There are a lot of people out there who became interested in Loki (or more interested in him) because of recent movies. I don’t have a problem with this, but a lot of Pagans/Heathens/Lokeans seem to have major bugs up their asses about it. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Anything that keeps the gods’ names on people’s lips is a good thing, and I adore modern mythology.
However, I do think that it is important to note the differences between our modern myths and classical depictions of our gods. I’m not even going to pick apart the problems with Marvel’s interpretation of the gods’ familial relationships (of which there are many). Rather, I’d like to point out some fundamental differences between Movie!Loki and Mythological!Loki’s personalities that I think are far more important. (Please note that I have almost zero knowledge of Marvel comics and I am basing this on the movies “Thor” and “The Avengers.”)
Movie!Loki has no remorse for killing and torture, and, in fact, seems to enjoy it immensely. Mythological!Loki isn’t a maniacal killing machine. In fact, the only people he is almost universally said to have killed are Fimafeng and Baldur. And, depending on interpretation, Baldur’s murder may have actually been done at Odin’s behest. In mythology, Thor and Odin have far more blood on their hands than Loki does.
Movie!Loki is mad with power and grief, and wishes to rule Asgard. Mythological!Loki does not seem to have any such designs. He is not “innocent” by any means, but somehow, even when he does do things for personal gain, it often ends up benefiting the gods and/or humans. He seems quite content to know the score and pull the strings from behind the scenes.
Movie!Loki seems to detest human beings. Mythological!Loki, according to many interpretations, actually provided human beings with gifts, including the technology of fire (similar to Prometheus). Some traditions identify Loki with technology in general, and a few even credit him as contributing to the creation of human beings (see Lodur)!
Movie!Loki lies. A lot. Mythological!Loki rarely speaks an untruth. If anything, he is reviled by the other gods for speaking harsh truths about them that they don’t want to hear, as in the Lokasenna. He may not always tell the whole truth, and may wait to reveal truths until an opportune moment, but he rarely actually fabricates a lie.
Why is it important to know these differences? Because if you are drawn to this entity known as Loki, then you had better know exactly what you are getting into. I suggest putting down the comic book, reading the Eddas, finding some scholarly works on Norse mythology, and taking up the runes.
“But… what about the similarities?” I hear you cry.
Yes, there are some similarities. Both Lokis are quite intelligent, crafty and well-spoken. Both are skilled in “forbidden” magic and in shape-shifting. Both carry with them great anguish, which sometimes manifests in hardships for other beings.
Both are incredibly sexy.Both have very close relationships with Odin, though neither are Odin’s son. Both seem to have a love-hate relationship with Thor. Both have been known to sport large horns. Want to know more? Do some research! I promise you it will be fun.
Love this! Great post and well thought out. If you’re a follower of Loki (before the movies ever came out) or if you’ve become interested in the god Loki after the movies then please read this. It’s more for those who have become interested in Loki after Thor and The Avengers came out, do your research!
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