I am currently working on a series called The Ten Worlds, which is based on the Norse cosmology and mythology. The first two books will be a duology Children and Land. In the “My Norse Gods” series I am going to introduce the Gods the way they are described in The Ten Worlds which might or might not be in agreement with either the academic resources or what other heathens might believe.
If I were in charge of casting the upcoming Netflix series based on my books, Loki would be played by Jared Leto.
The Marvel universe, which I will unfortunately have to mention quite often, created the Father (Odin), Son (Thor), and the Devil (Loki) to explain the Norse Gods to those who either follow, or at least have basic understanding of Christianity. None of those three job descriptions are correct, with the exception of Thor being Odin’s son. The dichotomy of the Good All-Father God vs Evil Trickster Devil is false, if only because the Norse faith doesn’t contain universal concepts of “good” and “evil”. (As an aside, we don’t have a concept of “sin” either.) When the Vikings fought the Christians, the Christians told themselves they were the side of the good. Vikings were the side that wanted to win. Odin is not the “God”, more about which later, and Loki is not “Devil”. Loki is chaos, curiosity, and fun – as he defines it. He takes things away, gets caught, brings back something better – if you can force him or convince him otherwise.
It is so difficult to explain Loki that entire books have been devoted to him – such as The Problem of Loki by Jan de Vries,
which gave me a headache. Some Ásatrúar (the organised heathen religions) refuse to have anything to do with Loki, even forbidding any form of worship of Loki during their gatherings. Yet Loki is also Thor’s best friend and it is thanks to Loki that Thor received his hammer Mjölnir. Would you really dare to tell Thor “you’re welcome here, but only if your buddy stays away”. Is it better to celebrate the bringer of chaos, potentially attracting his attention, or to push him away, potentially attracting his attention?
Loki’s catchphrase is “what’s the worst that can happen?”.
While the resources name Loki’s parents, I found it more interesting to just have him appear from nowhere, unbound by any loyalties, family relations, on nobody’s side but his own. He marries a poor woman named Angrboða, who bears him three children – Hel, who is the loveliest Goddess of death you’ll ever meet, especially if you manage to ignore the fact that half of her is decomposed; the Serpent of Midgard, who is, well, a serpent encircling Midgard; and Fenrir, the wolf that never stops growing, becoming a source of great concern for the Gods. Another of his children is Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged stallion, and according to the myths, Loki is the horse’s mother. Later on Loki marries Sigyn, who remains faithful to him until the Universe ends. With Sigyn Loki has more children, ones that are neither serpents, horses, nor decomposed. They are not mentioned in Children and/or Land, so I’m going to talk about them some other time.
Quite a few Gods are (shape-)shifters, but Loki is the most talented of all of them, as he is the only one who can change gender in addition to everything else, limited only by his imagination. (For once, when he’s bragging about something he’s telling the truth.) During Loki’s brief career as a bridesmaid she is not a man in a dress – Loki is a woman at that point. Like all shifters, though, Loki has his favourite form, pictured above – Jared Leto at his most cult-leader-like. When appearing in this form, Loki prefers the pronouns he/him.
What is Loki like?
That depends on who you ask. Loki himself would answer “the most beautiful, talented, the wittiest of the Gods, and second wisest after Odin, although some say that ‘second’ might be debatable”. Thor and Loki are friends, which seems strange at first, but when the two travel somewhere together it’s generally to solve some sort of problem – which might or might not be of Loki’s own doing. Thor’s strength is a crucial element in Loki’s plans and the two spend much more time together than one would imagine. When you travel somewhere, say, by plane, Thor will ensure that you eventually get where you need to be and Loki will toss a coin before deciding whether your luggage does as well.
Loki is the uncertainty, the change. He is the destroyer and the builder. Calling him into your life is definitely going to alter it, although whether you will like (or survive) the result is at best doubtful. He’ll put you in a near-death situation, then rescue you (probably). You’ll either love him or hate him, possibly both at once. If you think it’s possible to feel lukewarm about him, Loki will show you how wrong you were.
All Loki wants from life is to be amused and straddle the razor-thin border between life and death, between victory and loss, without losing his important bits. Which he once tied a goat to, but that’s another story for another time. When two armies are at war, their powers clearly uneven, Loki will join the weaker side and do everything in his power to help until the two sides are (nearly) equal – because where’s the fun in watching Goliath stomp over David? Nevertheless, once the battle begins, he might change his loyalties. Or not. Depending on what will amuse him more, and Loki’s sense of humour is not something that can be understood by anybody else.
There is a myth (I sort-of used it in Children, changing almost everything), in which Loki shaves off the golden hair of Thor’s wife, Sif. Neither Thor nor Sif are amused by this. Loki’s explanation is a list of variations on “it was funny, right?” followed by a surprised “oh…? you don’t think it was funny?”. Threatened, Loki visits the forges of Svartálfheim, where he gets the goldsmiths to forge literal golden hair for Sif. Once that is done, neither Thor nor Sif hate the result, which is not to say that they forget about the event.
