Loki, the trickster God gained some serious popularity after he was adopted as a character in the Loki series, whether it be in the comics or his theatrical adaptation starring Tom Hiddleston. But today, we are not going to talk about the Marvel version of Loki, instead, I’m going to tell you about Loki references in Norse mythology. Before we get into it, let me tell you that when Marvel picked up Loki, they essentially twisted most of his origin and story, keeping minimal details from the original character.
Some of the facts I talk about will be different from what you have seen in MCU movies, so if you think you know everything about Loki, think again cause I am about to prove you wrong.
Who is Loki in Norse Mythology?
If we talk about Loki as a Norse god, he is not liked by the pagan Scandinavians but in recent times he has gained popularity due to his role played by Tom Hiddleston in Marvel movies. Other than that, the whole of Norse mythology has gained serious popularity after it has been incorporated into several video games as well.
Loki specifically is the God of mischief or the trickster God. He is one of those gods to whom people don’t pray, but they pray to other gods to keep him away from them. This factor is also enforced by the way Loki is portrayed in the current adaptations of this character, but he is way more complex than that. Contrary to popular belief, he isn’t a typical “Bad guy.” Now the question arises, how?
Is Loki a God or a Giant?
To keep things simple, Loki is a mixblood as his father was a Giant and his mother was a Goddess. However, Loki took up the surname of his mother, which in turn, shows that he chooses to be a God.
In Norse mythology, mystical beings are divided into two categories, the Gods (Æsir) or the Giants (Jötunn). If we go through the Norse texts, Gods and Giants have a kind of love-hate relationship with each other. The king of all gods, Odin is the son of a God but his mother was a Giant. Yet, he is a God since Norse mythology is paternal.
Now, with Loki, it is a little complicated. You see in Norse mythology, in fact, even today in Norway, the children are given their surnames by adding “Daughter” if it’s a girl or “Son” if it its a boy after their father’s name. For instance, if a child’s father’s name is Joseph, it’ll have the surname “Josephdaughter” or ” Josephson” but in the case of Loki, his father was Fárbauti, a Giant and his mother was named Laufey, a Goddess.
Even though his paternity was that of the Giants, he took up the surname of his mother and hence was called Loki Laufeyson. This can be seen as a metaphor for Loki choosing who he wants to be, that is, a God.
Furthermore, this factor of him being a mixblood is enforced further by Loki in a poetic text called “Lokasenna,” which is a collection of poems written by the poet named Edda. In the Lokasenna, Loki calls Odin his blood brother which is documented in the following way:
“Remember, Othin, in olden days
that we both our blood have mixed”
Although it’s unknown why Loki calls Odin his blood brother, the most common assumption is that this comment by Loki points towards the fact that Odin is a mix of Giant and God blood as well, making him and Loki blood brothers.
Was Loki Male or Female?
Loki is a god who was one of the first in mythology to be gender fluid. Loki has been portrayed as a male in most of the pop culture adaptations but in truth, he has been seen sporting both genders as per his wish. In Thrymskvida or Þrymskviða, there is a tale where Thor and Loki must pretend to be Freyja and her handmaiden, respectively, in order to retrieve Thor’s hammer from a Giant king named Thrym. Also, we see Sylvie, a female Loki variant, in the Marvel universe.
The interesting thing about this incident is that when Thor is in disguise he is still referred to as a male by the narrator, but in the case of Loki, the narrator refers to him as a female telling us that Loki is not just in disguise but has actually turned himself into a female. This is evident from the excerpt-
20. Then Loki spake, the son of Laufey:
“As thy Maid-Servant thither I go with thee;
“We two shall haste to the giant’s home.”
26. Hard by there sat the Serving-maid wise
so well she answered the giant’s words:
“From Food has Freyja eight nights fasted
So hot was her longing for Jotunheim”
Other than this excerpt, in Norse texts, while Loki fathered most of his children, he also mothered one of them. In the text “Glyfaginning,” there’s a tale where Loki transforms into a female horse to lure the Stallion Sladifari away. When Loki returns, it is discovered that he is pregnant, and later on, gives birth to an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir.
Sleipnir was later adopted by Odin and was honored with the position of his very own Steed. This tells us that Loki is not bound to one gender like the rest of the gods.
Who Kills Loki in Norse Mythology?
After Loki Killed Baldr, who is known as the wisest of all gods, and fled Asgard, a number of Gods, including Thor and Odin himself, went out in his pursuit. Loki was caught by Thor and the other Gods, who literally dragged him to a cave and imprisoned him there. In order to torture him even more, the giantess named Skadi kept an extremely poisonous snake over his head to pain Loki continuously. It is believed in Norse mythology that Loki is still imprisoned in that unidentified cave and will be freed on the day of the next Ragnarok.
It is believed that when Loki is set free, his fate is to die at the hands of Heimdall, who is also known as the Watchman of all gods and is basically their bodyguard. He also looks after the well-being and protects the Bifrost, also known as the Rainbow Bridge.
As far as the MCU is concerned, Loki has cheated death multiple times but he was ultimately killed by Thanos in Avengers Infinity War.
Is Loki Good or Evil in Mythology?
Loki, as we all know, is the God of Mischief, and oftentimes, rather than helping the Gods, he is more of a troublemaker for them. Even if he’s in a fight alongside the Gods he just can’t refrain from pulling a prank which usually causes serious trouble for the Gods.
Even though he causes trouble and messes with the Gods every chance he gets, the good thing is that he always fixes the damage he causes. Loki had the dwarfs create a pair of golden hair for Sif when he chopped off her real ones just for fun. In fact, he created a number of things for a lot of gods, he built a spear and a ring for Odin and even Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.
Even after causing his share of problems for the Gods, Loki is often called to the aid of the gods like the time when a Giant named Skadi arrives in Asgard to avenge the death of her father killed by the Gods. After a series of negotiations, she agrees to accept the compensation being provided to her but, one of her conditions is that the Gods will have to make her laugh.
All the gods make an attempt but fail to do so and then, Loki is called upon who finally manages to make her laugh. Even though Loki oftentimes does such tasks for the Gods, he is hardly ever acknowledged or given the honor he deserves for his good deeds. In the long run, this gets back to the Gods when Loki, tired of all the disrespect, turns from an ally to an enemy.
Ragnarok, which in Scandinavian mythology is described as the end of the world of man and God, was an event where Loki completely turned against the Gods. He was the one who led the army of the dead from Hel (Hell) into a battle against the Gods. One can say that Loki was destined to be the enemy of Gods but another factor in his turning against the gods could be how they treated him all his life. So what do you think? is Loki actually a bad guy or just tired of the disrespect?
So What is Loki?
The simple answer is that he is a trickster, but if you really want to delve into his identity as a whole and his personality, the answer is that we don’t really know. See, there’s a huge scarcity of texts about Norse Mythology but the texts we have in our possession sometimes portray him as a bad guy, sometimes as a good one, or sometimes as just a guy who likes to goof around.
The beauty of the character is the fact that the perception of Loki can differ from person to person based on how you perceive his characteristics with regard to his relationship with the Gods. The only answer we can say to be certain about Loki is “It’s complicated”.