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Questioning Loki, Part One

By Karl E. H. Seigfried

[Snip] “Is Loki the god of mischief or the god of fire?”

Neither, really. Loki is not referred to by either of these titles in the source texts of Norse mythology. Rudolf Simek calls him “a god without a function,” and all the major scholars of Norse mythology and religion agree that Loki was never actually worshiped in ancient times.

The idea that he was a “god of mischief” seems to be connected with modern scholarship that attempts to connect him to Tricksters in other cultures (African, Native American, etc). The portrayal of Loki in Marvel Comics has strengthened this connection in the popular imagination. The “god of fire” idea is a famous mistake that is due to the similarity between the names Loki and Logi, the latter being a personification of fire in the well-known story of Thor’s visit to the giant Útgarða-Loki. The connection to fire was popularized by the composer Richard Wagner in his Ring operas, in which he portrayed Loki as a sort of fire-sprite named Loge.

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