Like Odin, Loki bears many names : Lie-Smith, Sly-God, Shape-Changer, Sly-One, Lopt, Sky Traveller, Sky Walker, Wizard Of Lies, and Loftur among others.
The trickster character is a complex character, a master of guile and deception. More a "worker of mischief" than evil, Loki would often rescue the gods after playing tricks on them, as illustrated by the myth in which he shears Sif's hair and then replaces it, or when he is responsible for the loss of Iðunn's apples of youth and then retrieves them again. Loki is an adept shape-shifter, with the ability to change both form (examples include transmogrification to a salmon, horse, bird, flea, etc.) and sex.
Loki was the father (and in more than one instance the mother) of many beasts, humans and monsters.
Having liaisons with giantesses was nothing unusual for gods in Norse mythology—both Odin and Freyr are good examples; and since Loki was actually a giant himself, there is nothing unusual about this activity. Together with Angrboda, he had three children:
- Jörmungandr, the sea serpent;
- Fenrir the giant wolf preordained to slay Odin at the time of Ragnarök;
- Hel, ruler of the realm of the dead.
Loki also married a goddess named Sigyn who bore him two sons: Narfi and Vali. (this Vali is not to be confused with Odin's son with the giantess Rind). To punish Loki for his part in Balder's death the gods turned Vali into a rabid wolf who proceeded to tear Narfi's throat out. Narfi's remains were used to bind Loki until Ragnarok.
Scheming with fellow godsEdit
Loki occasionally works with the other gods. For example, he tricked the unnamed giant who built the walls around Asgard out of being paid for his work by distracting his horse while disguised as a mare—thereby he became the mother of Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir. In another myth, he pits the dwarves against each other in a gifting contest. The dwarves make Odin's spear, Freyr's ship and Sif's wig. He even rescues Iðunn. Finally, in Þrymskviða, Loki manages, with Thor at his side, to retrieve Mjolnir after the giant Þrymr secretly steals it, in order to ask for Freyja as a bride in exchange.
Even though Loki may have been a liability to gods (leading to the death of Balder, the birth of Fenris and other monsters that would eventually engulf the world), he provided the gods with all their most precious items, from Thor's hammer to the flying ships, and these artifacts help the gods ultimately defeat evil. He leads to the birth of Ragnarok, but also provides the means to overcome it.
Slayer of BalderEdit
Loki may have overplayed his hand when, disguised as a giantess, he arranged the murder of Balder. He used mistletoe, the only plant which had not sworn never to harm Balder, and made a dart of it, which he tricked Balder's blind brother Höðr into throwing at Balder, thereby killing him. Another version of the myth, preserved in Gesta Danorum, does not mention Loki.
The binding of Loki and his fate at RagnarokEdit
The murder of Balder was not left unpunished, and eventually the gods tracked down Loki, who was hiding in a pool at the base of Franang's Falls in the shape of a salmon. There they caught the Trickster with his own famous invention, the fishing net. They also hunted down Loki's two children with Sigyn, Narfi and Váli (not to be confused with Váli, the son of Odin and Rind). They changed Váli into a wolf, and he then turned against his brother and killed him. They used Narfi's innards to bind Loki to three slabs of stone, and Skaði placed a snake over his head so that its venom would pour onto him. Sigyn sits beside him and collects the venom in a wooden bowl, but she has to empty the bowl when it fills up, during which time the searing venom drips onto the Trickster's face. The pain is then so terrible that he writhes, making the earth shake.
Balder's murder was also one of the events that precipitated Ragnarok. Loki would stay bound until then. When Ragnarök finally comes and Loki is freed by the trembling earth, he will sail to Vigrid from the north on a ship that also bears Hel and all those from her realm. Once on the battlefield, he will meet Heimdall, and neither of the two will survive the encounter.
- Viktor Rydberg's "Teutonic Mythology: Gods and Goddesses of the Northland" e-book
- W. Wagner's "Asgard and the Home of the Gods" e-book
- "Myths of Northern Lands" e-book by H.A. Guerber
- Peter Andreas Munch's "Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes" e-book
- Loki Loki Site
- An essay on Loki
- More images of Loki
- The Lokasenna - "Loki's Wrangling": an insult competition between Loki and the other gods