All of you have heard about the famous sons of Odin; about four brave Aesir gods named Thor, Baldr, Víðarr, and Váli. Most of you have read about Ragnar's notorious sons, whose names were known all across the Viking world. But did you know that god Loki was a famous father as well?
And not just to anyone, but remarkable eight-legged horse called Sleipnir ridden by the all-father Odin, world serpent Jormungandr who was the sworn enemy of the god Thor, ruler of the dead named Hel who welcomed the slain warriors in her great hall, and the infamous wolf Fenrir who will break his chains and kill Odin during the end of the world.
Old Norse mythology portrays the god Loki as a trickster whose only purpose was to put Viking mortals and Norse gods in embarrassing and difficult situations. Despite his often malicious jokes, most Viking men and women believed giant Loki was far from an evil god. On the contrary, they attributed Loki's mischievous nature to his unique sense of humor.
The story about one of the cruelest jokes of Loki is deeply connected to Ragnarok, the foretold destruction of the cosmos when all the nine worlds will collide and disappear in an abyss. Some would say that it was Loki who initiated the beginning of Ragnarok, and they wouldn't be far from the truth.
According to Norse mythology, Baldur, son of Odin and brother of Thor, was once foretold by a dead seeress that his sudden death will presage the world's end and will be the first stage of Ragnarok. Once Odin and his wife Frigg heard the news, they were terrified. So they made every living creature promise they won't hurt their precious son, that is, everyone but mistletoe. "Mistletoe is so small and gentle; how could she cause Ragnarok?" Frigg thought, " there is no need to make her bound by a promise not to hurt Odin's son. "
The story says that once every known creature was bound by an oath not to kill the son of Odin, the Aesir gods decided to have some fun. The gods threw various objects at Baldur, thinking he is indestructible. Loki saw his chance to have some fun as well, but not by endlessly trying to hurt the son of Odin, but by making mischief.
Loki ripped out a mistletoe and brought it to blind god Höðr, saying it is not fair that all the gods could participate in the sport, just because they could see. Tricked by Loki, Höðr took the mistletoe and threw it at Baldur, who was dead instantly - and that is how Ragnarok began.
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According to Norse mythology, Loki had two wives, giantess Angrboda and goddess Sigyn. Although sagas say that giant Loki loved both these women equally, there is nothing similar about them. Unlike graceful Sigyn, giantess Angrboda was a muscular witch known to be the bringer of grief and death all across the Viking world.
The name of Loki's first wife was Angrboda, a red-headed giantess who was the mother to three of his six children. Knowing how intimidating both Loki and Angrboda were, it is no wonder all of their three children were just as scary as them. We are sure you all know them because their names are Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hel.
Fenrir was the first son of Loki and was considered to be among some of the scariest creatures in all the nine worlds of Norse mythology. Being the oldest child of Loki, Fenrir was also the older brother to Midgard serpent Jormungandr and to the ruler of the dead - Hel. Having that said, we assume that neither Fenrir nor his family is exactly the kind of creatures you would like to spend your time with, and the gods of Aesir felt the same way.
According to the story called The Binding of Fenrir, Aesir gods were terrified of Fenrir, so they decided that he must be chained at all times for the sake of the world. But since Fenrir was the most muscular wolf all, all the gods' attempts were in vain. Gods realized they need to find a chain so well-built that not even the hammer of Thor could crash it, let alone wolf Fenrir, so they went to dwarves and asked them for a favor.
The dwarves had built the lightest, yet the most solid chain ever made and gave it to the gods, hoping it would forever bind wolf Fenrir. Once Fenrir was able to see how delicate this chain was, he became a little suspicious. Fenrir then agreed to be tied with this chain but only if one of the gods decided to put one hand in his mouth, in case the gods have tricked him. And only Norse god of war named Tyr was brave enough to have his limb bitten off by Fenrir in exchange for peace. Until Ragnarok comes, Fenrir will remain chained, waiting the day he will, together with his father Loki, lead the giant army against the gods of Aesir.
Malicious as they were, children of Loki often found themselves in various troubling situations, and Thor was the least understanding god when it came to their mischiefs. Sagas say that one day Thor decided to go fishing with the father of god Tyr, a famous giant named Hymir. Since Thor had big expectations of their trip to the sea, he brought the head of an ox as bait. But little did Thor know, that he will catch no fish that day, but a Midgard serpent Jormungandr.
Once Hymir realized which creature took Thor's bait, he became scared that the Ragnarok has come, that he cut the hook that connected their fishing rod to the snake. At that moment, Thor grabbed his hammer Mjolnir and before he had the chance to smash Jormungandr, the serpent fell back into the ocean. When Thor realized what the giant had done, he became furious and threatened Hymir he will kill him. But in the end, Thor decided to throw him into the ocean and let Jormungandr decide upon his faith.
