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Loki LOKI 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 Geirrdr, 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.

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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, Geirrdr’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 Hnir, is generally supposed to be an early name of Loki, who was companion and friend of Hnir according to Thjodolf of Hvin (Skldskaparml 22). DUALITY 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 (Skaldskaparml 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 Jtunheim, 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 refection 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 (Skaldskaparml 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 diety 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 (Skaldskaparml 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. din, Hnir 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 Jtunheim 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 Hnir 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 Jtunheim. In Reginsmal, din, Hnir 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 Skaldskaparml (18), Loki flew to Jtunheim in the guise of a falcon (using Frigg’s feather-dress), and has been captured and starved by the giant Geirrdr. 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 Skaldskaparml 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 Thors lap, only to be picked up by the most furious of gods and used to smash the giants to atoms.

We are not told 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, Hnir 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, Hnir senses, Blood and life hue Lodur gave. It is argued that Loki and Lodur are one and the same.

inn and Hnir 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 ormament. 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 svar …


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