Friday, 4 July 2014

Loki Laufeyson 3. Myth vs. pop-culture: Popular media and literature

3. Loki and his image in the popular media and literature

In the third and final part of this article I’d like to take you on a journey into the more recent time times and in the present. We can skip forward a few centuries, because the Nordic Pantheon was quite neglected in late medieval times and early New age - at least outside Northern Europe. A revival came in 19th century in the form of German romanticism, when we witnessed an emergence of „national“ themes. Terms nation and folk-lore appeared in the vocabulary of the freshly formed scholars of folklore studies and linguists, who discovered the charms of non-classical languages (classic languages are classic latin and ancient Greek). In the whole Europe these scholars and enthusiasts started to collect folk tales and fairy-tales, of which we are perhaps most acquainted with The Brothers Grimm. In addition to their collections and their fixing fairytales in writing, they also engaged in German mythology, folk-lore and linguistic. They authored a volume of Deutschen Sagen (German tales) and a dictionary, among others. 
The first part of the article - mythology - is here
The second part of the article - loki as trickster - is here

Several themes of Nordic mythology find their counterparts in the teutonic mythology (regarding continental German tribes). A superb example is the Nibelungenlied (The lay of the Nibelungs) originally composed in middle-high german (11-14 century). The mythological material handles the events of the Nordic Völsunga Saga and several other songs (Atlaskvida, Tidreksaga etc). The most known theme of this song is the struggle of Siegfrid with the dragon Fafnir, his acquisition of the vast and cursed hoard of gold and other riches, and the valkyrjur Kriemhilda and Brunhilda. The song is tragic and almost all of the main protagonists die either by the hand of an avenger, or by their own. This poem inspired the German composer Richard Wagner who reworked it in four musical dramas known by the title The Ring of the Nibelungs (an image of fat horned valkyries was inspired just by the opera adaptations of this poem). The tragedy of the Nibelungs was put into motion on the silver screen under the direction of Fritz Lang in 1924, in a silent dyptich under the titles Die Niebelungen: Siegfried, and Die Niebelungen: Kriemhild’s revenge. Another adaptation was born only at the end of the 90’s and in the Miniseries of 2004, according to critics, not so good). A good, and mostly correct take on the Norse material is the series Vikings (2013- present) dealing, however, with historical material instead of the myths and gods. 

Fritz Lang: Die Nibelungen, 1924

Besides Wagner, the northern Gods are favoured also among renowned illustrators of that time- it is no accident that the late 19th century is called The golden Age of Illustration . The Nordic Mythology comes alive on paper in fantastic pictures and colours of breathtaking beauty, but also of humour (I strongly recommend to check the works of John Bauer, Arthur Rackham, Willy Pogany and others).
 In the literature of the first half of the 20th century we witness the birth of a very important work, although the connection may not be so obvious at the first glance. I talk about the lifetime work of the British linguist, philologist and writer, professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. To most of us known as the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien was also an apt linguist and a specialist in Anglo-Saxon language (and actively or passively wielded 16 languages, among them finish, gothic, Icelandic and old Norse) and in the mythology of northern and western Europe (he edited the poem Beowulf and others). His major work is The Silmarillion, a mythological cycle of the Middle-earth and Arda (Earth). Lord of the Rings was set as a single story exactly into this mythological world and its history. Although Tolkien drew from different mythological stories of the world (chiefly of Europe), and his cosmology is influenced by his own Christian religion, he used the Norse mythology as the load bearing skeleton. From it he adapted not only basics for his made up languages (the elvish quenya and sindarin has a common etymology with finish and old Norse, among others), but also the motifs and narratives. Several of his figures are more or less inspired by Nordic gods (Odin inspired Gandalf, Thor ispired Tulkas etc.) and several of his characters share traits of a trickster (Morgoth, Saruman, Gollum)- although in Tolkien less ambiguous and distinctively evil. On the other hand, there is one more unlikely trickster, Bilbo Baggins (his very last name is significant!), whose wits and not muscles aid and rescue the party of dwarves during their quest to the Lonely Mountain which was guarded by the infamous dragon Smaug. 
J. R. R. Tolkien: Smaug

However, after the short revival through Tolkien the Nordic mythology again falls into limbo, at least regarding the popular culture. It does not become a major theme of movies or television series like the Greek Mythology (The fight of the Titans, the series Hercules, Xena, Disney’s Hercules), and there is no boom in literature either. Although there may be an exception (perhaps the sparkle of Tolkien’s work inspired it?), we will speak about it later.

