How Did Loki Betray the Gods in Norse Mythology? Get the Facts


Movies often change characters or plot lines for dramatic reasons, and Marvel has done that with the Norse god Loki. Some fans of the Marvel show or the film series want to know how close those are to the original stories. For example, Loki participated in his share of mischief, but did he betray the Norse gods?

Loki betrayed the Gods in Norse Mythology by tricking Hodr and making him kill Baldur, the most beloved of the gods. Odin, Baldur’s father, sought revenge by tying Loki to rocks and having a snake drip venom on Loki, who will remain bound to the rocks until Ragnarök.

The Norse Myths surrounding Loki and other gods are not limited to the Marvel Universe. Netflix’s series Ragnarök features characters that are modern-day versions of the Norse Gods. Are they any closer to the original stories of the Norse gods — let’s find out.

Loki Norse god
What did Loki look like? See below (image: Loki and Sigyn)

Loki: A Notorious Trickster

Loki is considered a trickster because he shares many traits with other tricksters. These include their appearance, special abilities, and roles in the myths or stories in which they appear. Tricksters are usually smart, full of mischief, and can be heroes or villains — depending on the situation.

Appearance

It isn’t easy to describe someone’s appearance if that being is a shapeshifter. After all, a person who can change his appearance would be tempted to make himself as attractive as possible. However, it is reasonable to assume that Loki has a “natural” appearance. Otherwise, how could anyone recognize him?

In early Nordic literature, he is depicted as being short, handsome, and having fiery or red hair. Scholars believe that a flat stone found on a beach near Snaptun, Denmark might depict Loki. The man’s lips are sewn shut, a reference to an event in the Edda where Loki’s lips are sewn shut.

Special Abilities

Shapeshifting is the exceptional ability for which Loki is famous. Depending on which source you read, he could look like a falcon, an eagle, a salmon, a young maiden, and a mare. 

Not only can Loki change his appearance, but he is also capable of changing his gender. Loki is the father of Hel, the goddess of the underworld, Jormungand, the serpent who kills Thor, and Fenrir, a wolf who kills Odin

However, Loki shapeshifts into a female horse and becomes impregnated by a giant’s stallion. Then he gives birth to Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse.

Intelligence

Loki’s Wager is just one example of his intelligence. The dwarf Brok and Loki made a bet, and Loki wagered his head, thinking he wouldn’t lose. But he did.

When Brok returned, Loki argued that they could have his head but not his neck. Since they could not agree where the neck ended and the head began, Loki kept his head. He did, however, have his lips sewn shut.

Baldur Norse god
What happened between Loki and Baldur? (image: Baldur)

The Events Between Loki and Baldur

Loki betrayed Baldur, a half-brother of Thor and one of Odin’s sons. Baldur (and his mother) dreamt that he would die. Baldur called on a seer, or völva, who confirmed that Baldur’s dreams would come true without revealing how.

Concerned for his welfare, Baldur’s mother had everything pledge they would not hurt Baldur.  The only plant that refused was the mistletoe, but Frigg, Baldur’s mother, left the plant alone, thinking it was harmless.

Loki was having none of this, so he concocted a scheme to kill Baldur. 

First, Loki made a spear from the mistletoe, which he then gave to Baldur’s brother Hodr. Next, he convinced Hodr to throw the spear at Baldur as a practical joke. Unfortunately, Baldur’s mother had not told Hodr that the mistletoe was dangerous, so Hodr threw the spear, killing him.

Loki’s Torture: Who, How, and Why

Odin, Baldur’s father, was not happy about Baldur’s death and vowed to get revenge. He started with Hodr. Odin fathered a child with the giant Rindr. That child, Váli, reached adulthood in a single day, found Hodr, and killed him.

Odin did not want Loki to die a quick death. So he took Loki into a cave and brought along Loki’s two sons. One he turned into a wolf, who killed the other one. Then he tied Loki to a pile of three rocks with the entrails of the slain son, Narfi.

Odin was not done with Loki. A poisonous snake that dripped venom was placed on a rock over Loki’s head. To keep the poison from landing on his face, his wife, Sigyn, used a bowl to catch the venom.

When the bowl filled, she had to empty it. The dripping venom caused Loki to shake violently, causing earthquakes that shook the earth. According to Norse mythology, Loki will remain bound to the rocks until Ragnarök.

Loki serpent
How does Loki die? See below

How does Loki die in Norse mythology?

According to mythology, Loki died at Ragnarök. Loki, along with the Norse Gods Odin and Thor, took part in a series of cataclysmic events called the Ragnarök, which means “Fate of the Gods.” The earthquakes Loki caused in his cave were just the beginning of the destruction of the cosmos.  

The fates predicted many of the events that occur:

  • A Great Winter will come and last for three years.
  • The wolves Hati and Skoll will catch the sun and moon, and the stars will also disappear, plunging the earth into darkness.
  • The cosmos will suffer additional damage from the shaking of the Yggdrasil tree, the running of the enormous wolf Fenrir, and the rise of an underwater serpent Jormungand.

Loki will arrive in the middle of the destruction, having freed himself from the chain. He’ll captain Naglfar, a ship with a crew of giants. Fenrir and Jormungand will continue to ravage the earth, and the Gods will battle each other. Finally, Odin will be defeated by Fenrir, and Odin’s son Vidar will avenge his father’s death.

Tyr and the wolf Garm will slay each other, and the god Freyr and the giant Surt will fight to the death. Thor will kill the serpent Jormungand, but the snake’s venom will cause Thor’s death.

Among this carnage, Heimdall and Loki will battle, killing each other. Shortly after that, what’s left of the earth will sink into the sea, leaving only the void.

Ragnarök As the End of Creation

Whether Ragnarök is the end of creation or followed by a new world depends on who you ask. Some tales end with the void, but others tell of a beautiful new earth

The daughter of the sun shines over the ground, a couple that had survived the cataclysm repopulate the earth, and a few surviving gods will rule over this new world.

Bottom Line

Hollywood might not get everything right about Loki, but he is a trickster, shapeshifter, and troublemaker.  For the full story, read the Eddas.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source

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