Loki

Loki (“seducer” or “fire”) is the Nordic god of lies and cheating, responsible for Asgard's various problems (and even tragedies) and for their respective solutions. He is the son of the ice giant Laufey, or Nál ("needle", the name given to her being thin, beautiful and sharp), and, presumably, of the giant Fárbauti ("the one who makes powerful blows"). Loki is able to take any form he wants, but his greatest skill is his intellect (too bad he uses it for evil several times). Contrary to what Marvel says, he is not Odin's son, but his blood-swearing brother, and therefore a constant presence in the Asgardian halls.

The Sons of Loki

filho de loki, fenrir
Fenrir, the giant wolf

            Loki is married to the goddess Sigyn, with whom he had two children, Narvi and Vali. But the beautiful and alluring god fooled around with the ice giant Angrboda. And with her he had three children, one more eccentric, frightening and powerful than the other, which frightened the Asgardian gods and led them to separate the brothers. The first was Jörmungund (“The Serpent of the World”, or “of Midgard”), which was left in the sea that surrounds Midgard; they say it has become so big that if it bites its own tail, it "embraces" the world completely. Then came Hela, or Hel, a girl whose half of her body was normal and healthy and the other half was a "zombie", with rotting flesh and an empty eye. She was sent to the darkest place of all, Hel (or Helheim) and became the sovereign of all the dead in the nine worlds.

            Finally, there was Fenrir, a gray wolf that grew at a frightening speed (his size already exceeded that of a large bear), but who spoke the language of men and gods. His growing size and strength scared the gods (except for Tyr, god of war and son of Odin, responsible for feeding the wolf) who decided to chain him. However, no matter what current they tried, Fenrir always destroyed it. So, they decided to ask the dwarves to manufacture an impossible chain that could withstand the strength of the giant wolf, the so-called Gleipnir. To make it, the dwarves used six ingredients: the sound of a cat's footsteps, a woman's beard, the roots of a mountain, the tendons of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the saliva of a bird; which is why these elements no longer exist, the dwarves used everything.

            With the chain ready, the gods went to Fenrir, but the wolf didn't want to be chained this time (he felt the magic of the chain). The gods assured him that they only wanted to test his strength and that if he failed to break the chain, they would release him in sequence. Finally, he said that he would leave if a god put his hand on his mouth during the process, and that if the gods were lying, he would rip that god's hand off. Only Tyr applied, put his right hand (the good one) in the wolf's mouth, and had it pulled out when Fenrir failed to break free from the chain and realized he had been deceived by the gods. Since then, he has been waiting for Ragnarök to take his revenge against the gods, and especially against Odin. By the way, both Loki and his children will be crucial for Ragnarök, but that is for another post.

The Asgard Wall

loki e svadilfari
Svadilfari spotting Loki

            There are several stories about Loki, but I selected three that I think are most relevant and that represent the personality of the god well. The first concerns the construction of the Asgard wall. Well, there was a time when Asgard had no wall and depended almost exclusively on Thor's protection against trolls and giants, so they argued about the need to build an impassable wall.

         One day, a stranger appeared in Asgard, claiming to be able to build a perfect and almost indestructible wall in just 3 seasons. But his price was simply absurd, he demanded in return the Sun, the Moon, and the hand of Freya (vanir goddess of love). Obviously the gods rejected the proposal, but they were convinced by Loki to make a counter-proposal. They would give him what he asks for if he managed to finish the wall in 1 season and without help. When they proposed this to the stranger he readily accepted, only asking to be able to use his horse, Svadilfari, which was granted (after all, there was no way a man and a horse could finish this job).

            However, much to the dismay of the gods, the construction of the wall moved absurdly fast, mainly thanks to the horse capable of carrying an absurd amount of huge blocks of granite. Near the deadline, the wall was almost ready. Then the gods sent Loki to solve the problem he had fixed (under threat of unworthy death, of course). The solution found by the god was to disguise himself as a beautiful mare in order to seduce the builder's horse. Svadilfari “went crazy” when he saw the Loki mare, and chased her into the forest (Asgard is surrounded by a forest, and a mountain further away), abandoning its owner. The builder without his horse was unable to finish the wall (narrowly, to be fair; the part over the gate was missing).