And when the Ragnarok comes, Jormungandr and Thor will slay one another once more in a final battle.
In Norse mythology, not all great stories about Ragnarok are dedicated to wolf Fenrir and his infamous father Loki. In fact, most Norse scribes devoted the sagas to the second son of Loki and the younger brother of Fenrir, who took a form of a world serpent called Jormungandr.
According to the sagas, Odin took all three children Loki had with the giantess Angrboda: Hel, wolf Fenrir and serpent Jormungandr and threw them into the ocean that encircled one of the nine worlds - Midgard. When serpent Jormungandr was just a few days old, Odin could see that his body is so big it could surround the entire realm and since then the gods called Jormungandr ' Midgard serpent '.
All children of Loki and giantess Angrboda made sure to be just as notorious as their mother and father. As you know wolf Fenrir could devour the entire world with just one bite and his brother serpent Jormungandr took even god Thor by surprise when it challenged the strength of his precious hammer. But did god Loki have a daughter as well? And if so, what was she like, some of you may wonder. Could anyone beat Jormungandr and Fenrir, the most famous villains of Norse mythology?
Hela or Hel was the third child of Loki who made her name as the commander of the dead, who spends most of her time guarding the deceased in her realm. Just like her famous mother, Hel was believed to be a selfish, ruthless, and often even barbaric female deity who ruled a place she shared her name with - Hel.
Despite the fact that the English word 'hell' derives from the Norse name 'Hel' and they can both be translated as 'underworld', there are not many things in common between the two. Christian faith describes hell as the place of eternal suffering, whereas in Norse mythology Hel was only the place you would spend your afterlife.
While Valhalla was the hall of the slain ruled by Odin, Hel was the underworld reserved for those Vikings who decided to lead their lives more peacefully. God Odin made sure that the dead warriors spend their time in Valhalla just like they did on the ideal battlefield, fighting at day, and feasting at night, preparing themselves for the Ragnarok. On the other hand, goddess Hel preferred to keep her hall an ordinary place where the dead could continue the everyday routines they once did on Earth.
Although the first three children of Loki enjoyed a very malicious reputation, we can easily say that it wasn't the case with Narfi and Vali, two children Loki had with Sigyn. Namely, after the death of Baldur, Aesir gods were looking for a way to punish god Loki for the death of Odin's son. So one day, they decided to turn Vali into an enraged wolf who will wish nothing more but to kill Narfi. Sadly, Vali managed to kill his brother, leaving poor Sigyn to mourn Narfi through the entire Ragnarok.
If god Loki was strictly a male figure, how could he give birth to children, some of you may wonder. To fully understand the answer to this question, you would have to bear in mind that back in the Viking age, not all stories had to make perfect sense. In fact, compared to many other tales in Norse mythology, the myth about Loki giving birth to a horse named Sleipnir sounds quite rational.
Just like other children of Loki, Sleipnir was no ordinary creature. On top of regular two, Sleipnir was blessed with six additional legs, and a golden mane on top of his head.
Sagas say that at the beginning of the world, one man offered the Aesir gods to build Valhalla in only three seasons, and in return, he wanted the Sun, the Moon, and the hand of goddess Freya. Naturally, the gods weren't willing to pay the price this man requested, so they bargained. Finally, god Odin told the craftsman that he will receive his payment only if he finishes Valhalla in only one season with no help of any man.
When the gods realized that it was the last day of the season and most of the work around Valhalla was done by craftsman's horse Svadilfari, they told god Loki to sabotage their work. Loki then took the form of a beautiful foal and lured the stallion into the wood. On that night, instead of building the walls of Valhalla, Svadilfari made Loki pregnant with an eight-legged horse Sleipnir.
Snorri Sturluson's writings from the 13th century, say that Sleipnir was given to Odin by Loki after Valhalla was built, and that is how began the legend of this famous duo. The story says that once Odin put his magical saddle on Sleipnir's back, he became three times faster than the wind and thirty times stronger than all the Norse giants. And when we tell you that the word 'sleipnir' meant 'the sliding one' you would understand how this astonishing animal got its name.
As you can see fellow Vikings, all children of Loki were just as remarkable as their infamous father, the trickster god Loki. We can only hope that you found stories about Fenrir, Jormungandr, Hel, Sleipnir, Narfi, and Vali just as amusing as we did and that we will continue passing them to generations ahead.
Until our next Viking gathering,
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