Loki and Children
I have been having some thoughts about the original mythological Loki and the thought that has been on my mind most is this:
1. Surprisingly great with kids
2. Is addicted to parenthood
Let me explain.
As to the first bit, well, yeah, it’s surprising. Or it should be at first glance. Because, seriously, this is fucking Loki. Standing in close proximity to him for longer than a minute is bound to result in theft, arson, a splash of bloodshed for color, and at least one confused party waking up in bed with the fucker. He’s a chaotic, manic, and generally hazardous force to be reckoned with.
To us. That is, adults.
Mortals, gods, giants, trolls, dwarves, et cetera–but only those who are mature.* *Read: there is Something to be Gained from conning, seducing, or otherwise messing with us. Whether it’s to save his own skin, or to get some sweet petty vengeance, or to steal a bauble, or to satisfy some carnal itch, or to just fuck up somebody’s day for the Hel of it, Loki only ever targets those he can take something worthwhile from.
And what is there to take from kids?
Plenty of folks on his extremely extensive Enemies List have children, of course. No one in the Norse mythos was especially mindful of dropping their seed. So. Children.
Children–easy to fool, easy to make a hostage, easy to charm and siphon their parents’ secrets and treasures from–should be great big bullseyes to the God of Mischief and Trickery and Assorted Other Unscrupulous Things. Yet there isn’t a single Edda or snippet of lore in which Loki makes cruel use of them. Not once.
But what’s the big deal? Most of the rude and/or villainous characters in Norse mythology don’t bother with harassing kids either. Except in the case of stories like Loka Táttur.
Loka Táttur is a tale about how a farmer loses a bet with a vicious troll who swears to kill the farmer’s little boy. The farmer calls upon three gods in turn. Odin, Hoenir, and Loki. Odin and Hoenir both disguise the boy and hide him away, but the troll is too clever and each time manages to sniff out the boy’s hiding place. Ultimately it is Loki who hides the kid–pulling an Idunn-in-a-Nutshell gag and hiding him as a speck on the eye of a flounder in the water–and then, rather than stepping back as Odin and Hoenir did from their work, he sits in his boat and lets the troll see him.
The troll, being suspicious, asks what Loki’s business is. Only fishing, obviously. The troll demands to join him. Lo and behold, they bring up a wealth of flounders, including the one where the boy’s hidden. Loki manages to change the boy back to his true shape and hide the kid behind his back without the troll noticing. As Loki brings the boat back to shore, and to the farmer’s boathouse with the latter’s doors open, Loki tells the boy to run through the boathouse. He goes, the troll gives chase, and the troll becomes wedged in the entryway.
At which point Loki proceeds to chop off the troll’s legs and stick an iron stake in the bastard’s skull. Then he walks the kid back home. The grand payoff for Loki after all this?
The boy is safe. The troll is dead. The End.
Now, much as Loki may have been the catalyst for a lot of corpses pre-Ragnarok–see his business with Thor getting his hammer back and leading more than one giant into a death trap–Loki is actually very rarely, if ever, one to get his hands dirty by killing a victim himself. Even Baldr was done in by an arrow he aimed with blind Hod’s fingers. So why did Loki personally orchestrate this plan in such a grisly way? For what gain?
What, other than the satisfaction of personally slaughtering the would-be child-killing prick troll?
In a less bloody narrative, we see his hand in getting Thialfi and Roskva, a pair of mortal siblings, taken into Thor’s service. While the exact ages of the two aren’t mentioned, they are young enough to still be in the care of their parents. When Thor and Loki are travelling it’s their father who invites them under their roof. Thor’s goats are slaughtered for the evening meal and–in some tellings–it is Loki who entices the son, Thialfi, into breaking a leg bone to taste the marrow. When morning comes and Thor resurrects his goats, one has a broken leg.
Thor’s visibly pissed—never ever a good thing–and so the family offers to make some compensation.