In the nineties emerge sporadic works with some of the motifs of the Nordic mythology. We are going to start with film and television.

1994’s The Mask is a film starring Jim Carrey as the main protagonist, Stanley Ipkiss.
Allan Cumming as Loki, The Son of the Mask (2005)
One day he finds an old wooden mask, which belongs to the god Loki and which, when worn, enables him to transform into a trickster with all his magical skills. This Jim Carrey-esque comedy has a little in common with the mythological Loki (maybe except the jokes). The movie sprouted a sequel The Son of the Mask in 2005, where Loki himself appears (the American version of him, of course). In the late 90ties were created also two animated series. All this is in fact an adaptation of The mask, an original Dark Horse Comics.

Dogma is a 1999 movie about two fallen angels, Bartleby and Loki. I do not know for sure what compelled the authors to name a Christian angel after a pagan god (and I’ve no idea where they came upon Bartleby), but I have a certain idea: I doubt they could have afforded to use an actual angel
The Buddy Christ, Dogma
name, as the movie stirred the peaceful waters of good Catholics anyway (not in the least with the appearance of God as a female, played by Alanis Morissette; we have here also a new Virgin Mary who is not so virgin, the Buddy Christ and bloodthirsty angels who massacre lustfully). Unforgettable is the scene where Metathron, played by Allan Rickman, pulls down his pants and undies to flash his non-existing sex (as we all know, angels were sexless, or androgynous). On the other hand, very interesting is the connection of a trickster Loki and an angel, because it appears in a different original work as well. 

Supernatural is an American series of two brothers, who inspect various supernatural phenomena.
Trickster, Supernatural
In some of the episodes we see a figure, who calls himself a trickster: however, just like a true trickster, he is not what we think he is. He appears in the second, third and fifth season, where his true identity is finally revealed. (spoiler, highlight the text to read on). He is none other than the archangel Gabriel, who shortly before revealing his true name calls himself Loki. But except the name the series doesn’t have much in common with the mythological Loki, only the trickster character. In the episodes with “Loki”, especially where he reveals his identity, there is a distinct inspiration (and according to one source even collaboration) by the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman (who will be introduced later). The series as a whole is, in my opinion, rather dull and simplistic, touching the mysteries only on surface (but it is just my opinion, in any way I do not wish to deter you of watching and enjoying the show). 

When there is an interesting motif, you can expect it to appear sooner or later in the repertoire of Japanese comics and animation, known under the names of manga and anime. Although in the case of Loki I was able to discover only two series: the first one is Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok (manga and anime Matantei Loki Ragnarok). Loki, expelled from Ásgard to earth, appears in the body of a small boy who lives in Japan. The series sports several other figures of Nordic pantheon as well: we see Jörmungandr, Freyr and Freya, Heimdal and Thor- all as young boys and girls (only Jörmungandr is an adult and is Loki’s butler). Despite its Japanese reworking the story retained some of its original mythological traits: for example Jörmungandr is here introduced as Loki’s son.

Of recent date is the anime Kamigami no Asobi: Ludere Deorum (The Mischief of the Gods, adapted from a visual novel of the same title, an interactive game) where alongside of Loki appear also a wide
Loki, The Mischief of the Gods
selection of other gods ranging from Apollo, Hades, Susanoo, Balder, Thot and Anubis (and several others), all of them as handsome young men swarming around the main protagonist, a high school girl named Yui. I haven’t seen it yet, but I guess in this case the appearance and hotness of the characters will be more important than the story.

Loki in literature

The list here is rather short as well. We start with one of the most important contemporary fantasy authors:

Neil Gaiman has affection for Loki. Not only has he appeared two times in his comics series The Sandman (with the main protagonist Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, who interestingly stays most of the time in the background), but he appears also in one of his book. In The Sandman we see Loki in the Season of Mists and The Kindly ones. Gaiman, as we may observe, accentuates more his evil side. Although Gaiman doesn’t follow the original mythology step by step and sports the mythological figures selectively (on the side of Loki we see Odin, Sigyn, Thor; but also Shakespeare’s trickster figure Puck), he follows rather well Loki’s mythological character and exploits also his trickster potential.
Loki from The Sandman
In his novel American Gods, where Loki appears as well, we see for example a clear echo of the theory, according to which Loki and Odin were but one person with two different aspects - they are blood brothers, both share strong trickster characteristics and other traits. Gaiman’s Loki indeed is a figure, where we cannot be sure with anything, just like in the original mythology.

