Why the God of Mischief Remains Popular

The shortest month has the most birthdays, and that’s why I like to call it Cake Month as I eat so much. Actually, that was the Anglo-Saxon translation for Februray (see my previous post Why it’s Good to Eat Cake and Anglo-Saxon Calendar). In the acting world, British actor Tom Hiddleston has his birthday on the 9th. Why is he special enough to appear on my History Blog page? Simple: he has portrayed one of the most significant gods of the Dark Ages: Loki.

In the films Thor and The Avengers, Hiddleston carries the role of the god of mischief with all the charm and cunning the god himself mus have had. He is playful and often dangerous. A joker and a murderer. Shape-shifter and manipulator. Complex indeed.

Many of Loki’s talents are demonstrated on the silver screen, but the films are simply not long enough to show every aspect of the mythology. I do believe that there are many more films in the pipeline and I am interested to see how he is developed.

There was a batch of cats and dogs given the name Loki. I get that – a short, snappy name that is easy for a companion animal to respond to. I expect that a few human babies are named Loki too, but thankfully none in my social circle.

Loki was a key god in Norse mythology. There are many tales where Loki is a pivotal figure, although these vary according to the source.  However, they all agree about Loki’s part in the death of the good guy, Baldur. His mother, Frigg, arranged it so that her beautiful boy would not be harmed by anything in nature. Somehow though, this did not include mistletoe as the gods thought that it was too insignificant to harm anyone. Loki, being the naughty god, made a spear from mistletoe and placed it with other arrows for the blind god, Hod. Loki instructed Hod to to throw the spear at Baldur and Hod did so, unwittingly killing the golden boy, Baldur.

There are many similarities with Odin (Norse) or Woden (Teutonic) with some sources saying that they are half-brothers or father and son. Stories about the Norse gods have existed for more than a thousand years and continue in the guise of comic book heroes (Marvel). In these books, and more recently, films too, Loki is the adopted son of Odin and adoptive brother to Thor. Their adventures keep the wonderful mythology alive. (See my Old Gods page.)

But the enduring appeal of Loki is that he is unpredictable. A fantasy figure who has roots in the belief systems of our ancestors. To some he is as unreal a character as Superman. To others he is a glimpse of the other divine realms we may never see. A door to a new expanse of learning. Or a name for the new puppy.

Happy birthday Tom.

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