Loki, coughing through his hand: ThialfibroketheboneheshouldpledgeservicetoThor
Loki, clearing his throat: Alsotakethesistertwoforonedeal
Rosvka: But I didn’t do anything—
Loki, en sotto voce: Kids, consider your options. Teensy mortal lifetime of toil on Midgard, harvesting dirt and snow on one hand. Potentially immortal lifetime, I don’t know, scrubbing giant blood off Mjolnir in Thor’s hall on Asgard on the other. Verdict?
Loki: Excellent! Really, Thor, you’re a master dealmaker, a born barterer, I’m in awe.
Loki: AND WE’RE BACK TREKKING LETS GO
Cue laugh track.
Point being, Loki has been shown to purposefully go out of his way to help kids because…because. Yet how does this translate to the idea of him being good with kids?
I ask this purely hypothetically and am trying not to laugh as I do, because really. Really. How in the hell is a kid not going to be entertained by the Norse god of revelry and recreation?
Oh yeah, that bit’s often left off the résumé.
Loki, God of Mischief, is also God of Recreation. Play, in other words. Because playtime is a thing that is Chaotic rather than a product of Order, and so Loki is naturally all over it. There are some who even credit him with having added that trait to the first humans, Ask and Embla, while Odin, Vili, and Vé were carving them and breathing character into their souls.
On top of that, he’s also the god of flyting—poetic shit-talking.
So we have a shapeshifting, storytelling, magic-wielding, game-spinning, trickster god who can also teach young ears every bad word they could ever hope to learn, and he’s expected not to be a hit with kids? This is all without even mentioning the fact that Loki is a bit of a hyperactive attention hog all on his own. What better audience for him than a gaggle of credulous little onlookers who are too young to sneer at his antics rather than take delight in them? Children are wee balls of mischief themselves, muddled in with imagination and wonder and an eagerness to be wowed or made to laugh themselves into weeping.
All of which brings me to point number two:
Loki is a kidaholic.
Like, even though a lot of his and/or her sleeping around the Realms can be chalked up to an insane libido, there’s also just the sheer number of kids they’ve produced to factor in. Maybe more than even Odin or Thor could boast. At least half being born from Loki herself. Not because Loki was helpless against the workings of nature—it’s impossible to believe that Loki wasn’t smart enough or powerful enough to get around producing new Lokisons and Lokisdottirs with every other bedmate—but because Loki wants more kids. There will never be enough kids.
The guy’s got a case of severe paternal/maternal hoarding going on. I mean
Loki: I need another one.
Odin: You really don’t.
Loki: You’re right. I need two other ones.
Odin: I am positive that you do not.
Loki: Three. Triplets. Need them. Right now.
Loki: Four? Four. Definitely four.
Odin: Loki, please.
Loki: Yeah, let’s go with four. I can give or get. I’ll flip a coin.
Odin: Loki, as Allfather, I am expressly forbidding you to impregnate or be impregnated for at least a century.
Loki: …I’ll settle for three.
Odin: What did I just say?
Loki: Three’s a good number, isn’t it? All good things come in threes. You and your brothers—
Odin, fighting an aneurysm: You and your brothers—
Loki: So you agree!
Odin: I did not—
Loki: Three it is!
Loki: Be back when I feel like it
Loki: Give my love to Sleipnir
Loki, pantsless, vaulting over the wall, cartwheeling towards Jötunheimr’s Ironwood forest: Bye
It’s in that Ironwood that he meets Angrboda and fathers a giant wolf, a giant snake, and the literal corpse-faced queen-goddess of the dead by her. Being that Loki’s scope of attractiveness/aesthetic acceptability is elastic enough to let all sorts of species between his legs, I find it hard to believe that his kids’ unique looks would repulse or even faze him. They’re his children. Therefore they’re great.
And we all know how that happy family ended up. Ditto his second family with Sigyn and his two little twin boys.
Enter Ragnarok, warfare, general Bad Times, and so on.
Comical as it is to envision a Loki who cringes at the notion of parenthood and/or fears his more monstrous children, I just don’t believe it lines up with what we know of the Loki of myth.
Myth Loki is a god who would spend hours entertaining a child, simply entertained that the child is entertained.
Myth Loki is also a god who would hunt down and methodically dismember whichever idiot thought it would be okay to make a child cry within said god’s earshot.