In American Gods the main hero of the story is Shadow (again, a very significant name), whom we meet for the first time in prison. His cell-mate is a certain Low-key Liesmith- you can guess, who he really is.... After he gets out he is employed by an elderly gentleman called Wednesday (again, it’s your guess: hint- Wednesday is named for Wotan, the continental variation of the chief Norse God) to work as his bodyguard....and for other tasks. Just so he does not complain, he gets a visit from his wife, which would be great, except that she is already dead.

Gaiman engages in a multilayered epopee which you can read as an up-to-date Ragnarök. However, now not only the Nordic world is at stake, but our entire own world. Gaiman introduces us to many different gods and goddesses who were dragged into America by immigrants from various parts of the world. So we meet Kálí, leprechauns, pixies, Čiernobog (Cziernobog) and many others. An observation- in addition to Loki, who stays more or less in background - we see other tricksters: the African Anansi (Mr. Nancy) and the native American Wadjunkaga.

The novel is very well written and interesting. Some of the parts were more fluent than others, but generally it was a very pleasant reading. I have to admit, Gaiman really studies in details the motives and stories he uses in his books. Loki here is a trickster par excellance, and what is more (although it is relatively scarce in modern adaptations), the author doesn’t neglect the trickster side of Odin-Wednesday either, and all other gods stay true to their mythological counterparts.

The book is in fact a rather hard critique of the USA and its contemporary way of life. On the other hand, it’s true, that mostly the critical part is hidden among the lines and under innocent looking phrases, therefore you have to dig deeper to get the truth.

After singing such accolades to Mr. Gaiman, however, I cannot do the same to another author, who chose Loki as the subject of his novel(s).

His name is Mike Vasich: and the book is called Loki (a sequel Loki: Nine naughty tales of the trickster). According to my information Mr. Vasich gives lectures in English and writes books in his spare time. The novelette retells Nordic myths, but it does so on a very shallow level. He doesn’t reach in the depth of the presented characters at all. For example Loki himself, the titular hero of the book, appears only very sparingly on the pages, which is actually very strange in regard that he should be the main person in the narrative. Vasich mostly ignores and shamelessly understates the
Mike Vasich, Loki (2010)
vast potential of this figure - it is just a simple retelling of myths, as already mentioned. Despite this critique I would recommend the book for absolute beginners to Nordic mythology and pantheon. For those, however, who are versed in the myths, I recommend to stay away from it. You will be bored. I must confess, I didn’t manage to finish the book, although I tried, because I didn’t like what Vasich did with the characters. In spite of that fact his work is apparently quite popular with the masses. 

A couple of books which I found, but haven’t read yet, portray Loki in the title or as one of the characters. These are the Blackwell pages series by K. L. Armsgront and M. A. Marr, and Loki: Why I began the end by Maia Jacomus, who writes about the events leading up to Ragnarök from Loki’s point of view. The polish author Jakub Cwiek wrote a series Liar (orig. Klamca) where you find not only Loki, but also Angels and other creatures. The book The Loki Variation S. J. Riley somehow manages to connect Loki and zombies – to what outcome?

Loki in comics

Now we arrived to the part, where Marvel is the trade name. The absolute first thing I thought of when I started to read about Loki’s adventures in the series Journey into Mystery/The Mighty Thor was that Marvel is one big mess (or chaos, if you like). Which is not so off when we see it through the loki lens. Numerous crossovers from the other series in the Marvel Universe, many side stories, freestanding events, pose a challenge for someone, who is used to the Japanese manga. In contrast to its occidental cousin, single stories in comics are not the creation of a single author, or artist- therefore I had to get used to the ever changing artwork, and different depictions of the main heroes. At one point I almost gave away to despair, because I had to read 4 series parallel for the story to make sense!

