Myth Monday: Loki’s Binding

*Again, this summary, and italic quotations, is taken from Snorri’s Edda (Faulkes translation) which is counting the binding as being punishment for Baldr’s death. However, fair warning, all the versions agree about what was done and how bad. So consider this your trigger warning of physical trauma, torture, murder, and for anyone who has emotional concerns or upset from this tale

Knowing that the Aesir were angry with him, Loki ran away and hid on a certain mountain. There he made himself a house that had four doors so that he could see in all directions what dangers may be coming. In the daytime, he turned himself into a Salmon and hid in a waterfall called Franangr. One night, while sitting by the fire, he “Pondered what sort of device the Aesir would be likely to think up to catch him in the waterfall”. So he sat with some linen thread and tied knots in  it to form a device that we now call a net. The first one ever made. But Odin had seen from Hlidskialf where Loki was located and they were fast approaching. Loki noticed the Aesir were not far away, and quickly threw the net into the fire and turned back into a salmon, and jumped out into the river. When the Aesir arrived, “the first to enter was the wisest of all, called Kvasir” who saw the shape of the ash in the fire and realized that what was burned was a device to catch fish. So he told the others and they set out to make a net like Loki had. When it was finished, they took the net out to the waterfall. “Thor held one end and all the Aesir held the other and they dragged the net”. But Loki went in front of the net and laid down between two stones. They dragged the net right over him and couldn’t catch him. So, they threw the net back into the water and weighted it down so that nothing could get under it.  And Loki jumped over the net to the other side. This time, the Aesir saw where he went and Thor waded to the middle and they moved towards the sea with the net still weighted down to bottom. Loki knew that to go away from the net would land him into the sea and certain death. But he also knew that he would face that danger if he jumped back over the net up the waterfall. But that is the option he took. When he jumped, Thor caught him and Loki slipped through his hand but Thor caught him by the tail and gripped hard. “And it is for this reason that the salmon tapers towards the tail”. And in this way, Loki was captured. Then they took him to a cave and took three stones set on edge, and put a whole in each slab. Then they brought in Loki’s two sons Vali and Nari (or Narfi) and “The Aesir turned Vali into the form of a wolf and he tore his brother Narfi into pieces”. Then they used his guts to bind Loki across the three slabs under his shoulders, his loins, and backs of his knees. And then the bonds turned into Iron. Then Skadi got a poisonous snake and stationed it above Loki’s head so the poison would drip onto his face. And this is how they left him. But Sigyn stands next to him with a basin to catch the venom and keep it off of. But when the basin becomes full, she has to go and pour the venom away. And in the meantime, the poison drops down on Loki’s face and he jerks away so hard that the whole earth shakes. And that is what causes earthquakes. And “there he will lie in bonds until Ragnarok”. 

*Discussion thoughts: One of the first things that stands out to me (aside from the tragedy) is that in this tale, there are three different instances of explanatory myth or origin story. We have here the invention of the net, why the salmon tapers at the tail, and why there are earthquakes. This is interesting because it is yet another example of Loki’s role as a trickster deity. As we discussed before, one of the qualities of a trickster is not just tricks but that they usually get into trouble (there fault or not), and that they bring things into the human world that we still have or see. Like the net, earthquakes, etc. In addition to that, it is also interesting for us to have more things we can associate with our deities and this helps with that. I actually have a fishing net hanging up over his altar like a mini-curtain.  My next thought is, why would Loki make the very thing he thought they may use to catch him? Is it something about the destiny of bringing Ragnarok and knowing they’d eventually get him somehow? Or was he simply planning to test it the next day to see if it would in fact catch fish? Finally, we again have Iron featured in relation to a god and their power (or really lack there of) just like Thor’s iron gloves he must wear in order to use Mjlonr. Is this a suppressive trait Iron has on magik and god energy like it is known to have against evil spirits, fae and wee folk? Was that a borrowed idea or one that was christian add on showing the thing that binds what they call evil being able to bind and suppress pagan gods? Or is it just merely a reference to Iron being the strongest of medals they knew and had at the time of the myths? What are your thoughts on these? What do you feel or wonder or question about this tale?  You can comment thoughts and questions if you wish. That’s all for now. See you again soon.

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