            Outraged by the frame of the gods, he revealed his true form, a mountain giant. But, unfortunately for him, Thor had already returned from his trip and with a blow with his hammer, he killed the builder. Loki was gone for a while, and when he returned he was accompanied by an eight-legged gray stallion called Sleipnir, the fastest and strongest horse of all worlds, which he gave to Odin. Bad mouths say that Sleipnir is the result of Loki's “romance” with Svadilfari, but don't let him catch you saying that.

The Gods' Treasures

"presente" de Loki a Thor, Mjölnir
Mjölnir, Thor's hammer

            Another emblematic passage of Loki is the story of the treasures of the gods. And it starts in the best Loki style, with a prank. He shaved the head of Sif, goddess of fertility and Thor's wife, while she slept. Thor was furious after Loki who under threats promised not only to recover Sif's hair, but also to bring gifts for him (Thor), Odin and Frey (vanir god of agriculture, fertility, prosperity).

         So, Loki went to the land of the dwarves, arriving there, went to meet the famous Sons of Ivaldi, set the price of the gifts and left. But he needed more, so he went to talk to the brothers Brokk and Eitri. Since the god did not want to spend more gold, he challenged the brothers to make better gifts than those of the Children of Ivaldi. If they failed, he would not pay them; otherwise, he would pay. The brothers accepted upon one condition: they would want Loki's head as payment. Loki accepted and left.

            However, to ensure his victory he disguised himself as a fly (a very big one), and started to bite Brokk (responsible for maintaining the furnace temperature, so he couldn't take his hand off the bellows for even a second). Brokk resisted the pain and the urge to keep the insect away during the making of the first two gifts. But in the last one, Loki stung his eye, Brokk then couldn't resist and tried to hit the fly (which narrowly escaped), taking his hand out of the bellows for a fraction of a second, enough to "spoil" the third gift. Satisfied with himself, Loki returned to Asgard, confident of his victory.

            Then came the day of the presentation of the gifts, Loki personally commanded the Sons of Ivaldi's presentation. They offered Odin a spear called Gungnir, which penetrates anything and always hits the target (something very useful for a one-eyed man). To Thor, they gave a golden wig that sticks to the user's head, perfectly simulating real hair (it even grows like one). Thor put it on Sif who was even more beautiful than before. Finally, they offered Frey the Skidbladnir, a huge magical ship that will always have good winds and can still be kept in your pocket (a portable ship!). Loki smiled confidently that these gifts could not be overcome.

            Brokk's turn came, first he gave Odin a bracelet called Draupnir that multiplies eight every nine nights. Then he gave Frey a golden boar called Gullinbursti, which glows in the dark, never tires and runs faster than any horse across the sky and over the sea. And to Thor, he gave nothing less than Mjölnir whose cable was short thanks to Loki's interference. Yet the hammer was indestructible, it never misses the target when thrown, and it always returns to the god's hands no matter how far he throws it. All the gods were very impressed with the hammer that would be crucial in fighting the giants. So, Brokk won the contest.

         He almost immediately went to collect the debt from Loki, the head of the god of lies. The god replied that he could pull it out if he wanted to, but only if he did it without hurting his neck, as he had not staked his neck, only his head. Odin was right with Loki, who smirked at the dwarf. Angered at being cheated, he (with Odin's permission) sewed Loki's mouth for the amusement of the gods present there.

