Hello, everyone! You’ve all heard of Loki, right? The handsome, angsty adopted brother of Thor who was pushed aside by Odin and yearns for approval and revenge? The guy who is an anti-hero with an evil streak but a secret Holden Caulfield heart? The guy who inspires an entire fandom of teens (and grown-ass women) in love with his “mischievous” charm?
Yeah, well that guy has been brutally misrepresented in the Marvel universe. The true Norse Loki is not a playfully mischievous guy who wants his daddy to love him. The true Norse Loki is probably one of the evillest villains ever created and nothing he does is an accident. He’s had some funny adventures, like when he and Thor cross-dressed at a giant’s wedding, or when Loki cut off all of Sif’s hair, but he’s a real villain in that every one of his actions is done out of pure self-interest and hate. Oh, and he caused the world to end and all of the Norse gods to die. But he’s so cute! No big deal, right?
Today we’ll talk about Loki’s second worst crime: the death of Balder. First, let’s talk about how Loki became one of the Aesir, also known as the Norse gods.
When Odin was still young…his eyes had fallen on a jotun named Loki. He was graceful and handsome…and Odin was so taken with him that he asked him to be his blood-brother. So each cut a small vein in his arm and, letting their blood flow together, they solemnly swore to be true brothers from then on.
Because of this blood-bond, the other Aesir were forbidden from harming Loki, no matter how “mischievous” his tricks became. Unlike the Greek gods who are immortal, the Norse gods owe their youth to magical apples. If the apples run out, they too can die. Additionally, while the Greek gods like to punish mortals indiscriminately, the Norse gods place great weight in their responsibility to the humans in Midgard. They value the honor of their word above all else, thus making a situation like the death of Balder very difficult to mediate fairly. Remember, when Loki and Odin became blood-brothers, Odin vowed to protect him at all costs.
Balder was the god of light. He’s like Apollo, but not a pretentious dick.
The Aesir always turned to Balder when they were troubled, for he was the kindest and gentlest of gods. No one could think anything but pure thoughts in his presence. Flowers sprang up from the ground wherever he stepped, but even the whitest and most beautiful of them, Balderblom, was not as fair as his brow. Everyone loved him.
Except Loki, because remember, Loki’s EVIL. No, not troubled, EVIL.
So, to the story. One night in Asgard, Balder began to have horrible nightmares. The gods were worried, so they sent Odin to seek counsel from a volva, a wise woman who had long been dead. The volva told Odin that Hel, the mistress of the Underworld, had prepared a seat for Balder and that his days were numbered. Imagine if the world suddenly lost Christ Pratt. Imagine a world without his bubbly laughter. That’s how the gods felt when they realized Balder was to die.
Frigg, Balder’s mother, refused to let Balder die. She went down to Midgard and used her goddess magic to convince every living and lifeless object on Earth to protect Balder from harm. Every little thing, from the sand to the beetles to the mud (because you can drown in mud, maybe?) promised Frigg never to hurt Balder. Except one.
The Aesir were so overjoyed at Frigg’s news that they played a little game. They pelted Balder with pebbles, rocks, spears, and other sharp objects, but nothing would hurt him. But Loki, who loved being the center of attention, became jealous at all of the attention Balder was receiving. So he decided to pull a “mischievous” little prank.
He sneaked away, disguised as an old crone, hobbled up to Frigg, and said “How wonderfully well you have protected your son. But are you sure that everything in the world has promised not to harm him?”
“I am quite sure,” Frigg replied. “Everything except the little mistletoe.It is so small and soft that I didn’t bother to take it in oath”.
Huh, I wonder what Loki will do with such information. Perhaps playfully pelt Balder with some mistletoe?
Playful Loki scampered playfully away to make a playful arrow out of the misteltoe. Then, like a little prankster, he handed the playful misteltoe arrow to Hod, Balder’s blind brother, and helped him playfully shoot the arrow into Balder’s heart. C’mon, guys. Don’t be mad. It was all a prank.
Loki hurried away before any of the Aesir could see him, leaving Hod to take the blame. The Aesir grieved more than ever before, for they thought that Balder had been safe. The gods placed Balder on a magnificent funeral pyre ship, but the world was so aghast at losing Balder that it would not budge from the sand. They sent for an Hyrrokkin, a wolf-riding ogress, who was the only one strong enough to push Balder into the sea. She successfully pushed him away, but the sight was so upsetting that his wife, Nanna, died on the spot, and they had to place her in the ship as well.
Frigg blamed herself for letting the mistletoe slip through her protections. Weeping, she begged one of her sons to travel to Hel and ask for Balder’s return. Hermod, who was very courageous, agreed to the task, so he traveled to Hel with barely an obstacle in his way, as everyone, even the giants, were grieving Balder. At last, he arrived at Hel’s door and begged her to let Balder return back to Asgard.
For a whole night, he pleaded with her to let Balder go…at last she rose from her throne…and spoke. “If it is true that Balder is so beloved that all things, living and lifeless, weep for him, I will let him return to the living. But if there is one thing that will not weep, then he must remain with me.”
Hermod accepted Hel’s ultimatum, sure in his knowledge that no living or liveless thing would fail to weep for Balder. But he forgot about Loki, a man who literally killed his own nephew (by the blood he shares with Odin) because he wanted to be the center of attention. Hel provided a loophole. Of course, Loki must exploit it.
Frigg sent messengers to command every living and lifeless thing in Midgard to weep. All complied, but as the messengers were returning to Asgard, they came upon an old crone named Thokk, who was actually Loki in disguise. They somehow don’t put two and two together that Thokk was the same crone who asked Frigg about Balder’s Achilles Heel.
They asked her to weep, but she refused, saying that Balder had never done a thing for her in his life. Nothing except being the nicest, cutest, sweetest, floweriest guy in the whole world!
Balder was forced to remain with Hel, and to make matters even worse, the Aesir were forced to avenge his death, for in the rules of Asgard, life must be paid with life. Who do you think died? Loki? Fuck no. They killed Hod, whose only crime was being too blind to see the mistletoe on his arrow. And also, deaf apparently, because he didn’t realize Loki was trying to trick him. Hod should really know by now that if Loki is trying to help, it’s a trap.
Next time, I’ll talk about Loki’s Punishment, which is one of the factors leading to Ragnarok. But for now, let’s recap.
- Loki is Odin’s blood-brother, which means that for Odin to harm Loki, he would have to break a sacred vow
- Loki is stone-cold evil. End of story.
- Loki killed Balder, the god of light, because he was jealous
- He did this knowing that no other God could harm him
- Once the other gods find out, shit goes down.
And for all the fangirls out there who love Loki:
This is sort of off-topic, but Tumblr is obsessed with evil people. They love Loki, they love Tate (AHS: Murder House), they have a group called the Columbabes. And it’s exactly what you think.
Yeah, liking Loki, a fictional character, isn’t as bad as having a fan-site for the Columbine shooters and anti-heros are fun to watch, but when did villains stop becoming villains? I don’t think we should glorify evil characters. That’s only a few steps away from glorifying real evil. /rant over