fialleril: [my favorite shapeshifting genderqueer trickster] (Loki)
[personal profile] fialleril
So hey there internet! Uh...long time no see? Yeah, sorry about that.

Someday soon (really!) I will make a legit, f-locked tighter than Alcatraz post about the incredible hornet's nest of ridiculousness that has been my life in the last couple of months, but right now I do not have the emotional energy to do that, so we'll just say that the semester is over and graduation was yesterday and today and I gave the invocation at yesterday's ceremony so that was good.

Anyway there will be more later but for right now I want to talk to you about Thor.

I have not actually seen Thor yet. In fact I'm still unspoiled about it at this point, and my knowledge of the comics is pretty minimal, so. BUT. I am totally going to see it soon, and I am definitely going in with some expectations, because I love mythologies the most (THE MOST, OKAY), and I have so many feelings about mythology of all kinds, but especially Greek and Norse.

So this post is gonna be a rambling list of my expectations going into this movie, and all my feelings about Norse mythology. You can already tell the kind of rambling this is going to be, so I'm just gonna make a cut here and you can skip this nonsense if you want!

So my strongest feelings about Norse mythology boil down to two things, neither of which will probably surprise anyone:

1. I love Loki the most.** This isn't really surprising because the trickster figure is one of my favorite archetypes of all time. Also, Loki seems like a guy who knows how to have fun, and almost everyone else in Asgard is so srs bsns all the time. :( There is a reason this guy is in almost every story, and that reasons is: life is ridiculously boring without him.

It's unclear whether the mythology itself originally had such a clear narrative arc, but the way Snorri organized the Eddas, it very much does. And in the arc of the Eddas, you can always tell what part of the overarching story you're in by just where Loki fits on the sliding scale of morality. In the earliest stories, he's mostly just a fun loving trickster figure. Some accounts even have him involved in the creation. Towards the middle of the arc he's more morally grey, and by the time you're reaching the end, he's very firmly on the side of chaos and in opposition to Odin and Asgard.***

But whether or not this narrative arc was originally a part of the myths, it's there in the myths as we have them now, and it makes it possible to read Loki's story in a couple of different ways. Snorri himself seems to have seen Loki's story as a gradual revealing of his true colors (i.e., he was evil all along, and just gets progressively worse at/less concerned with hiding it). But also you could read it as an outsider to his society initially trying to fit into that society and then, after being rejected one too many times, turning and lashing out.

Here's the basic story as I see it (meaning, it is subjective; I did warn you I have many many feelings about mythology, okay). Loki is, for reasons that are incomprehensible to me, blood-brothers with Odin. In the earlier stories Odin himself is a bit of a trickster, though, ironically, he's quite a bit darker about it than Loki. So maybe they got along on that account. There are some versions of the story that say they became blood-brothers after Loki saved Odin from his fellow Jotuns, although to my knowledge it's never stated why he did that. In any case, after they became blood-brothers, Odin brought Loki home to Asgard with him.

And that's where the stories start. It's worth noting that there are almost no stories set before Loki's arrival in Asgard, and that he is involved in virtually every story afterward. Usually he's the guy who starts things. This is part of his function as trickster-creator: he is the storyteller. The stories don't exist without him. The gods before him are little more than personified forces and realities. Loki is the imagination. He makes them human. (This alone is reason enough for me to love him the most, but there's more.)

It becomes clear in very short order that Odin really brought Loki to Asgard because he's an extremely useful guy to have around. You want a wall built around your compound for free? Bully him into tricking some giant to do it! If he gets pregnant with a horse in the process?**** Well, that's cool, you can just steal his foal when it's born and make it your new warhorse! Everybody wins! Are you mad that your wife decided to sleep with Loki?***** Bully him into getting all your most iconic weapons from the Dwarfs for free! Are you a Jotun who wants to steal the apples of youth? Bully Loki into doing it for you! Are you a god who's pissed that you're now suddenly getting old? Bully Loki into fixing that, too! Basically all the early stories go something like this: Things happen that the Aesir don't like, one of the Aesir (usually Thor, but often Odin or Heimdall) threatens Loki with horrible bodily harm if he doesn't fix it, he fixes it, and then, usually, he gets some kind of punishment for it (lips sewn shut, that incident with the horse, etc.).

