“Loki” by Xavier Collette

LOKI (old Icelandic Loki)

in germanic mythology one of ➚ Aesir, accepted amongst them through blood brotherhood with ➚ Odin [1]. Loki was a son of giant Farbauti and Laufey (“Leafy Tree”) or Nal, brother of Byleist, husband of ➚ Sigyn, father of ➚ Vali (2), ➚ Narfi and ➚ Sleipnir, as well as ➚ Hel (1), ➚ Fenrir and ➚ Midgardsorm (the last three born by ➚ Angrboda). According to one version he ate a half charred heart of evil woman, thus becoming pregnant and subsequently giving birth to all the monsters (flagdh) on Earth [2]; hence he was accused of hermaphroditism and homosexualism – the heaviest crimes according to the Nordic law (compare with [3-5]). Loki had a shapeshifting ability – he could transform himself at will.

Together with Odin and ➚ Hönir Loki brought to life the first human couple (see ASK and EMBLA; compare with LOTHUR) and seized the ominous treasure of ➚ Andvari. He traveled with ➚ Thor to ➚ Utgard (where he faced ➚ Logi [6]), and disguised as a maid accompanied him (Thor was disguised as ➚ Freya) in successful attempt to recover ➚ Mjöllnir, stolen by ➚ Thrym [7]. Using his trickster skills he captured the following magical items for Aesir: Mjöllnir, ➚ Skidbladnir, ➚ Gungnir, golden hair of ➚ Sif, ➚ Draupnir and ➚ Gullinbursti, but also invented a fishing net (name Loki compare with Swedish dialect loke “spider”, loka nät “spider web”).

Although a god himself, Loki worked to the detriment of Aesir: tried to steal ➚ Brisingamen, kidnapped ➚ Idunn and her golden apples, gave unarmed Thor into the hands of ➚ Geirröd (1), cut Sif’s golden hair and finally made ➚ Höd unintentionally killing ➚ Baldr, after which, taking the form of a repulsive giantess Thökk (old Icelandic Thökk “Gratitude”),  he prevented the deceased from returning to the light of the day.

When Loki dared to come to the feast of ➚ Ägir and offended the gods gathered there [8], Aesir decided to wreak revenge on him. From ➚ Hlidskjalf they saw his hideout, which was the waterfall of Franangr, where he sought shelter in the form of salmon. Gods made a fishing net following the fugitive’s own invention (see KVASIR) and caught him. Next they bound him to three stones with the intestines of Narfi. ➚ Skadi placed a snake over the head of the convict, so the serpent’s venom dripped on his face and caused great torment. Faithful Sigyn stayed with her husband and collected the drops into a vessel, which she had to empty every now and then. When she was away, he threw himself in agony, causing earthquakes [9].

Loki will regain freedom on the day of ➚ Ragnarök and will face ➚ Heimdall during the battle with gods. They will kill each other in combat.

Loki reveals features of a typical ➚ trickster and his genetic relationship with Odin is highly probable. His name originates probably from old Icelandic luka “to close” (according to the role which he has to play during Ragnarök?).


[1] Lokasenna 9; [2] Völuspá en skamma 43; [3] Lokasenna 23; [4] Lokasenna 33; [5] Thrymskvida 16; [6] Gylfaginning 44 ff.; [7] Thrymskvida 20 ff.; [8] Lokasenna 13 ff.; [9] Lokasenna epilogue.

J. d e V r i e s, The Problem of Loki, Helsinki 1933; H. S c h n e i d e r, Loki, “Archiv für Religionswissenschaft” 36, 1938; G. D u m é z i l, Loki, Paris 1948; F. S t r ö m, Loki, Ein mythologisches Problem, Göteborg 1956; J. d e V r i e s, Loki… und kein Ende, (in group work) Festschrift für F.R. Schröder, Heidelberg 1959; A. C l o s s, Loki und die germanische Frömmigkeit, “Kairos” 2, 1960; A.B. R o o t h, Loki in Scandinavian Mythology, Lund 1961; U. D r o b i n, Myth and Epical Motifs in the Loki-Research, “Temenos” 3, 1968.