This month we will read some myths about Loki, the trickster god who always gets into trouble.
Loki tricks the dwarves and the gods get some treasures
Sif, wife of Thor, had really long hair that shone like gold. One day Loki cut it all off, and when Thor found out about it he threatened to break all Loki’s bones if he didn’t set things right. Loki’s only chance was to make the dwarves create golden hair which could grow like real hair.
Some dwarves, the sons of Ivaldi, agreed to create the golden hair, and they also created a ship called Skidbladnir and a spear called Gungnir. But Loki was greedy and made a bet with some other dwarves, Brokk and Sindri: he offered his head if they didn’t manage to create three more items which could compete in magnificence. Brokk and Sindri knew they were better smiths and agreed.
Sindri put pigskin on the forge and asked Brokk to blow the bellows until he returned. The trickster Loki transformed into a fly, sat on Brokk’s hand and bit him – but Brokk didn’t care, and when Sindri returned he brought a golden boar from the forge.
Next, Sindri put a piece of gold on the forge and asked Brokk the same as before. Loki once again transformed into a fly, sat on Brokk’s throat and bit him harder – but Brokk didn’t care this time either, and when Sindri returned for the second time he picked a golden ring called Draupnir from the forge.
Then Sindri put a piece of iron on the forge and asked Brokk to blow the bellows without stopping for even a second. Loki transformed into a fly again, sat on Brokk’s forehead and bit him really hard on the eyelid. It started bleeding so Brokk couldn’t see, and he stopped blowing the bellows to try and catch the fly. Luckily, Sindri returned in that very moment and could save the hammer that was created on the forge.
Brokk and Loki each brought their treasures to Asgard where the gods would decide who had created the best items. Loki gave the golden hair to Thor (to give to Sif), the spear Gungnir to Odin and the ship Skidbladnir to Frey. The hair would grow like real hair, the spear would never miss its target, and the ship would have tailwind in any direction and could also be kept in a small box.
Brokk gave the ring Draupnir to Odin, the golden boar Gullinbursti to Frey, and the hammer Mjolnir to Thor. The ring would produce eight equal rings every ninth night, the golden boar could run faster than any horse and there would always be bright like daylight around it, and the hammer would always kill if it hit its target and would also always return to its owner’s hand.
The gods decided that the hammer was the superior item, since it would help them win against the giants. This meant that Loki lost the bet (and his head). Loki tried to talk his way out of his punishment, but Brokk tried to catch him to take his prize. Loki escaped by using flying shoes, but Thor caught him for Brokk. Brokk prepared to behead Loki, but Loki objected that his neck wasn’t part of the deal. So the dwarf took an awl and a thin strap, and tried to sew Loki’s mouth shut so he wouldn’t be able to talk more. Though in the end, the strap didn’t hold and Loki was free to say whatever he wanted again.
The death of Baldur
Baldur was the fairest and the kindest of all the gods, well-liked by everyone. So the gods were highly troubled when he told them he had bad dreams about how his life was in danger. They decided that Baldur’s mother, Frigg, would travel all the world and demand all harmful things to swear an oath not to harm him in any way. She visited all plants, animals and stones, as well as fire, water, metals, stones, poisons and illnesses. The result was that Baldur became impossible to harm. So the gods made it a playful game to test their weapons against him. Baldur willingly stood in front of them and let them attack him with bow and arrow, sword, axe or stones. Nothing could harm him.
Except one thing. Loki was envious of the honor shown to Baldur by the other gods, so he transformed himself into a woman and talked to Frigg. So he found out that there was only one thing in the whole world that Frigg considered too small and young to ask for an oath – a small sapling of a mistletoe. Loki quickly went to pick the mistletoe.
Loki went to the place where the gods played, and asked Baldur’s brother Hodir why he didn’t join them. Hodir was blind so he said there was no use in trying as he couldn’t aim, and he didn’t have a weapon anyway. Loki offered to help him aim, gave him a bow and put an arrow made from the mistletoe sapling on the string. Hodir shot at Baldur, who fell dead to the ground.
Since this happened on holy ground, the gods couldn’t get a violent revenge at once. So they cried, and sent Frigg’s son Hermod to the death realm to bargain with Hel. They prepared a funeral pyre for Baldur, and his wife Nanna died from her broken heart when she saw it, and the gods put them both together on the pyre. When Hermod reached the death realm, Hel told him that the gods would get Baldur back if every thing and creature, living or dead, would cry for him.
The gods sent word all around the world for all things and creatures to cry for Baldur, and they all did – except for the giantess Tokk. She said she had no reason to cry for Baldur, and so he had to stay in the death realm. It was believed that Tokk was in fact Loki. Baldur’s death was revenged by Vali, son of Odin, killing his half-brother Hodir. (Vali was only one day old at that time.)
Loki is punished for his blasphemies
Aegir was one of the best at brewing beer and the gods and goddesses always enjoyed his drinking parties. One party became more famous than the others. Aegir had two servants: Firmafeng and Eldir, and they were often praised by the guests. Loki got jealous and killed Firmafeng. The gods were so angry with him that they chased him into the woods and told him never to return. But Loki still returned, and forced Eldir to let him into the hall to the other guests.
In the hall Loki demanded a seat, reminding Odin of the fact that they were blood-brothers and Odin had once said he didn’t want to drink beer or mead if they weren’t both (Odin and Loki) served. Odin didn’t have a choice but to let him have a seat and a drink. But Loki was still quarrelsome and started insulting many of the other guests. When the time came that he insulted Sif, the mountains trembled because Thor (who was travelling) heard him, got angry and returned. When Thor entered the hall he demanded that Loki left the party or he would throw his hammer at him. Loki wasn’t frightened at once but started insulting Thor; however he soon realized that Thor’s threats weren’t empty threats, and he ran away while insulting the party host Aegir.
Loki hid in the mountains where he built a small house with a door on each side to be able to keep watch in all directions. In the daytime he often transformed into a salmon and hid in a river. Suddenly one day Odin, who was gazing over the world from Hlidskjalf, found Loki’s hiding place and the gods travelled there. Loki saw them coming and quickly hid in the river as a salmon. When the gods arrived at the river they made a fishing net and after a long and wild hunt down the river they finally caught him.
The gods punished Loki severely for all his offenses. They brought him and his two sons Vali and Nari to a cave. The gods turned Vali into a wolf who tore apart Nari. They took Nari’s intestines and bound Loki at a big hearthstone with them, and the bindings turned to iron. Skadi placed a venomous snake above Loki and its venom dripped onto Loki’s face. Loki’s wife Sigyn sits by his side and collects the venom in a big basin. But every time it fills up and she has to empty it, the venom drips onto Loki and makes him flinch so hard the ground shakes, and that’s what people later called earthquakes. Loki would stay bound in the cave until Ragnarok.
Stora boken om vikingarnas gudar och myter by Lars Magnar Enoksen (ISBN 978-91-7738-792-3)