Loki

Loki, the Trickster, challenges the structure and order of the Gods which is necessary in bringing about needed change. In the Prose Edda Snorri Sturluson writes that Loki:

is handsome and fair of face, but has an evil disposition and is very changeable of mood. He excelled all men in the art of cunning, and he always cheats. He was continually involving the Aesir in great difficulties and he often helped them out again by guile.

loki

Neither an Aesir or a Vanir, he is the son of two giants and yet the foster-brother of Odin. Loki embodies the ambiguous and darkening relationship between the gods and the giants. He is dynamic and unpredictable and because of that he is both the catalyst in many of the myths and the most fascinating character in the entire mythology. Without the exciting, unstable, flawed figure Loki, there would be no change in the fixed order of things, no quickening pulse, and no Ragnarok.

He is responsible for a wager with a giant which puts Freyja into peril (Myth 3) but by changing both shape and sex (characteristics he has in common with Odin) he bails her out. In Myth 10 he shears Sif’s hair which is more mischievous than evil, but he makes amends in the end. In Myth 8 his deceit leads to the loss of the golden apples of youth… but he retrieves them again. He helps the Gods and gets them out of predicaments, but spawns the worst monsters ever seen on the face of the Earth: Fenrir, Jormungand, the Midgard Wyrm. His other children include the goddess Hel (Hella, Holle), and Sleipnir, Odin’s 8-legged horse.

It is now generally accepted that he is not a late invention of the Norse poets but an ancient figure descended from a common Indo-European prototype and as such, Loki’s origins are particularly complex. He has been compared to a number of European and other mythological figures, most notably the Trickster of Native American mythology.

Loki

As the myths play out, the playful Loki gives way to a cruel predator, hostile to the gods. He not only guides the mistletoe dart that kills Balder but stands in his way on his return from Hel (the citadel of Niflheim). His accusations against the gods at Aegir’s feast (Myth 30) are vicious. He is an agent of destruction causing earthquakes. And when he breaks loose at Ragnarok, Loki reveals his true colors; he is no less evil than his three appalling children, the serpent Jormungand, the wolf Fenrir and the half-dead, half-alive Hel (Myth 7), and he leads the giants and monsters into battle against the gods and heros.

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38 Comments

  1. crow

    hes the son of odin not two giants. read the myths

    • N

      Loki’s origins and role in Norse mythology have been much debated. According to the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century and perhaps our best resource, Loki is the son of two giants, foster-brother of Odin and brother of Helblindi and Býleistr.

    • thrud

      loki is actully adopted…and some say that he was the son of two gaints, other not so much…but from what i have read in some websites and books…loki is not really odins son…nor thors blood brother….

      • Randomguywhojustreadthis

        Well actually in the mythology it said that odin and Loki mixed bloods.I don’t know if it was true or not but I read it somewhere

    • Anon

      Loki is the son of two giants but he tricked Odin into becoming blood brothers, making him a God.

    • Hel Lokison

      He was adopted by Odin as a child but was indeed the son of Laufey and Farbauti who are both Jotuns. The Jotuns have magical powers and in this particular case, Loki’s first wife Angrboda who was a Jotun taught Loki magic. (and later he devorced her because she’s an evil witch…more or less)

    • Ezekiel

      Loki is most commonly referred to as the son of two giants, Farbauti and Laufey (the latter of which is actually his mother). The comics have adapted this and made Laufey his father. The movie continued this, though accepted his Jotun parentage, as Odin found him as a baby and adopted him into Asgard’s society as an Aesir prince. In actual myth, Loki and Odin were adopted brothers, rather than Loki and Thor, though this brotherhood was not of blood and only served as a political stance, as Odin could thus keep an eye on Loki and influence him, as he held line to Jotunheim’s throne. Why Loki is not a giant and seems more similar in terms of looks to the Aesir, I do not know, but then again he is a shape shifter, so maybe his true form is indeed that of a Jotun.

    • Loptr

      You’re confusing the myths with the Marvel comics. Odin And Loki are actually blood brothers.