Anyway, Loki stands here as the antihero, Thor’s Nemesis. He appears already in the 3rd issue of The Mighty Thor (alternatively Nr. 85. of Journey into mystery, 1962). At the beginning, although other gods appear sporadically, we don’t learn much of them. The adventures are placed mostly on Earth, or to be more precise, in Midgard. The main hero is Dr. Donald Blake, a lame doctor, who is secretly in love with his nurse Jane Foster. One day during his trip to Norway he finds a strange cub: when he strikes it on the ground, he magically changes into Mighty Thor, and the cub into Mjölnir, the Thunder Hammer. Thor was namely expelled from Ásgard as a punishment by his daddy, where he
Marvel's Loki
has to stay in the body of Dr. Blake until he learns humility. As Dr. Blake he doesn’t remember his godly self. Enter Loki, who wants to get the magical hammer from Thor, despite his inability to lift the hammer himself. At the beginning Loki acts as a true trickster, who loves to make fools of people.  He doesn’t kill them, rather changes them to funny things like negatives, outlines, or he changes a whole street, the cars and buildings to cakes and pop-sickles. The stories are at first episodic, each finished with Thor’s victory. Later Loki joins other villains and we get to know his life history, how he found his way to Ásgard. Here, in the comics version, he is claimed not as a brother, but as an adopted son of Odin, and Laufey becomes his Father (and Farbauti his mother!) Laufey, the king of frost giants cast away his own child, because it was small and weak compared to other giants. Also Fenrir, Jörmungandr and Hel are here introduced not as Loki’s offspring but each has his own origin and story. And of course, Slepinir is not birthed by Loki himself in a female (albeit animal) form.

From the start Loki is shown in his typical-to-be clothing, which later made its famous debut on the silver screen, although in an altered form. In comics the infamous green spandex, in the movies a more lordly attire, but above all his unmistakable horned helm. The horns look quite innocent at the start of the series, but gradually grow, and grow, until they become THE brand mark of Loki.

Later in the comics the stories become more thought through, more and more characters appear also from different storylines (Ironman, Cpt. America, Ant man etc.), and there are yet more crossovers. The storyline travels from the Earth to Asgard, the characters become more complex and less black-and-white compared to the start. Persons known from the recent movies are introduced to the story: Dr. Sorensen, The Destroyer; Jane Foster becomes a doctor and Donald Blake knows about his double identity as Blake/Thor. It comes to Ragnarök, Odin dies, Thor (and later Balder) becomes the supreme lord of Ásgard- and with that the comics steps into the new millennium. Now the time has come for the character of Loki to show all his colours and shades: he is THE intrigant and
Lady Loki
manipulator behind almost everything that befalls Ásgard and other realms. The fact, that Loki is an unambiguous villain, however, remains.

Of course the main plot line of the Marvel comics doesn’t follow the original Norse mythology: but under Marvel sprang up also other, independent stories and some of them have Loki as the main – well - antihero: Loki- the Miniseries, where we get a glimpse of the complicated soul of Loki and the depth of his relationship with Thor, who also here is his brother.

What is almost totally missing is Loki’s shape-shifting potential (this also applies to almost all of other literary/television works about Loki). Only in one arc we see Loki as a woman. But even this isn’t a true shape-shifting, as Loki only occupies the body of a woman and he cannot change it according to his wish.

Arc Journey into mystery (2011-2012)

At some point of the story Loki dies- as we all know, every hero and antihero dies at some spot in the comics- but we also know that this doesn’t mean he remains dead. The same applies of course to Loki as well.

Thor is suddenly bereft of his brother, whom he hates and yet who is a part of his very soul. Thor has a power- he can track down the immortal souls of Ásgardians who were reborn again in a human body. In such a way he locates Loki who is now a teen urchin in Paris. And he doesn’t really remember much about his old self. In spite of this he is very quick to identify with his new person.
Journey into Myster Nr. 633
And now finally happens something which I was hoping for from the beginnings of the comics: we get to see the whole potential of this intriguing figure, the trickster Loki. In my opinion it is mainly thanks to the author of the text, Kieron Gillen, who started to write Journey into mystery. We follow the young Loki through two parallel series: Thor (written by Matt Fraction and others) and Journey into mystery (written by Gillen, and which concentrates specifically on Loki), but also through several other events and crossovers (Fear Itself, Everything Burns etc). Loki after his “rebirth” is frowned upon suspiciously in Ásgard, because all of the other gods remember his old self. Even Thor initially doubts if he made the right decision to bring him back. Anyway, young Loki is quick to find out as much as possible about his predecessor, from whom he inherited a souvenir in a form of a magpie named Ikol. He finds a companion, a girl named Leah, the handmaiden of Hel, and plunges headfirst into new intrigues.

