The Punishment of Loki

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Loki's PunishmentLoki, the Norse god of fire, can be an entertaining character. He is full of mischief. But there are times when he is downright evil. In this story, we learn how the other Norse gods punished him for his crimes. He tells the tale in his own words.

This is the last in the series of Norse Myths for a while.

Read by Elizabeth. Written by Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore.

Please allow me to introduce myself. You will have heard already of some of my crimes. I confess that I am proud of them, despite what others say. It was I who cut off the golden hair of Sif, the goddess of corn. And I was the one who stole Freyja’s necklace. Idun with her golden apples of immortality was kidnapped by none other than me. And didn’t I sting Brok, and do everything I could to spoil Thor’s thunder-clapping hammer?

Yes, if you do not recognise my face, as dark as a burnt-out tree, and my eyes which dance like flames, you will know me by my deeds. I am Loki, god of fire, mischief, and all those things that are naughty but fun. Some, I am afraid, say that I am bad. Look, my life was never easy. I always had a bit of an identity crisis. And I still don’t know whether I am the son of Odin or his brother. Am I a god or am I a giant? If I ‘m half and half of these two groups bound to war throughout the ages, and where does that leave me? Being the god of fire didn’t help either: everyone knows that sometimes fire warms you up, and other times it burns down your house and fields and forest and everything else....OK, I did bad, destructive things, but if Odin was so wonderful, where was his mercy and forgiveness? Or was it because he was so totally lacking in those qualities that our glory faded with time and men turned elsewhere. I mean, who worships the Norse gods these days? Very few!

This story is about one of my disasters. Look, I’m the god of fire, aren’t I? So is it my fault I’m hot-tempered? It all happened at Aegir’s feast: he was god of the sea, and being god of fire, I am always jumpy in the water. No-one else was happy either, so you can imagine what sort of feast it was, though the tone lightened as the servants passed the great horns of mead round the table, and the gods drunk more and more. But, somehow, they missed me out. “Wonderful servants, Aegir”, said one of the gods. “They see to everything and everyone, nothing is left undone”.

Hang on a minute... They missed me out! didn’t they! I was so angry I, I tell you. I Ieapt up and clobbered one of those blasted servants. He fell backwards onto the stone flags, and lay stiff! There was a terrible silence. I remember. turns out the stones had killed him...Everyone turned and looked at me. “Out, out!” they cried. “Outcast, cast him, out.” I got up and left the hall. But not for long. It was too wet for me in the rain. see. Another servant was outside the hall, and I asked him what they were talking about.

“They’re all having a lovely time,” said the servant looking at me. “But they’ve nothing good to say about you.”

Incensed, I strode back into the hall and faced the silence. “I am cold and wet. I have a thirst also. Who will give me to drink? Who will pass the horn to me?” No-one spoke. “I have come to take my place. Why are you so quiet? Oh you cast me out?, is it? Do you turn me away?”

There was a silence and then at last a voice boomed: “You will never more have a place among the gods. You must leave.” That was Odin, the god who was, probably, my own father.

Well, if that’s how it was, I did have something to say. “A curse upon you. Not a weedy human curse, but a curse from one of your own, a curse from a god to the gods. You find fault with me, but I, Loki, will never forget the faults that are yours. You Odin, are a bit short on mercy and forgiveness, aren’t you? Yours is a hard wisdom, isn’t it?. And you Idun, did you not leave Asgard of your own will even if I did sweet talk you all the way out of the gates? You have always been stupid, all you can do is hold a basket...” And so I carried on till I got to Thor, god of thunder and war. “Are you not puffed up with pride? But where would you be without your hammer? And would you have your hammer if I had not cut off the hair of that silly wife of yours?”

I agree, it might have been better to leave Thor out of this, but as I said, I am a bit hot-tempered - impulsive shall we call it? There was a grumble and a rumble, a few thunderbolts which Thor liked to throw for fun, and then a flash of lightning. Thor stood in front of me, towering with rage, and swinging his hammer about. It really was time to go. “Curse the lot of you,” I cried “May you and yours be consumed in the endless Fire both now and at the end of days!”

I will admit that I did take things a bit far with these insults and curses. Anyway, I left ,and wandered lonely o’er the earth, looking for somewhere safe to hide. The gods were sure to search me out and exact vengeance! I settled in a deep valley with a river hidden in the mountains, and I built a house with windows in every wall so I could always see if anyone was coming....Not that I relied on the windows alone. Don’t forget, I often changed my shape. Because I was afraid of water, I turned myself into a salmon to get used to it. What terrific swims and jumps I had in that mountain river! And I had always liked fish: slippery as a fish, isn’t that what they say?

After a while, I relaxed: my hiding place was safe. No-one came looking. When I was not a salmon, but in my true form, I started weaving. Not cloth, but fishing nets. They were new, because I invented them. But they do take a long time to make. I had plenty of time. One day Odin looked down on the world and saw someone busy making nets....quickly, he called Thor, and Kvasir who was quite a bit sharper than that thick thunder god. and sent them down to the valley where I was hiding. I was so busy making my net, that I forgot to look out of the window. I heard the cracking of branches. They were nearly upon me! I flung the half-woven net onto the fire, and salmon-jumped into the river. The three gods went into my house and looked around. Kvasir found the charred remains of my net. “I know what it is, it’s a fishing net: Loki was always a brilliant fisherman. and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s turned into a fish and leapt into the river. Let’s finish the net and fish for him!”

It didn’t take the three of them long to finish the net. Then they walked softly to the river and dragged it slowly from bank to bank. I sank to the bottom and lay between two rocks, so the net passed over me. Then the gods tied a heavy stone to the net so that it could not miss me: but I jumped over it and rushed headlong down a waterfall. The gods moved downstream and tried once more. I jumped again. Thor was watching and seized me as I jumped: I was slipping out of his grasp but he gripped my tail tight. Oh! oh! I wriggled, but he held me fast.

I could do nothing, and was changed back into my true shape. They dragged me to a cave nearby. They bored holes in three great rocks, and bound me to the stones with iron fetters. My punishment was to stay there for all time. But even that was not enough. They hung a serpent over me, to drop poison on my face.... I cannot tell you how painful this was, no words can describe it. Thank goodness I had a good wife, Sigyn, though I was not a good husband. She heard my screams echoing in the wind and came to help me. She caught the poison in a cup, but when it was full she turned to empty it, and the drops of poison fell on me. I could not escape them, try though I did. I strained the iron on my flesh, and I pulled so hard that the earth trembled and quaked.

So that was that . I, Loki, received my punishment until the end of the world. Then I will become pure fire, consume my chains and fight against the gods with my fire of destruction. Ha ! The last laugh will be mine !