say that Prometheus' association of fire destroyed mankind.
Prometheus was also a trickster, as he stole cheated and lied. One of Loki's strong qualities was his ability to out-wit the gods. This too was a characteristic of Prometheus. Neither acted capriciously, which set both of them apart from the other gods in their respective mythologies.
For indirectly causing the death of Balder, Loki was bound in chains with a seprent above him dripping poison to harm Loki. Prometheus was likewise bound by the gods for his actions. He was chained to a rock in the Caucasian mountains, with a vulture to tear away at his liver all day long -- an endless torture, as his liver would grow back every night. Very similar as both were chained to stone, with an endless torture motif, and Loki was not freed until the twilight of the gods, or Ragnorok. Prometheus was also released by Herakles, and immediatly had the interaction with Zeus, when he told him what would cause his death. So both were freed, and immediatly became associated with the death of the gods.
The thing to understand about Loki is his necessity to the whole picture. He is a renegade, the trickster. Through many wrong choices Loki has become the mischief-maker, the instigator of wrongs in many tales. He is disruptive, representing the necessary questioning of authority which is totally necessary if things are to be kept running in an optimal way. It is the only way to make progress. He is the constant companion of the gods and serves as go-between in their dealings with the giants, the key which opens the door into the new world that comes after the final battle. Loki is also the divine intelligence which is aroused in us, and also the will by which man may choose its course, for good or evil. Overall he is the human mind, clever, foolish, and immature.
However in his most redeeming state Loki is known as Lopt and is the elevating and aspiring traits in human intelligence. He is the bridge between the animal and the divine. Looking back on the life of Loki you can see that he is the perfect example of the darkness which can rise in a man's soul. This destructive aspect is so close to the animal nature of us all.
1997: Snorres Edda translated by Faulkes
de Vries, Jan
1933: The Problem of Loki, Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Helsinki
1964: Myth and Religion of the North, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London
Anderson, Philip N.
1981: "Form and Content in the Lokasenna: A Re-evaluation", Edda: Nordisk Tidskrift f�r Litteraturforskning,
Scandinavian Journal of Literary Research, 4, Oslo
Rooth, Anna Birgitta
1961: Loki in Scandinavian Mythology, C.W.K. Gleerups F�rlag, Lund
Anderson, Philip N.
1981: "Form and Content in the Lokasenna: A Re-evaluation", Edda: Nordisk Tidskrift f�r Litteraturforskning,
Scandinavian Journal of Literary Research, 4, Oslo
1995: Lecture in comparative religion, G�teborgs Universitet, October
Copyright � 2001 T.F. Coles