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Farbauti God or Goddess?

Updated on January 8, 2017
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

Is he a god or goddess? The Norse deity Farbauti never had much of a story-line in ancient Norse mythology. He was known for one thing and one thing only. In fact, his mere “feat” could be summed up in one sentence. Yet, despite a lack of details or accomplishments, Farbauti has been resurrected and recreated for a new form of mythology. While he now has a more detailed background story, he also has a significant change: “He” is now a “She.”

A Minor God

Not much is known about Farbauti. Some sources mention that he was a frost giant who fathered three significant Gods: Loki, Byleifer and Helbindi and raised them with his wife Laufey or Nal (many sources are not sure about his wife’s name and identity). One tradition mentioned that Laufey/Nal gave birth to Loki after she was struck by lightning unleashed by Farbauti. This may explain why Loki, god of mischief and chaos, was such an agitating Norse god.

One other thing emerged from Norse mythology; Farbauti’s name had a particular meaning: “cruel-striker.” Possibly the name was given after the fashion in which he impregnated his wife. Yet, there’s no surviving text available to fully explain Farbauti’s name or significance

To further his story-line and to cash in on the popularity of Norse mythology, many gods and deities from that era and genre were resurrected and modernized for today’s comic book reading public

New Life in Real Space

Still, despite his very minor role in ancient mythology, Farbauti’s name has managed to survive obscurity. In 2005 a new moon was discovered orbiting Saturn. At first, it was called Saturn XL. The discovery was made by observation taken by a team of astronomers between December 12, 2004 and March 9, 2005.

On May 4, 2005, the team announced its discovery. In April 2007, Saturn XL had a name change. Farbauti became latest mythological deity to have a moon or planet named after him.

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Welcome to Marvel Comics…as a Goddess

Marvel Comics also took notice of this insignificant giant. The comic book character Thor – based on the popular Norse God of thunder – proved to be very successful. To further his story-line and to cash in on the popularity of Norse mythology, many gods and deities from that era and genre were resurrected and modernized for today’s comic book reading public.

In September 2004, Loki – a longtime character in the Thor comic book series – received his own title and series. In the first installment, (Loki #1), Farbauti was introduced, not as Loki’s father but as his frost giant mother. Farbauti was not the only character to have a gender change, however. Farbauti’s wife Laufey was “her” husband. Farbauti was a character who had been named – but not depicted – in the 1980s. Loki’s comic book series was the first time she was illustrated.

It’s hard to understand why this change was made. Did the writers confuse genders when they researched the characters? It’s possible, but like the original Farbauti and Laufey, there’s not a lot of information to support this claim.

The New Farbauti’s Power and Status

Lack of information, however, helps Farbauti in other ways. In many respects, writers and artist have been adding their own information, helping the character evolve into a modern superhero (or heroine in this case).

The new Farbauti possesses superhuman strength, longevity and resistance to harm. As a frost giantess, she depends on cold temperatures to keep her stature. Warm weather can decrease her size. Her back story indicates that she was a former monarch. Also she was a refugee who became a member of the Giant of Jotunheim (or Jotum), an extra-dimensional race of beings who were constantly at war with the Gods of Asgard.

According to the Marvel version, Laufey (the man-god) seduced Farbauti in the form of a lightning bolt. Later, Farbauti conceived Loki, Helbindi, and Byleist.

In an earlier series, Journey into Mystery #112, Laufey and his kinsman were killed in battle with the Asgardian. Odin took Loki and raised him as his own. It is not revealed if Farbauti died in battle or if she survived.

Interestingly, Farbauti’s father was introduced more than twenty years before her first appearance. His name was Farbaut, a Jotun sorcerer who appeared under the name of Rimthursar or “Cruel-Striker” in Thor I #320 (June 1982).

Although still a minor character in ancient and modern mythology, Farbauti is an interesting one. A moon is named for him (or her), and he is one of the few gods to undergo a literary sex change.

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© 2016 Dean Traylor

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