As I already mentioned, I had problems in following the story. It was not because of the storyline itself, but because of the crossovers. Often I had a feeling I am trying to put together a puzzle where I was still missing some pieces. But the story itself was great. Kid Loki used exactly what was originally his main weapon: namely the power of his tongue and complicated intrigues and lies (Silvertongue, Liesmith). He also made a compliment to his other nickname (Skywalker)- he now crosses into many different worlds and sometimes has trouble to find his way home, literally and figuratively. His complicated relationship with his adoptive brother also comes into foreground: Thor is here introduced as his brother, friend, but also a father figure, who decided to do things the right way this time. But can he really do it? Can he and Loki really evade the inevitable fate, which hangs upon them as the Sword of Damocles? Here I stop, as I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who still didn’t read the story. Let me just say- at the end of the arc Journey into Mystery happens something big and cataclysmal, for what I give my respect to Mr. Gillen: he himself here acted as a true trickster, worthy to create another trickster.

Be as it is, you can further follow Loki and his new companions in the Young Avengers written also by Gillen (and the main hero of JIM changes to Sif from the issue 646).

Now we leave the comics and talks shortly about the movies, as it were them which awoke the main attention regarding the Norse Mythology: Thor (2001), The Avengers (2012) and Thor: The Dark World (2013). Of course the story differs slightly from its comics cousin: Thor is here expelled from Ásgard too, but he preserves the knowledge of his identity. Jane Foster is a meteorologist and she
Loki Laufeyson, Thor (2010)
meets Thor when she overruns him with a car - twice. Thor is trying to get back his precious Mjölnir, which Odin threw down to earth after his disobedient son. In the meantime, in Ásgard happens something big as well: Odin falls to the odinsleep and Loki, his younger adopted son and Thor’s brother, usurps the throne. Finally, however, everything ends as it has to; Loki is defeated anddisappears in the abyss of the universe only to return as even more powerful and evil in Avengers. While in Thor he only slowly assumes his dark character, in Avengers he is introduced as a full-fledged villain, who wants to take over our amazing world. We meet here other superheroes from the Marvel Universe: Ironman, Cpt. America, Hulk, the Black Widow and Hawkeye, who under the command of Nick Furry and S.H.I.E.L.D, a military-like association for fighting the evil of this world, and with the help of god (aka Thor) advert the catastrophe and save the world, which in this case is represented by New York (surprise!). So the last sequences of the movie show Loki in chains, who is escorted by Thor back to Ásgard, where he is to be rightly punished for his evildoings. In the sequel of Thor we see Loki still imprisoned, reflecting (or maybe not) upon his evil deeds. An evil still bigger than him attacks Ásgard and Thor is desperate enough to call on his brother’s advice – and letting him out to freedom. Does Loki learn his lesson? What do you think?

Loki’s image in the popular culture

Let us once more consider the media in which Loki appeared, and also which elements of his mythological original figure they preserved- and which not. I will refer mostly to the movies, if not I’ll make a reference to another medium.

In every retelling, be it on the screen or in paper, the accent is given to his cheating and lying traits. Loki breaks the rules of the game, he is different, he mocks people and plays pranks on them and he hates conform to any kind of authority. In the comics and the movies we see his struggle to emulate
Marvel Loki
the Aesir, to become one of them (just like in mythology). Mainly in the movies, but also in some side stories in comics, we see his admiration of his older brother Thor (Loki in Thor: “I never wanted the throne, I only ever wanted to be equal”). It is up to the viewers to decide, how much of this is sincere, and how much just sweet-talking his opponents.

While in American Gods and in Sandman Loki is the originator of tricks, which are partly accountable as the supporting backbone of the storyline, in the movie this trickster characteristic almost completely disappears. He is serious, awakes awe and fear, but he doesn’t joke. He still keeps his magical abilities, like creating illusions to mislead his enemies.

