When I went to my optometrist last year, the woman who did the routine tests saw the Valknut necklace I wear and asked me about it. I told her it was Odin’s symbol, and that led her into reciting a story about cats.
She said that before she’d moved to Boone, she had met a woman who had two cats-one named Odin, the other named Loki. Apparently, the cats got along tremendously well, even though the woman had expected that, with those names, they would have fought.
Her story reminded me of the Odin and Loki that I am familiar with. Odin doesn’t “put up with Loki,” like I’ve seen others suggest. No, Odin and Loki are friends. Inseparable best friends who delight in each other, respect each other, and give each other the most crap. After all, that’s what being friends is all about.
When you can call someone on their bullshit without permanently offending them, and then turn around and have their back when needed — that’s friendship. And Odin and Loki have that.
Sure, Loki drives Odin crazy because he’s always getting into trouble and doing crazy things, but Odin doesn’t try and stop him. There’s one story where Odin and Loki are traveling to Jotunheim and are getting weak from hunger because nothing they try to cook will actually cook.
Odin decides to go back to Asgard and leaves Loki, who is getting angrier by the minute that the meat won’t cook, and stubbornly insists on continuing to try and make it work (even though the methods aren’t working). Because of this, a giant ends up entrapping him and forcing him to agree to kidnap Idunna before releasing Loki from the trap.
Loki is nothing if not a survivor, so he agrees, and keeps his word to kidnap Idunna. But then he also goes and retrieves her, and, while they are being chased (both of them in bird form) to Asgard, Loki manages to trick the giant into killing himself.
In the story, the reason that Odin and Loki are traveling to Jotunheim isn’t fully explained. With the tactical maneuvers at the end of the story, however, it’s easy to imagine that events could have enfolded in this way:
Odin and Loki are traveling to Asgard to spy on the giants because they are worried about the repercussions the oath they broke concerning the building of Asgard’s wall will be. When they get hungry and cook food (or try to), Odin decides it may be a trap and leaves Loki behind knowing this– and maybe even explaining this to Loki– and then Loki continues to act like an idiot (which he really isn’t) and get caught by the giant. He sees a way to turn the giant’s plot to kidnap Idunna into a strategic method for the Asgardians to defeat one of the giants, and takes a calculated risk. Then, back at Asgard, when Odin “discovers” what he did (and there’s every possibility Loki went and told Odin himself), Loki is then “forced” to recover her, and when he does so, kills the giant who was the most likely to cause the Asgardians problems.
A lot of the stories tend to portray Loki as the “evil guy” or the “bad guy,” because without a villain, stories fall apart. But when I read the stories carefully that deal with how Odin and Loki interact with each other, I feel that there is much more going on under the surface than is being told.
Odin can’t take the risks Loki can– he can’t be the sneaky strategist/tactician because that would undermine his role as the leader of the Asgardians. But Loki can take on that role, be the hated shadow (and really, read enough fantasy novels, and you start to realize how common it is for kings to have a shadow hand they can never play in public, but who always works to the benefit of the kingdom by the king’s behest).
Loki and Odin are closer than brothers; they know each others darkest secrets and most painful truths. That is alluded to in the Lokabrenna, and Odin is the only one who doesn’t take immediate offense to Loki’s words to him, but rather returns them in kind. That kind of volley is possible only between people who are close.
So I don’t prescribe to the idea that Loki is the “evil god” of the pantheon, or that he is the Heathen version of “the devil,” (which gets suggested a lot). Loki is a catalyst of change, and Odin is the leader who has the vision of a world Loki wishes to see as well.
As for the story about Baldur, well, I am not entirely convinced that it wasn’t written by someone trying to convert the pagan populace into Christians, as there are too many overtones of the Lazarus myth in it for me to view it as an accurate portrayal of Loki’s character.
Loki does what Odin can’t, and Odin trusts him. I mean, he’s the only god who Odin swore himself to as a blood brother, as far as I’m aware, and that’s not an oath undertaken lightly. Perhaps that is what people who tend to ostracize Loki should consider before automatically lumping him in with the so-called “bad guys.”