The trickster god Loki is undoubtedly the most debated figure from Norse mythology to this day. Though he appears to be a scheming, mischievous deity who has no real loyalties, scholars still explore what his purpose might have been in the ancient stories. Was he merely meant to be a plot device and a foil for the AEsir, the pantheon of gods in Norse religion?
His character surely meant more to the non-Christian Scandinavians than can be gleaned now, and though that purpose cannot be fully realized due to a lack of sufficient sources, an overview of who Loki was and what he did can be loosely outlined.
The Snaptun Stone may feature a depiction of Loki. Moesgård Museum near Århus, Denmark. (Public Domain)
Who was Loki?
According to Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda, Loki was the son of Fárbauti, a jötunn (giant), and Laufey, a lesser known female god. His jötunn heritage helps in explaining the complexity of his character, as the jötunns once went to war against the AEsir and are considered, in many ways, their enemies. Loki, as the son of a giant as well as a goddess, straddles the two warring factions, a trait which plagues his character throughout his mythology.