Reconsidering Loki

A provocative lecture

given by

GardenStone

at a conference in 2005

The German text was edited and translated into English by GardenStone in February 2015.

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If you really don't know anything about the Germanic god Loki, except perhaps his name, then at least parts of this text might be less comprehensible to you. If it nevertheless then arouses your interest, don't hesitate to put questions or start finding more information.

Such kind of knowledge really wouldn't be a bad thing, because the Germanic tribes in the first, say, five centuries CE, and in later centuries, the Vikings, were over a period of about 1300 years dominating large parts of North-, West- and Central-Europe, they also penetrated in East- and South-Europe, yes, they even settled in North-Africa. Therefore, it isn't devious to know about this early history a bit more than just a few headwords or deceitful sciolism – the more so if you are a European or of European descent.

So far this prefacing remark …while writing this lecture text, I couldn't find quickly enough other nicer introducing words; to be honest they are mainly meant to do some voice exercises before really speaking some Loki-related words.

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<cough, cough, harrumph>

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Well, let me start with a Loki tale from the best known book of Norse mythology of the Viking era, called Edda. For this tale, it is not obligatory to know by now, that this Edda in fact are two literary works likely by different authors.

The three gods of the big divine Æsir family, Odin, Hœnir and Loki once were hiking around for some time. At the time they became hungry and had nothing brought with them to eat, they butchered an ox from a herd that was grazing in a nearby valley. (The story doesn't tell whether they had asked and paid the farmer for that or they were pirating.)

The roasting of the meat over a fire however was blocked by the magical powers of a big eagle. That eagle, sitting high on an oak tree was actually the shapeshifted giant called Thjazi. He called out to the three gods, he only would abrogate his spell after they would promise to allow him to take part of the meal. After he got that permission, he flew down and immediately grasped the best parts of the meat. Loki became infuriated about such rude behavior and hit the bird with a cudgel. The giant's magic caused the stick to be stuck both to the eagle and to Loki, and as the eagle flew up, Loki was pulled up too. Only after Loki had promised to bring the goddess Idunna to Thjazi, he got his freedom back.

As Loki then kept his promise and had extradited Idunna to that Jötunn, the gods started getting symptoms of old age – the apples of Idunn obviated the aging of the gods. Obviously, without Idunn there were no such apples anymore or perhaps they didn't work without her touch.