      Loki spake:
      9. “Remember, Othin, | in olden days
      That we both our blood have mixed;
      Then didst thou promise | no ale to pour,
      Unless it were brought for us both.”
      -Lokasenna, Poetic Edda

      XVI. “How should one periphrase Loki? Thus: call him Son of Fárbauti and Laufey, or of Nil, Brother of Býleistr and of Helblindi, Father of the Monster of Ván (that is, Fenris-Wolf), and of the Vast Monster (that is, the Midgard Serpent), and of Hel, and Nari, and Áli; Kinsman and Uncle, Evil Companion and Bench-Mate of Odin and the Æsir, Visitor and Chest-Trapping of Geirrödr, Thief of the Giants, of the Goat, of Brísinga-men, and of Idunn’s Apples, Kinsman of Sleipnir, Husband of Sigyn, Foe of the Gods, Harmer of Sif’s Hair, Forger of Evil, the Sly God,
      Slanderer and Cheat of the Gods, Contriver of Baldr’s Death, the Bound God, Wrangling Foe of Heimdallr and of Skadi.”
      -Skáldskaparmál, Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson

    • Kristina

      Actually Odin is the Foster Brother to Loki. And He is the son of two Frost Giants (Farbauti and Laufey). Loki’s parents didn’t even say they had a child because of his small size (poor Loki). He was taken as an infant by Odin and was raised with Thor

    • austin

      Well there is proof in multiple books that i’ve read that he isn’t the son of Odin, but Thor is, and even though not related, Thor and Loki think of themselves as blood brothers, just look at the article on Thor on this website, i think it has some proof in it

  2. Dany White

    One of the reasons that Loki’s heritage is unlcear/confusing is because unlike the other Gods who have counterparts in other religions, Loki really just appeared out of nowhere. The most likely scenario is that he is the child of the giants Laufey and Farbauti and then was taken in by Odin (whether he became Odin’s brother or Thor’s brother depends on what you read).

    I think one of the reasons people seem to like the idea of him being Odin’s son (other than the Marvel Comics) is because the descriptions of Loki don’t match what is said about the giants. Being the son of two gaints, Loki himself should be a giant… except he’s not, and the fact that all male giants seem to be, well, really ugly whereas the women are quite attractive (possibly to allow for cross-species relationships? A human-sized female probably wouldn’t survive getting with a giant, but a giantess would have no trouble with a human-sized male) – Loki is apparantly quite a good-looking dude, and occasionally a good-looking woman. Being the son of one of the Gods would account for both his size and appearance – otherwise he’s just got a really lucky birth defect.

    He’s not the God of Fire though, that would be Logi (a fire giant). The two got combined when Christianity started influencing the myths and Loki went from trouble-maker who made bad decisions and went insane (has anyone ever noticed how often he gets tortured/his children taken away from him, I don’t blame the guy) to the equivelent of the Devil.
    Loki and Logi actually met at one point and had an eating contest, it was weird.

    • N

      Loki is definitely a mystery. Born of two giants and yet is somehow the foster-brother of Odin??? He is dynamic and unpredictable and is the catalyst in many of the myths. Without the severely flawed and fascinating Loki there would be no change in the fixed order of things, no Ragnarok!

    • Rachael Harmony

      Loki, like you have said does seem to ‘pop out of no where’ due to the fact that in other religions have no other counterparts. It has caught my attention though that Loki does seem similar to Old Coyote within some, and many, Native American legends. Since both Loki and Old Coyote are cunning and mysterious to a point where they cause trouble, and even sometimes helps others out of trouble, if it benefits them. Just thought I would share, since this realization just occurred to me and I thought that it was interesting 😀

  3. Luna

    My facepalm during the comments was permanent…

    People, Norse Loki and Marvel Loki are two absolutely different stories!!!
    DO NOT DARE TO THINK THAT MARVEL IS TELLING THE ACTUAL MYTHS!!! This is the Norse religion, far older than Christianity, written in runes so long ago and translated by very knowing people into what is called “The Eddas”

    I like marvel comics, but insisting that they are more true that the actual norse myths is insulting and a sign of great ignorance. So before someone else claims that Loki is Odin’s adopted son learn a couple of facts about the actual Loki.

