The Franks were pagans whose spiritual beliefs were based in Continental Germanic mythology until AD 496 when Clovis I, the first Merovingian king to unite all the Franks, became a Christian at the urging of his wife, Clotilde, a Burgundian princess.
In my novel, On the Edge of Sunrise set in AD 450, my hero, Garic, is a warrior and the First Counsel to his tribe of Salian Franks. He follows the gods of his people. Some are said to live in the air, woods and waters. Over the next few blogs, I will showcase a few of the Continental Germanic gods who share counterparts with some of the Scandinavian Norse gods (Donar-Thor / Wodan-Odin / Logathore (possibly)-Loki), and who are mentioned in my book. In some cases within my story, I’ve used the more familiar Norse terms to make it relatable to the reader.
Loki is a cool god, but one not to be trusted. He is the god of chaos, lies and trickery. He can swing from a ‘malicious mastermind’ to a good-natured troublemaker. His chaotic nature and impulsive behaviors push him into the realm of deception. Some mythologists believe he is the brother of Odin, while others claim his parents were giants. Whether Odin and Loki are brothers by blood or a sworn oath, they are opposites in nature. Odin is wise, good, noble and prudent. Loki is evil, thoughtless, cowardly and careless. They represent ‘extreme ends of the moral spectrum.’
Loki is usually depicted as handsome with a devilish demeanor, and as author Morgan Roberts states, ‘no conscience lies behind his eyes, no pity in his heart.’ Loki is also known as a shape shifter. He appears at different times as a salmon, a horse and even as a fly.
Loki’s relationships with the other gods vary. At times, he is helpful as demonstrated in the myth of the building of Asgard’s (home of the Aesir gods) wall. In other stories, he is a troublemaker with a cruel edge. In one episode, Loki plays a spiteful trick on Thor’s wife, Sif. One night, Loki sneaks into Sif’s bedroom, while she sleeps and cuts off her beautiful golden hair. He lets her ‘tresses fall where they would’ and steals out proud of himself for having played such a clever joke. The next day when Thor discovers what has happened to Sif, he corners Loki, and ‘he throttled him.’ Loki, fearing for his life, agrees to travel to the realm of dwarves and convince the most talented of this race to create a cap of golden hair for Sif and give it magical power, so that it might grow like real hair when placed on her head. Loki arrives in Svartalfheim and finds the best craftsmen to make Sif a golden wig. He also asks that the dwarves make gifts for the gods Odin and Frey, a clever political consideration on Loki’s part. Loki promises the dwarves that if they help him, they will not only have the gratitude of Odin, Frey and Thor, but their talents will shine far and wide. The dwarves agree and make Sif a golden wig finer than her original hair. For Frey, they build a ship called Skidbladnir, which folds small enough to fit into a pocket. For Odin, they make the mighty spear, Gungnir, which becomes revered as a weapon ‘that an oath sworn upon its blade could never be broken, by god or man.’
Loki’s last bit of trickery and considered the worst leads to his banishment. He persuades Hodur, the god of winter to throw a spear made of mistletoe at his brother and the beloved god of light, Balder, which kills him. This horrible act incurs the wrath of the gods and Loki is banished from Asgard. However, in another brash act, Loki returns one night while the gods are feasting and strides through the hall, screaming obscenities and finding fault with each of them. In particular, he insults Sif. Thor responds by swinging his hammer, Mjolnir, ‘faster than the eye could follow’ around Loki’s head. The trickster flees but his fate is sealed. Hiding in a hut on a hill, Loki transforms himself into a salmon to avoid capture. Thor learns what Loki has done and fashions an incredible net. With the help of Odin and the god of inspiration, Kvasir, he tracks Loki to his lair and nets the mischievous god.
Loki’s punishment is strong. The gods track down Loki’s son, Vali, who they change into a ferocious wolf that kills his brother, Narvi. Vali rips out Narvi’s entrails and runs away. The gods use Narvi’s entrails to tie Loki to three massive rocks. A serpent is positioned over Loki’s face, so that it’s venom ‘would drip down, unrelenting, into his eyes.’ Loki’s wife, Sigyn, tries to help her husband by catching the venom in a bowl, but when it’s full, she must empty it, leaving Loki’s face momentarily exposed to the ‘fiery’ venom. The fate of Loki, god of lies, is to have his face burned until Ragnarok, the death and rebirth of the world.
Everyone loves a trickster, until the joke is on him. Would a world without chaos be better? Perhaps. I imagine that our long past ancestors from every culture could only wonder as we do, but their best avenue for explanation was through their stories, myths and legends, through their heroes and villains. On a cold winter’s night, I can imagine them around the fire. Their children are bundled in blankets or furs, hearing the story of Loki who comes to trick all who will listen.
On the Edge of Sunrise: Book 1 — The Long-hair Sagas
Knox Robinson Publishing – 2015
Roberts, Morgan J., Myths of the World: Norse Gods and Heroes