Loki

.. tlfar 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 Hyndluljd, 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 marvellous 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.

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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 letting 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 himself 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 more bitter 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 accusses her of promiscuosity 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 thise 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 theough 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 sleps 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 fighterm 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, is connected with the myth of te 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 Hder 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 instigater of Baldr’s killing, but also for keeping him from coming back to life again. This lead to Loki’s punishment.

He ran off and hid in a mountain, 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 resemble 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. OTHER-MYTH COMPARISIONS 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 judgement 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 behaviour, 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’ favourites, Heracles.

PROMETHEUS COMPARISON 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 responsibilty 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. 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.

CONCLUSION 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.

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