An Introduction to Loki, the Norse Trickster God

8-Legged Horse Sleipnir
8-Legged Horse Sleipnir.

Loki, according to Snorri Sturluson, in his Edda (c. 1220 A.D.), was an Aesir god and the son of Farbauti and Laufey or Nal. His brothers were Byleistr and Helblindi. Loki is also called a giant.

The earliest literary treatment of Loki myths is from the 9th century. His depiction is complicated and contradictory. Many people advanced theories, including linguist and folklorist Jacob Grimm, who thought Loki the god of fire, like Prometheus (who brought fire to man and for his disobedience to Zeus was chained to a rock where his liver was eaten and regenerated each day) or Lucifer (whose name means 'light-bearer'); Jan de Vries, who considered Loki a typical trickster god; and Georges Dumezil, who considered Loki an incarnation of "impulsive intelligence."

In the Edda Loki transforms himself into a mare to lure away a stallion and therefore help the gods. As a mare, Loki gives birth to the stallion Sleipnir. Loki also sires the wolf Fenrir.

Loki tricks the blind god Hod into shooting Balder with the only entity that hasn't sworn an oath not to hurt Balder; that is, mistletoe. As punishment for his role in the permanent death of Balder, Loki is bound to a jagged cliff until world's end, Ragnarok. Loki is malevolent, cunning, clumsy, magical, and eloquent. He often associates with Thor or Odin.

Examples: Loki is a shapeshifter and gender shifter, a helper, but also the consummate trouble maker. For more, see "The Function of Loki in Snorri Sturluson's 'Edda'," by Stefanie von Schnurbein. History of Religions, Vol. 40, No. 2. (Nov., 2000), pp. 109-124.