    1. Loki was the son of Farbauti and Laufey. BEING LAUFEY THE MOTHER! (I don’t know whythe hell marvel changed her gender, but still…) He had two brothers, Hellblindi and Balyestyr

    2. He was Odin’s BLOOD-BROTHER (a brother by a ritual of mixing blood, it’s actually an ancient tradition people who passed through a lot together or owe their life to the other did often) And no, he definitely was not his son not foster not in any way, nor had he any type or silbing relationship with Thor.

    3. He was a readhead.

    4. He was as much of a warrior as any, cunning, sly, powerful and had an ability to change his shape freely.

    5. He was, indeed, the GOD OF FIRE. No, don’t look at me as if I were mad. Nowhere in the Edda is said he was a frost giant, just a Giant, Like Skadi or Jerd. He was also the God of chaos, temptation and sex. He was supposed to be the voice of evil in people’s mind, he is all the darkness in their hearts.

    6. He had Eight known children. Sleipnir with Svadilfari, Hel, fenrir (or fenris) and Jormungander with Angraboda. Vali and Narvi with Sygin and Einmyria and Eisa with Glut. He also ate a woman’s heart and bore the first witch.

    7. He had countless lovers. From trolls and horses to the queen Frigg herself and even Sif! (The myth of her hair being cut has a background of parallelism with the agriculture seasons. As the goddess of earth fertility and corn she is the Wife of Thor, golden, caring and giving by summer. In winter she becomes Loki’s lover and her golden generosity fades and dies as dead is the earth that is frozen and cannot produce food)

    8. He had a dual identity like this article says, he could be male and female, father or bear children. He was a incredibly mighty and sly. He lives inside the dark of everyone of us.

    I so love marvel’s Loki character, and I adore Tom’s performance. But he is nothing compared to the real Loki, and those of you who yell “See the movie!!” or “Read the books” (clearly not referencing to the Edda) maybe should be the one to learn the difference.

    Thank you.
    (Great article BTW)

    • SAzrael.

      I disagree respectfully with your statement that he represented the evil in mens hearts . That was never an aspect of the older myths before Christianity got a hold od him. Once they got a foot hols witn the eddas, tbey needed a fall Guy. A Lucifer like.character. even yhe pre Christian myths didn’t paint him as a petty cruel figure. Just my thoughts on it.

    • Logi

      He wasn’t the God of fire, it’s a common misconception with Logi a fire giant and personification of fire.

    • Tata

      FINALLY SOMEONE WHO SAID IT RIGHT. Although I don’t agree very much with the “evil in our hearts”. Loki only takes advantage of the situations more profitable to him. From my viewpoint, he’s a neutral character. Or almost that.

    • Harley Dave

      Great reply. You have very neatly summed up pretty much everything I have thus been able to find on this subject. I find Loki interesting, but the lack of factual info on him in the web today is stunning. Also, you are right, Loki was A God of fire, as was Logi, and numerous others. In Norse mythology, there were no single titles for single gods and goddesses. They all were simply deities, with numerous, overlapping qualities, or talents.
      Thank you for a terrific article!

    • lostsoul1221

      Thank you! It’s so frustrating how people get loki from marvel mixed up with Loki from norse mythology. Yes, marvel Loki is based on Norse Loki….but the story has been changed dramatically.

  4. D

    I actually like marvel’s adaption of Loki 🙂

  5. Jinger

    Well, from what I’ve accumulated over the course of time, it seems to me that the vision of Loki has gone through some tough bouts of transformation and we have a rael predicament to deal with. In my opinion, the Loki we should be recognizing is the one before the influence of Christianity. That’s just my thought process. Sorry if you don’t agree.

    • SAzrael.

