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Who Was Loki?
Loki, Odin's brother, Thor's uncle. In Norse mythology Loki is one of the three main characters, a jotunn, demon, who lives with the gods. Some consider him one of the most complex characters of ancient myths, and expert Gabriel Turville-Perte commented: «more ink has been spilled on Loki than on any other figure in Norse myth. This, in itself, is enough to show how little scholars agree, and how far we are from understanding him.» Here I will tell the story of Loki's life from the perspective of one particular theory: Loki as a manifestation of destiny.
The Early Days and His First Good Deeds
Loki was in the earliest of days born from two jotnunn: Farbauti and Laufey. He had two siblings but little is known about his family or his early life. What is known is that a long time before Odin became the Father of All, he was the god of the night or death(according to several scholars), and spent his time travelling the world. Loki and Odin met and it is often said in interpretations that Loki saved Odin's life. They became what the vikings called blood-brothers, although the name is quite different from its English meaning. In this context, it means that they decided to become brothers even though they were not, to share their food between them as brothers, to protect each others as brothers. And so Loki came with Odin to Asgard.
These were the days after the great jotunn Yme had been killed, the world had been created (although humans may not have been present yet), but it was still fresh in its mold. These were the days when the Æsir were gathering power, and Loki symbolizes this. His relationship with the Æsir is good, and so is the Æsir’s luck. Loki is already mischievous here, but not hateful, and he is the cause of Thor gaining Mjølnir, Odin gaining Gugnir and Frey gaining his ship and his pig, although Loki had not intended all of this.
After the War and the First Signs of Evil
The Æsir wins the war against the Vanir, and Loki once again helps, this time with the rebuilding the walls around Asgard. He tricks a guy into doing it for them(the other gods have nothing against this), but when it turns the gods where the ones who were tricked, he steals away the man’s horse by transforming into a female horse and luring the animal away. Thanks to this Loki later gives birth to Sleipnir, Odin’s horse, the fastest in the world. Again Loki has bestowed great gifts upon the gods, even though it was not his intention.
Loki gains a family, his god-wife Sigynn and his two to three sons depending on the source, Nari, Narfi and possibly someone named Vari(in some sources, Narfi takes Vari’s role, and I will not mention Vari here any further). He is however travelling around and often sleeping with other women. This was not considered a character-flaw at the time, so it can not really be said to be an example of Loki’s sinister nature. It is around this time however (and I must admit the exact timeline is anyone’s guess) that Loki reveals his more sinister side. The Æsir’s unwitting helper comes home with three children born out of wedlock, Fenrir(the giant wolf), Jormungandir( the snake that encircles the world) and Hel(the future queen of Helheim, basically Hell). The gods are troubled, even though at this point they are but children. Still, they are sent around the world, to places they hopefully can not hurt anyone. This would be futile. Loki protests, but is silenced. The good god has for the first time planted the seeds of despair.
His Usual Role
But enough about that, Loki soon becomes the sidekick of Odin and Thor in their travels. He saves Odin’s life when he defends the Allfather (as he is now) from a revenge killing, and else provides humor and a ray of light to the Old One.
And Thor and Loki are the classical travel buddies, Loki often making sure that the Thor’s plans works. A particularly memorable one was the time Thor had to dress like the bride of a jotunn, and Loki has to come along as a bridesmaid and explain away why Thor acts so unwomanly. In many stories they travel together, Loki proving help as he feels like it. Loki also at one point acts as a clown and makes the jotunn Skadi laugh by tying a goat to his penis and making a rather painful show of it all. This saves the gods.
But things are about to turn. The most common Loki-story is when he messes up or deliberately causes trouble, and then has to clean up his own mess, an example being Loki betraying Idunn, the goddess of youth, and then saving her from a jotunn. Most of the gods do not like him, especially Heimdall threaten him at times(sometimes justified), and Loki starts to talk more with other jotunn. Destiny turns on the gods.
Things turn dark in the latter part of the Norse myths. The jotunn are multiplying, the gods are not. The world seems harsher. But there is the god of light, Baldr, who always provides hope to the gods (some makes connections between Baldr and Jesus). And it is here Loki strikes in his first act of real cruelty. I will not recount the whole myth, but Loki makes Baldr’s brother Hod kill Baldr. Because Hod killed another god, he must be put to death, and Odin is two sons shorter. To add to this, Loki makes sure that Baldr can not be resurrected. Some gods, again Heimdall in particular, suspect Loki, but Odin will not hear it. Loki is, after all, his brother.
The murder of Baldr is often considered the first step towards Ragnarok, and Loki was the one who started it. He is now removed from the gods, and destiny hammers down on Odin’s people. The tragedy is fulfilled when Loki, drunk and angry, crashes a dinner party among the gods and insults and reveal the secrets of every god there. He mocks Thor’s stupidity, reveals that Odin’s wife Frigg had been unfaithful, and so on. As the grand finale, he reveals that he was responsible for Baldr’s death. Now Odin can not hold back any longer. He turns on his brother, and the gods hunt Loki down.
Loki hides as a fish, and interestingly he here gives a gift to mankind, his only gift to us. Pondering how he might be caught, he makes a fishing net, the world’s first. Ironically, he is captured with it and left to be tortured for eternity. His wife Sigynn stays with him, but his son Narfi turns into a wolf and kills Loki’s other son. Chaos rules with Loki. The gods do not have much time left.
And so, Ragnarok. Loki breaks free and leads an army towards the gods. He battles the god of order and his arch nemesis, Heimdall, and they kill each other. In the meantime, Loki’s son Fenrir is responsible for the death of Odin, and Jormungandir for the death of Thor. And so it all ends.
Loki’s relationship with the gods perfectly mirror the world’s attitude towards the gods. This theory states that Loki may not have been aware of it, but that he had some relationship with forces outside of even Odin’s comprehension. This is only one of many theories, however. Farbauti, Loki’s father, has been interpreted to be a lightning-related demon, which would lead more credence to the idea that Loki is a fire demon, as his name might suggest. Others believe he is an air god or merely a trickster. There are many possibilities, and the answer mey never be known. But this is my favorite theory for my favorite god.
© 2013 Nidag the Goat