Thursday, 10 March 2016

Modern Gods: Loki

Oh, Loki.

I have always viewed Loki with a great deal of suspicion, which is always a great source of amusement to friends who work with Loki. Odin and Loki are two halves of the same coin - the blood brothers representing different facets of the wise trickster. The only difference being that Odin is organized chaos working toward his own end goal, and Loki is chaotic chaos working to amuse himself.

Some may view him as a "devil" figure. Those people need to research a bit harder. Loki is an anti-hero. He is working both for and against the rest of the gods. He is the wise fool, the trickster, the broken black sheep who is viewed with suspicion and apprehension. He is rarely trusted, because he rarely tells the truth of the matter. He is the great catalyst of the end times, but he is the actual embodiment of change, and is absolutely necessary to the mythos.

Often, Loki is depicted as being punished for his mischief or deed, or committing his deeds. This stone, from Kirkby Stephen and carved in the 8th century, depicts Loki bound in chains after slaying Baldr.

This is a 19th century depiction of Loki and Hod slaying Baldr by Carl Emil Doepler. You can tell it's part of that Victorian revivalist culture because all of the gods are depicted in Greco-Roman clothing and winged helmets.

Here is Loki, depicted in the early 20th century by Louis Huard, suffering his punishment from murdering Baldr, bound with the entrails of his children. The venomous serpent drips poison on his face, causing him to writhe with enough force to shake the Earth. Usually Sigyn is depicted as catching the poison in a basin until it fills.

In more modern times, Loki has become a bit of a pop culture phenomenon, thanks to Marvel and the Avengers and Thor. Tom Hiddleston does a very good job portraying Loki - never too evil. never too good, very self serving, very broken.

For me, I always see Loki in the underbelly of the world. The morally grey people who seek to serve themselves first. The street performers. The snake-oil salesmen. The street preachers. The pot stirrers, who try and stoke the fire for their own amusement. The narcissists who make it all about them.

These people are always trying to fill a void - it's not happiness they seek to sate, but endless and boundless curiosity. They throw caution to the wind, and do things simply for the hell of it, without prior thought. They always have a back up plan, sure, but it's not fleshed out. They aren't unhappy, but are unaccustomed to having people be kind and good to them.

Gustaf SkarsgÄrd does a brilliant job as Floki on Vikings, and to me, he is always the way I tended to picture Loki in my head - even before the show. He dances that perfect line of chaos and order, and serves his own desires and beliefs before all else. He is not Loki on the show, but the character very much seems like someone who worships him, or is inspired by him.

For me, Loki is a god that seems to want the attention, and won't take no for answer. As I said before, he is not a god I trust, and I approach him with caution - I'm not big into unorganized chaos, and I don't want to welcome that into my life. However, I get the feeling he just keeps showing up in little ways to try and make me pay attention.

He gets a bad rap, but he deserves at least a little of that.