      Jinger, I agree with you completely. And its refreshing to come across someone else who has looked at Loki pre Christianity. 🙂

  6. rhiannon

    THE MOVIE IS NOT TRUE. Loki is adopted but his parents are not gients. No one knows

  7. CinnaDex

    Heya, I don’t know if this helps, but I think I might be able to shed some clarity on where the “God of Fire” thing is coming from. I don’t remember where exactly I’ve read this, I’ve seen if a few times, it’s around if you look hard enough, but before the Norse Mythology really started to develop, Loki’s origin myth went that he was conceived when his father struck Laufey (his mother) with a lightning bolt and then Loki emerged out of the resulting fire, causing him to be known as a creature born of fire and earned him the original title of God of the Hearth. Then as the Aesir myths began to grow Loki grew with them and took on the role of the cunning and manipulative trickster. So I guess he is kinda both, I know that I’ve read a few stories about Loki’s marriage to Glut and about his daughters Eisa and Einmyria which came from said marriage from whan he was still know as Hearth God, and I’ve read many many stories about how he’s the trickster too…. Two sides of the same coin perhaps

    • Eidunn

      I think that Loki comes from Rökkr. That’s why His birth is described in that way. And that makes Him the God of Fire. He’s the personification of fire, from elder beliefs than what we know as Norse. He’s older than Aesir. But when new religion started to take over, some of Gods were “taken” from the old religion and given new roles. At the same time the previous roles were erased, or at least there was an attempt to erase them. That’s why Loki meets Logi in Utgard. If They meet then They can’t be the same God, right? That’s the way religions work. They use some elder Gods, change Their nature (not always), change Their names (often) and make Them one of the new Gods, or Devils or whatever. First there was Loge God of Fire and everything that goes with it, then there was Loki, God of Mischief, then Christianity came and Loki became more and more evil, even though there should be no such thing as evil or good in Norse religion. Only chaos and order. But Christianity made an evil creature of Loki.
      Just look at the myth of making people. In Rökkr our Makers were Loge, Eggthir and Kari (Sutr), in Poettic Edda They were Odin, Lodur (there is big discussion whether its Loki or not, I believe that’s Him) and Hoenir, and in Prose Edda it’s Odin, Villi and Ve. If believed that Loge and Lodur are both Loki then we can see how we gradually go away from the “Old Gods”. Of course you all may disagree with me. That’s just what I think after some reading.

  8. Bill Buxton

    Its funny to see everyone argue because there is so many different stories about Norse mythology that no one can say that one story is wrong and the other is right.

    • Blake

      Totally agree….and I like it how there are many versions/perceptions of it. A great story teller has to elaborate and improvise sometimes. People forget that these ancient tails were an oral tradition which slowly made its way around the world.

  9. Yvette

    Interesting that so much is pulled from the comics in this thread. The origins of Norse mythology are scanty at best, as the Norse embraced Christianity and did away with their original beliefs, for the most part. Very little was retained, and most of that oral, until the Eddas were written down. As those are based on what little survived the Christian destruction of the original religion, we cannot even say what was fully believed about any of the Norse gods, giants, etc. so arguing about it is pointless. But don’t expect a comic to give you anything approaching accurate information. It’s entertainment, not history or religious studies.

  10. the myth

    Loki was poisoned by a snake as punishment for doing something to one of the major gods. I believe he killed one of them. That was part of one of the myths…

  11. jenny

    Just wondering what did loki rule or what was his domain? he was a god so did it mean he ruled a place?

  12. Mathew

    You need to stick to the actual Edda the real books, not the comics… and not the internet, people make things up on the internet all the time stick to the elder books, look in the library, or go to northern Europe and see if you can find actual books on these topics, Loki was definitely not adopted though, Odin and he formed a brotherhood, the giants and the gods have had multiple affairs and the realm of the giants is called Jotunheim pronounced yo tun hame, and it’s only one of the nine worlds in this ancient belief. And its the world of the giants just giants generic…. giants… okay? There were frost giants yes, the books have mentioned them Ymir being the first of them, he was thawed out by the primeval cow and then the other frost giant Buri was thawed the same way as Ymir drank the milk from the cow. Which is in the Elder Edda. Laufey or Nal was the mother of Loki, not the father. Nal in old english means needle, this was depicted because his mother was slender and weak. Farbouti means “dangerous hitter” and laufey meaning roughly “full of leaves” there is a mythological interpretation with lighting hitting the leaves or needles of a tree to rise fire, hense the name of the fire god, being Loki, but he also has many other features such as mischief and chaos.

