"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself."-Brad Cameron

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Loki's Flyting

From its source in the Lokasenna, there is a unique Norse poem taken from the Elder Edda. Its title “Loki’s Flyting” – the term flyting or fliting meaning a contest consisting of the exchange of insults, often conducted in verse, between two parties – is the story of a feast between the gods, their sadness over the death of Balder causing them to abandon the hall of Asgard for the island of Hlesey. There, the gods are served copious amounts of ale prepared at the hands of Aegir, the caretaker of the island. As the tale unfolds, we are at once again reminded of Loki’s treachery in the murder of Balder and how the gods are becoming more and more aware that it was he who was responsible for the beloved god’s death. Nevertheless, Loki, the bold, rash, mischievous imp that he is, strides into the feast unannounced, much to the immediate displeasure of the rest of the gods.

The tale begins with Loki asking for a drink of ale, but is told, in no uncertain terms by the god Bragi: “The gods will no longer make room and give you a place amongst them. You’re not the kind of company they want at a feast.”

Loki, now feeling the bitter stares of those who sit around him, does the one thing he does best: insults them. He begins with Bragi – “Bragi the beggar,” Loki said. “You’ve never had a horse or a ring to your name, and you never will have. Of all the gods and elves in this hall, you’re the greatest coward.” And so he continues until he’s insulted each and every god in the room, including Odin, with his biting words.

(c): disney.wikia
Finally, it is Thor’s entrance that causes a mighty change to come over the gathering: “Loki was so carried away by his flight of words that he did not see that Thor had walked into Aegir’s hall. ‘Hold your tongue, you scum,’ Thor roared, ‘or my hammer Mjollnir will shut your mouth! I’ll swipe your shoulder-stone off your neck and that will be the end of you!’”

Loki, his smug expression ever present, lashes out at Thor. “Look everyone, here’s the Son of Earth! What a blustering bully you are, Thor. But you’ll be less fierce when you grapple with Fenrir and see him gulp down Odin, the Father of Victory.”

Thor, being angered even more by Loki’s threatening words, continues to brandish his hammer, his grip on Mjollnir tight and menacing.
Nevertheless, one thing that can always be remembered about Loki, the Sky-Traveler and the Changer of Shapes, is that for all his brash words and threats, he is but a coward.

“Loki paused and looked defiantly around him and then addressed himself to the host. ‘You’ve brewed fine ale, Aegir, but you’ll never hold another feast such as this.’”

It is here that Loki once again foretells the fate of the gods in the coming of Ragnarok. “Flickering flames will gorge on this hall and gut it and destroy everything you own; your body will be flayed by fire.”

Loki then takes one more fleeting glance at Thor who stands before him with his hammer raised, ready to strike. “I will take my leave now,” Loki said, his voice quivering slightly with fear. “I know all about your strength, Thor.”

Loki quickly turns and goes, his terrible, prophetic words echoing round the walls. For a long time after he leaves, the gods continue to sit in silence, Loki’s words spinning in their minds. Then in silence they leave.

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