But it gets worse! Disapprove of Loki having children with a Jotun lady? Murder the lady and then horribly torture and exile the children!

So yeah, basically, I always thought that Loki snapping was totally understandable. He's bullied as a coward practically from the moment he arrives in Asgard, despite being the blood-brother of the king, and by the time we get to the death of Balder the Aesir have done some really unspeakable things to him. But they saved the best for last.

After he has a hand in killing Balder, and after he shows up uninvited to a feast and tells off everybody in the room, the Aesir decide they've had enough of this guy. (Or maybe he's outlived his usefulness, idk.) So they stop off to collect his wife Sigyn and their kids Vali and Narvi, and then they drag Loki off to this cave, where Odin turns Vali into a wolf and has him rip his brother's guts out. Then the Aesir lay Loki out on some sharp rocks and bind him there with his son's guts. And because that wasn't enough, I guess, they also suspend a snake over his head to drip poison on him for all eternity. But when all the other Aesir leave, Sigyn refuses to: she stays behind with a bowl and catches the drops of venom, so Loki only has to feel it when she has to leave and empty the bowl.

There's talk among both the Aesir and the mythographers about what a meek and devoted wife Sigyn is, to stay beside her terrible husband in his punishment. But I say, screw that noise, the lady is totally plotting her revenge. They were her kids too, and it's her son's guts that are binding Loki to the stone. Someday, when the enchantments end and Ragnarok comes, she's gonna bust out of that cave and go all Kill Bill on Odin's ass.

Which leads me to my second main feeling about Norse mythology:

2. Odin is a horrible human being. Many of the reasons are listed above, but he's horrible to other people besides just Loki. He runs around on his wife and never consults her, despite the fact that she is literally the wisest person in the world. He starts wars for the lulz. He's a confirmed rapist. He steals Loki's horse-son, and is responsible for all the horrible things that are done to the rest of Loki's kids. Basically he is a total jerk and I do not like him at all.


So those are my strongest feelings on Norse mythology. I don't have too many feelings on Thor himself one way or the other, although he can be a lot of fun when he goes on his adventures with Loki. They make a good comic team.

I always hesitate to get into any media - comics, film, TV, books, you name it - based on mythologies, because I know how media usually works with these things. The plot will inevitably get Hijacked by Jesus, Odin or Zeus will get put in the role of God, and Loki or Hades will be cast as Satan, usually without even the benefit of a motivation. But the rumor on the internet is that the Thor movie actually doesn't do this, or at least not entirely, so I am going to see it without too many reservations.

Let me tell you, though, it's gonna take some work to make me actually interested in Thor as a character in and of himself, and I don't think there's any power in the universe that could make me like Odin, in any incarnation.

This has been a feelings post about mythology. Possibly someday soon I will make that post about my unending love for Hermes and what that has to do with Justice League being an excellent show. In the mean time, please don't spoil me too badly for Thor in your comments, thanks!




** Actually, this is a lie. I love Sigyn the most. But she doesn't get much screen time even in the mythology, and almost never shows up in adaptations. Someday, I will write that fic about how she is a total badass, and how she joins up with the Jotuns at Ragnarok and kicks Odin's ass for the horrible, horrible things he did to her children, and how her presence at Ragnarok totally throws off everything that was supposed to happen because she wasn't supposed to be there, and then she is just like, SCREW DESTINY, and everything ends differently and Balder becomes king and Sigyn and Loki go off to live happy lives roaming around the world and having fun and making mischief, the end.

*** This later Loki shows very clear signs of a Christian influence in his similarity to medieval ideas about Satan, and, since the only stories we have were written down by Christian monks, it's unclear if the pre-Christian Norse ever saw Loki as quite so much of an evil force.

**** Loki is a shapeshifter. And when he gender-shifts, his biology shifts along with his shape. That story about the building of Asgard's wall is really, really horrible if you think about it: Loki (as a mare) is more or less forced into having sex with a horse, and they don't even let him keep his own resulting child. Norse mythology is full of horrible things like this.

***** We all know what Loki "cutting off Sif's hair" is a metaphor for, okay? Confirmed in Lokasenna when he brags about it to Thor's face.

October 2012

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