  13. Maggie Bekar

    Marvel used the explanation that Loki literally changed his appearance to fit into the Odensone family. That could be an explanation but I like to think it’s just creative license.

  14. NS

    This is all interesting. I love the marvel version of Loki and was looking to find what the actual mythology had to say about him. This is the first thing I’ve looked at. I want to try to find some stories about him. It seem extreamly interesting.

  15. what happend to loki when his children got taken away?

  16. The Lady Fiia

    Quite comical, this entire thread is doing nothing more than simply repeating it’s self continually through each and every single post, with some using a bit more colorful verbage! This site is -highly- informative, with kuddos to the webmaster. Insted of trying to prove who or what is right, why not simply re-read this site’s list of Norse myths?

  17. Loki

    I should be posting under the name of something like “Son of the Lord of Chaos” or “Humble Nerd” or something. Hold back your fire and brimstone on account of the name, please.
    It’s good to see a lot of people bringing the Eddas (and other historical sources) to correct the damage and misinformation brought onto the masses by Marvel, Christianity and anti-Loki propaganda. Many of the points made already cleared up some of the usual, like Loki’s parentage, His relationship with other FELLOW Aesir and His goodly alignment (rather than being some Lucifer-type).
    I would like to bring in a few details.
    Helblindi is stated in the Prose Edda as one of Loki’s Brothers. Then, in the Grimnirsmal (Lay of Grimnir), Helblindi is one of the many epitaphs of Odhinn.
    Lo’dhurr was one of the three Aesir (another was Odhinn) who gave Elm and Ash (the two first peoples according to the Voluspa). Giving, essentially, Life fire, while Odhinn gave spirit (onde; similar to how pneuma means both “spirit” and “breath” in Greek) and Haenir gave o’dh, mind (both in emotion and thought). Again, Loki as an ACTUAL Aesir, not as a tolerated or an adopted Jotun.
    Scandinavian folk references to Loki when seeing mirages (and similar phenomenon) due to heat and a few medieval literary sources citing Loki’s connection to the element of Fire are not the only reasons many people (Asatru’, Ro:kkatru’ and other) associate Loki’s providence with Fire.
    Through many of His children (Jo:rmungand, Hel and Fenrir) and activities (even being bound to a rock, underneath hot springs and with a venomous serpent), I think there is also good reason to reassess His role as Lord of the Underworld. Odhinn usually gets a Yahweh-like attention as psychopomp, yet He is like Zeus, like the wind, He brings the “weather” of man’s fates, the factors of a person’s journey. Neither the A’s nor the Olympian controlled the journey of Death. Wouldn’t Loki’s involvement in Baldur’s murder make sense? To show that no one is above Impermanence?
    Could it be that, like the Olympians and in what is hinted in Slavic evidence, that there were three brother gods? Odhinn and Loki and ? ? These three would have similar realms of rulership: Heaven, Sea and Earth (Underworld). This is academic conjecture, not fantasy nor Marvel.
    Loki and Tyr got along, especially with Fenrir. Odhinn didn’t seem to mind Sleipnir, despite Loki being his mother. Hodr was honorably executed but Loki wasn’t. No text says why and who stood up for Him. Loki and Thor worked together often enough to suggest good will and trust were at least there. Mjo:lnir (Thor’s hammer) was Loki’s gift, not Thor’s right. Obviously, Loki was not anti-Aesir.
    One last idea: Loki, or any god for that matter, is never personifications or espousings of evil, darkness and immorality (save for inventions of Abrahamistic, Mithraic and Zarathustrian faiths). Pre-Christian gods were not definers of morality any more than the sea, weather, wild creatures or other natural phenomenon are. The tales of the gods, even to the northmen were NOT modes of teaching ethics and morality. Loki, from a modern pagan or Asatru’, is a trickster and could be an underworld deity. Tricksters are bringers of Change and Transformation, not harbingers of Evil.

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