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On Tricksters and Humour:

From "Mythical Trickster Figures" ed. by Hynes & Doty (Tuscaloosa, 1993)

"Why and how and at what people laugh is perhaps the most revealing of human actions." Oscar Wilde's remark about taking ourselves too seriously as the "world's original sin" ought not to be passed over too quickly, since much of American religiosity (whether pop or formal) has trouble with both the comic and the deceitful. Trickster figures graph ways of operating that go against the Western grain. Despite Augustine's dictum that good can come from evil, we are taught to reject almost automatically the suggestion that a deceitful figure - by the definitions of our society, morally bad - can bring about good.

We, who find the trickster's antics amusing, laugh not just at the underhandedness of the tricks, but precisely at their unpretentious straightforwardness. The trickster is sneaky, but overtly skillful about his trickery: if we approve only grudgingly, it is because we lack the respect for the trickster often found in cultures where there is great praise given to the combination of vital survival skill and hunting. For example Luckert suggests that for the Navajo the divine trickster was originally a "shrewd exemplary model for human tricksters" who hunted to survive. Likewise we tend to forget that even earlier, hunting was not a matter of leisure-time sport but of the raw trickery, focused attention, and creativity that is necessary for individual and societal survival, or that for the Greeks, skill in trickery was part of the ideal for masculine success in warfare, love affairs, and commerce.

Our own more recent repugnance toward cleverness and jesting stems from an ideology long regnant in the West. In The Comic Vision, Conrad Hyers cites, as typical of many other moralists, the eighteenth-century German philosopher Georg Friedrich Meier: "We are never to jest on or with things which, on account of their importance or weight, claim our utmost seriousness. There are things ... so great and important in themselves, as never to be thought of and mentioned but with much sedateness and solemnity. Laughter on such occasions is criminal and indecent.... For instance, all jests on religion, philosophy, and the like important subjects". While it is echoed in many familiar moralistic pronouncements, Meier's position represents a strongly contrasting mentality to the tales of trickster figures, who profane precisely the most sacred dimensions.

Anything for a Laugh by mrhiddles (see: myth for context)

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Heimdal, Ydun, Thor and Loke in Copenhagen

Heimdal, Ydun, Thor and Loke in Copenhagen: "Guldhornene" [Denmark, 2007]

Danish family film following on from "Jul I Valhal". The gods have to prevent the Golden Horn from falling into the giant Thrym's hands, but as their powers don't extend so far in a modern high-tech society, they need to disguise themselves and enlist the help of 3 resourceful children.

I haven't seen either yet, just clips, though I think I maaay have found a source for the originals. As far as I can tell, Loke's primary trait is "sulkiness", lol. And being vain about his mane. He looks fetching in a blue boiler suit.

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No figure in literature, oral or written, baffles us quite as much as the trickster. He is positively identified with creative powers, often bringing such defining features of culture as fire or basic food, and yet constantly behaves in the most antisocial manner we can imagine. Although we laugh at him for his troubles and his foolishness and are embarrassed by his promiscuity, his creative cleverness amazes us and keeps alive the possibility of transcending the social restrictions we regularly encounter.

― Barbara Babcock-Abrahams, "A Tolerated Margin of Mess: The Trickster and his Tales Reconsidered," Journal of the Folklore Institute 11/3 (1975): 147
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Loki's Monstrous Brood

Loki's Monstrous Brood, from D'Aulaires' book of Norse Myths, 1967.

Loki, the God of the Jotun Race

When Odin was still young - before he had hanged himself on Yggdrasil and drunk from the Well of Wisdom - his eyes had fallen on a jotun named Loki. He was graceful and handsome, not uncouth and misshapen like most of his race. Many jotuns could change themselves in wolves or eagles, but Loki could take on any shape he wished, even female ones. Nimble-witted and bright, full of clever ideas, Loki was like a flickering, shining flame, and Odin was so taken with him that he asked him to be his blood brother. Loki gladly accepted the offer. So each cut a small vein in his arm and, letting their blood flow together, they solemnly swore to be as true brothers from then on. They would stand by each other, defend each other, and never accept a favor unless it was also offered to the other.