Baldur's Death

punição de Loki
Loki's punishment

            The last story deals with the death of Baldur (or Balder), the Good. Baldur was the son of Odin and Frigg, and god of summer sunlight. Everyone loved Baldur, except Loki. But even though he was so loved and adored, he lived having terrible nightmares: Sun and Moon being devoured by wolves, brothers killing brothers, age of storms (that is, Ragnarök). This scared his parents, and Frigg immediately went to speak to every element of the world, from metals to animals and plants, to swear never to hurt Baldur. Having done so, she returned to Asgard with the good news, saying that Baldur was safe. Everyone was excited, except Loki (envy) and Odin (concern). Then began a bizarre game of trying to hit Baldur with all kinds of things and weapons, but regardless of what they threw, everything either deflected, or was destroyed before touching the god.

            Loki then chooses to spoil the party. Disguised as a woman and went to talk to Frigg. She reported what she did, but also revealed that she did not get the ointment of mistletoe (a small climbing herb), as you could not make a mistletoe weapon. Satisfied, Loki disappeared. After a while he came back, and again a bizarre game was taking place in the Asgardian hall.

         He then approached Hod, Baldur's blind brother, and questioned him why he did not participate in the "ceremony". He replied sadly that because he was blind, he could accidentally hit another god. Loki then offered to guide him in throwing a dart he had brought. Hod gladly accepted. Loki then placed the dart in his hands, and guided him to hit his brother. However, to everyone's sad surprise, the dart did not deviate or was destroyed, but hit the poor god in the chest, killing him in the act (the dart was made of mistletoe). Amid the confusion of anger, shock, despair and sadness, Loki disappeared.

            The world mourned Baldur's death, and Frigg decided to send Hérmod, the Agile, Odin's servant, to negotiate with Hela. She in turn stated that she would only release Baldur, if all the creatures of the world mourned his death. If a single creature did not, he would remain in Hel until the end of time. Messengers from the Aesir (Asgardian gods) were sent to every corner of the world, and all the creatures they encountered lamented Baldur's death. However, when they returned to Asgard they encountered an old giant called Thokk (most likely Loki in disguise), and she did not mourn Baldur's death, condemning him to Hel.

            After a long hunt, the gods found Loki's hideout. But he disguised himself as a salmon, and fled across the river to the sea. However, the gods used a fishing net (Loki's own invention) to try to catch him. When he jumped over the net to escape, Thor grabbed him in the air, squeezing him so hard that even today the salmon have the body thinner close to the tail.

             Then, the gods took Loki to a cave where his wife, Sigyn, and their children, Narvi and Vali, were. The gods then transformed Vali into a wild wolf and made him kill Narvi; Vali ran away afterwards, only returning to Ragnarök. With the entrails of their son, they cast Loki to a rock, and the giant Skadi (wife of Njord, vanir god of the seas) placed a snake on a stalactite above Loki's head. Poison dripped from his fangs, hit Loki's face, burning his eyes, making him scream and squirm in pain.

         The gods then gave Sigyn a clay bowl. She then went to her husband's side to prevent the drops of poison from falling on her face. However, whenever the bowl is filled and Sigyn has to turn around to empty it, the poison falls back on Loki who is writhing in pain, generating what we know as earthquakes. So they will stay until the day of Ragnarök, when his bonds will finally break. And alongside his children, they will head with Hel's army to take revenge on the gods and destroy the world as we know it.


Sources:

Bulfinch, T. (2006). O Livro da Mitologia. São Paulo, SP: Editora Martin Claret.

Daniels, M. (2019). A História da Mitologia Para Quem Tem Pressa. Rio de Janeiro, RJ: Valentina.

Bartlett, S. (2011). A Bíblia da Mitologia. São Paulo, SP: Editora Pensamento.

Gaiman, N. (2018). Mitologia Nórdica. Rio de Janeiro, RJ: Intrínseca.


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Alexandre Souza

Alexandre Souza is a Brazilian novelist that writes dark and supernatural stories, and also explores fantasy and historical fiction. He’s earning a BFA in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. He has flash fictions published at Adelaide Magazine and Scarlet Leaf Review. He’s a mythology and supernatural geek and uses this knowledge to enhance his work.

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