The main trickster character and joking shifts in Avengers on Tony Stark, or Ironman. Another, albeit hidden trickster appears in the movie in the figure behind the screen- namely in Joss Whedon, the director of the movie. The creator of such cult series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of Firefly, is generally known for including many jokes- be the target movie clichés, or internal jokes regarding the story itself, or regarding its characters and the actors playing the characters. An example: there is a scene when Thor knocks down Loki, who was captured by the Avengers, from the aircraft and both crush onto the ground. Ironman in the pursuit of Loki attacks Thor. In a following verbal duel, when Ironman delivers his puns, he calls Thor Shakespeare in the park (Ironman: “Doth your mother know you weareth her drapes?”). Perhaps this witty remark doesn’t tell anything to the most of the viewers - but perhaps it does: it can be seen as a reference to the movie Thor which was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is a known English actor and director and who is responsible for many modern screen adaptations of several of Shakespeare’s comedies (Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado for Nothing, etc.). And at the same time, Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki (who is the subject of the dispute of Thor and Ironman) is also a Shakespeare enthusiast, who often performs in theatre and on screen (Henry V, in Othello, etc.). In this way, the punch-line here transcends the boundaries of the movie itself and the comics fiction and utilizes facts from the life of real figures - actors and directors behind the screen.

In many literary adaptations Loki figures as a marginal person, albeit often substantial. In the American Gods from Gaiman, The Sandman, in Vasich’s Loki- Loki is there, or we suspect his presence somewhere in the shadows, but he stays hidden, just like the trickster god in the original myths. This however radically changes in the comics and movie adaptation, where Loki suddenly
Loki sitting on the Golden Throne of Ásgard, Thor (2011)
becomes the main villain with a single goal: to rule the world. For the first time, Loki is in the spotlight, and his unholy desire is amplified also visually: first we see the pompous scenery of Ásgard and then Loki sitting on the massive golden throne. Also the violence is escalated, because in the movies and later in the comics Loki doesn’t hesitate to kill anymore, and he is intentionally cruel to his community.

Almost completely repressed stays Loki’s sexual perversity and shape shifting abilities, and this applies to all of the adaptations, literature, movie and comics (some of it comes to light in Vasich’s novel).

But usually Loki doesn’t have children, or they don’t get mentioned. Of course, the possibility of Loki birthing them himself is completely denied. Loki generally doesn’t have a love interest. His comics and movie person is seemingly asexual. His adventures don’t have anything in common with love or sex, he is very solemn and dark. In contrast to Thor, who spends quite a time half-naked in the movies, displaying his muscular upper body to delight the female viewers, Loki is dressed from head to toe all the time and the only skin we see of him are his hands and face (of course, you can argue, that his spandex clothing in the comics reveals as much as if he had been naked, but let’s us ignore
Marvel's Loki
this point a bit). But I’d like to show that this apparent asexuality is not as absolute as assumed. Loki is sexualized, if you know what to look for: hi helmet sports massive horns, an undisputable phallic object, which are positioned at a spot you cannot oversee: on his head (compare with Thor’s helmet, which has wings!). Loki also uses a spear as a weapon, a thrusting, penetrating phallic tool of war (whereas Thor uses a hammer, a slamming tool). Loki further demonstrates his prowess as a master of speaking, who fights with his tongue and not with his acts: he twice threatens with rape, once of Jane (in Thor, where he says he will pay a visit to Jane, of the kind that Thor won’t like), and towards Black Widow (in Avengers, where he tells her he arranges her rape by a person who knows her intimately, namely by Hawkeye). Also he symbolically rapes Dr. Sorensen, Hawkeye and several others (interestingly, every one of them a male), when he takes over their mind after touching their chest, just where their heart was, with his spear, a phallic weapon. This is one part of Loki´s sexualisation- the active part.

There is however, also a passive sexualisation of Loki. At the end of the Avengers we see him with
Loki Bound, The Avengers (2012)
his hands bound and his mouth gagged, being taken to Ásgard by Thor. That Loki is gagged and bound is significant. We can interpret it either as disabling his most prominent skills- usage of magic and the power of his speech, or it can be a reference to the myth, where Loki was punished also with being silenced, when his lips were sewn together. And finally, we can interpret this as a submissive sexualization. While the horns, the spear and his verbal attacks are active, the gag and handcuffs bind, restrict and humble him. Therefore Loki is here presented simultaneously as the attacker and as the receiver; he possesses active- traditionally male- and passive - traditionally female - sexual traits. At last here comes to light a specific trait of a trickster and of the mythological Loki: the ambiguity.