Thus Loki, the jotun, became one of the Aesir and moved up to Asgard, where the great and holy ones welcomed him. Thor especially liked to have cunning Loki at his side, for Thor was not quite as quick-thinking as he was fast-acting. Loki helped him out of many a scrape, but he also got him into some.

Odin gave Loki one of the goddesses, Sigunn, for his wife. She was loving and kind and very patient with her fickle husband. But in Jotunheim, Loki had another wife, the dreadful ogress Angerboda. She was a better match for him, for, as the Aesir soon found out, Loki was really vicious and spiteful. He loved to play mean tricks, and it didn't matter to him whom he tricked. Neither Aesir nor jotuns could trust him, and he was always causing trouble.

But Loki was so quick-witted and honey-tongued that the Aesir always forgave him his misdeeds. Besides, Odin's blood flowed in his veins and no one dared to harm him.

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D'Aulaires' book of Norse Myths - From the preface by Michael Chabon:

Ally and enemy, genius and failure; delightful and despicable, ridiculous and deadly, beautiful and hideous, hilarious and bitter, clever and foolish, Loki is the God of Nothing in Particular yet unmistakably of the ambiguous World Itself. It was in reading this book that I first felt the power of that ambiguity. Loki never turned up among the lists of Great Literary Heroes (or Villains) of Childhood, and yet he was my favorite character in the book that was for many years my favorite, a book whose subtitle might have been How Loki Ruined the World and Made it Worth Talking About. Loki was the god of my own mind as a child, with its competing impulses of vandalism and vision, of imagining things and smashing them. And as he cooked up schemes and foiled them, fathered monsters and stymied them, helped forestall the end of things and hastened it, he was god of the endlessly complicating nature of plot, of storytelling itself.

I grew up in a time of mortal gods who knew, like Odin, that the world of marvels they had created was on the verge, through their own faithlessness and might, of Ragnarokk, a time when the best impulses of men and the worst were laid bare in Mississippi and Vietnam, when the suburban Midgard where I grew up was threatened - or so we were told - by frost-giants and fire-giants sworn to destroy it. And I guess I saw all of that reflected in this book. But if those parallels were there, then so was Loki, and not merely in his treachery and his urge to scheme and spoil. Loki was funny - he made the other gods laugh. In his fickleness and his fertile imagination he even brought pleasure to Odin, who with all his well-sipping and auto-asphyxiation knew too much ever to be otherwise amused. This was, in fact the reason why Odin had taken the great, foredoomed step of making Loki his blood brother - for the pleasure, pure and simple, of his company. Loki was the god of the irresistible gag, the gratuitous punchline, the improvised, half-baked solution - the God of the Eight-Year-Old Boy - and like all great jokers and improvisers, as often the butt and the perpetrator of his greatest stunts.

In the end, it was not the familiar darkness of the universe and of my human heart that bound me forever to this book and the nine worlds it contained. It was the bright thread of silliness, of mockery and self-mockery, of gods forced (repeatedly) to dress as women, and submit to the amorous attentions of stallions, and wrestle old ladies.

So many Norse mythology & Loki feels    

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http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/norse-mythology

350+ books on Norse mythology listed here, mostly novels! I've read but a handful. Mama mia, I've got a lot of tracking down and reading to do. :)

EDIT: The list lied - there's considerably less here - but by no means comprehensive. A list for another post. From what I can see, there's a strong focus on fiction, which is what I'm after - reimaginings of and borrowings from, Norse mythology, often in a modern urban context, and if they feature the gods at all, they usually feature Loki as he's pretty damn good for adding colour or plot to a tale...

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one hundred and one lokis!

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