As time passes, Loki’s pranks become more and more cruel. He fancies himself as the trigger for Ragnarök, the final battle to end all battles and everything else. He will, of course, lead the side that’s supposed to be weaker, fighting against the Gods. Why? Everyone’s got to die sometime. Why not prepare the ultimate spectacle, one that will end the Universe, the biggest prank ever pulled? Death or not, it’s going to be interesting.
Loki knows no limits, no boundaries, no morals (the latter is not unusual among the Gods). If there are any recognised social rules, he’s going to break them. The only times when he feels fear is when he is threatened with repercussions by someone he is truly afraid of, such as Thor, but when he’s pulling one of his pranks consequences are but an uncertain thing that lies somewhere in the future. Also, since he is the wittiest and possibly the wisest of all Gods, although some do insist that it might be Odin, Loki doesn’t really expect any consequences. If only he could stop bragging about how wise and witty Loki is to an audience as large as possible, he might even avoid inevitably getting caught.
Is this the face of a liar? Surely not. (Jared Leto, credit unknown)
Loki is one of the deities associated with fire. He is the forest fire, one that is started by a piece of glass in the sun, a cigarette thrown out of a car window without being extinguished, or a man-made one supposed to clear the land for farming. That fire can be good, because farming is nice, and bad, because contributing to the climate crisis or burning forests by accident isn’t nice. Wind can make that fire spread onto dwellings or ensure that the small part of the forest that was actually supposed to burn turns into an inferno that can no longer be contained. But then, maybe the fire will just go out? Or maybe it will all go well? Who knows? Only those who can dictate a forest fire what to do. So, Loki.
The Prose Edda book Gylfaginning contains many stories about Loki. In one of them he is in contest with Logi, who is fire itself. A forest fire is capricious, fuelled by winds, tempered by rains, affected by dryness of the land, etc. Loki must lose that contest – and does.
If you leave a burning candle on the table, go away, then return to find out that either there is wax all over everything or that your table is currently a bonfire, you shouldn’t have tempted Loki. If you were actually having a bonfire and first wind threw sparks all over everything, in particular your beard, then torrential rain took care of all that, maybe he was bored and you were too careful. When you’re a blacksmith, proud of your ability to start a fire no matter where and what, he’ll make sure that it won’t happen… in front of an audience. See also: “there’s nothing flammable here” and “I’m sure this shirt has no polyester in it”.
Loki in the modern world
Since Loki represents chaotic energy, it’s clear that he invented Windows Vista and still takes great care of Windows 10 updates.
If you’re drinking wine at your desk, accidentally hit the glass and spill its contents and all that gets destroyed are very important official papers and possibly your keyboard… I am not saying this ever happened to me, but I’m not saying that it didn’t either… you can be sure it will be red wine. Especially if those papers are very important and you can’t get a copy of them anywhere.
When your printer refuses to print in black because cyan is low, you know Loki helped write the drivers. It’s going to happen at the exact moment when you MUST print one page very, very quickly. See also: “Installing Windows update 8/1494. Do not switch off your computer despite the fact that you are already late for work.”
Loki is around, cackling, every time a Florida man says “hold my beer”.
If there is someone who knows where my wireless phone charger landed during our move… or why a package sent to me from the US two years ago remains in Saudi Arabia…
I’m not saying he took part in the Chernobyl events, but if something happens due to a lot of coincidences, er, coinciding, Loki most probably had a hand in it. Much more “fun” than hiding my charger, right?
If you want to curse someone with Loki’s attention, tell them “may you live in interesting times”, without stipulating that those times should be interesting in a nice way.
The last word
As a heathen I believe that the future is both fixed and set to allow me the free choices. The difference between my faith and the Christian one is that there is no Great Plan. The future just is. My choices don’t alter it, they create it – just as it was always going to be created. Not all lost phone chargers or forest fires are the work of Loki. Sometimes he just watches, laughing his socks off.
One of the cruelest pranks Loki can pull is to tell you that he’s going to do something to you, then do absolutely nothing but giggle, watching you trying to be extra careful with absolutely everything, making your own life miserable.
Loki would like me to add, and it would be stupid not to, that he is completely innocent of all those horrible things I mentioned above, but I got the wit and wisdom part completely right. He is also exceedingly handsome, no matter whether he is currently in his favourite form or that of a salmon. Loki is also the best lover that ever existed. And I should be happy that my package isn’t actually lost, because there is a chance that a few years from now Saudi Arabia will release it to be delivered at my old address and wouldn’t that be fun?
Loki: Jared Leto. See the full cast of Children and Land on Pinterest.