Another characteristic trait of the mythological Loki, the coexistence of male and female elements in his person, is also quite reduced in his modern representations, if not completely erased. Loki is
Loki, Prince of Ásgard, Thor (2010)
always a man, a male. However, we can find again some of the ambiguity in the movies, and in which I call The Snow-White Theory. In Thor (2010) we first see Loki as a young prince. He looks very soft, almost feminine. In contrast to the bearded Thor he is clean shaved, his hair is dark, he has fair skin, big blue eyes and red lips: just like Show White. He lives with his adoptive parents and a sibling. He is jealous of his older brother, who is preferred by their parents (at least that’s what Loki believes), and his peers don’t count him as an equal. In contrast to the fairy tale Snow White,however, it is not he who falls into a deep sleep, but his stepfather Odin, and Loki slips into the role of the bad Step-father/mother), the Evil King/Queen). His seeming innocent evaporates in the course of the movie, and in The Avengers we see only the alpha-male-to-be Loki, who tries to assert his masculinity by the help of visible phallic surrogates (the horns, the spear), by symbolically raping the “weaker” humans, and by trying to rule the world. At the end he is defeated by the true hero, Thor (and the other Avengers) and is put into his
Loki as The Evil Queen/King
place by the means of a gag and handcuffs, thus rendered passive and submissive.
At last but not least, let me discuss the fandom, meaning above all the huge internet community of Loki fans. It is of no surprise that most of the fandom refers to the movies, as they were the starting point for the rocket career of Loki’s fame (and of the actor Tom Hiddleston). As the main representative figures the internet social blog tumblr, “Loki” is (or was) one of the most sought tags there, and he is one of the most popular characters in the movies despite being the villain, and, despite not having his own movie.

Fandom truly is a fascinating phenomenon. In a certain way, it is an underground, it is not official, but in spite of it is very powerful: mainly because it is not bound by cultural conventions of representing certain things in a certain way to public. For me it was really interesting to observe the opposite turn regarding the representation of Loki in popular culture: while in the “official” literature and movies, Loki is always the villain, the bad one, in the “unofficial” internet fandom he is the misunderstood antihero, the poor thing, the ignored son, who only ever wanted to get what rightly belonged to him. Even when the fandom plunges into the original mythology, Loki still keeps his sympathetic traits. Well, maybe he is a bit cheeky and naughty but hey, who wouldn’t love cool bad boys?

This is partly the trend of recent years, when villains gained popularity (the movie Joker from Batman: TDK as an example): they get humanized, they become antiheroes with their own history, pains and a valid reason why they act as they act, why they have to kill, torture and enslave people. But I think that in the case of Loki it is also the merit of the charismatic British actor, who plays Loki, Tom Hiddleston. Seemingly the opposite of Loki (in his own words as well): blond, nice and always smiling. But, just like Loki, he is an alien among the others: a Brit in an American movie (you can argue that he is not the only one, as Chris Hemsworth/Thor isn’t an American either, but you cannot deny that British actors are favoritized as villains in many other US’ movies): you can hear it in his accent and in his vocabulary. He has a wonderful, enthralling voice (you could call him silvertongue, whisperer just like Loki), he has an expressive mimic (which, by the way, is an effeminating trait - as opposed to the traditional, silent, stone-faced male hero). In contrast to Chris Hemwworth, Tom Hiddleston is rather slim than muscled. And in the eyes of the fandom, the edge between Loki and Tom is very thin and rather blurred, making him the real ambiguous trickster, just like Loki.

To finish this article I won’t really talk much about the so called shipping. I’m only mentioning this
term: in fandom it means a fictive or implied relationship of characters, which may be, or may not be in the original work. In this case, of course, the most popular is the so called Thorki (Thor/Loki: google it on your own risk). Why I mention this is, because it is an important part of the modern mythos of Loki: fandom finally supplies the part, which official adaptations fail to represent: Loki’s perverted sexuality. One of the most popular themes is, not surprisingly, the myth about the Building of the walls of Ásgard and the conceiving of Sleipnir (or more generally, the popular manpreg). Interestingly, a motif from the original mythology- and this is a wonderful example of merging of the modern image of Loki designated so much by his incarnation by Tom Hiddleston, and the original Norse mythology. 

In this way, fandom completes the circle. Or you could say: Loki- the Myth lives on! 


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