Saturday, 19 November 2016

Loki and Sigyn

James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932): The Punishment of Loki
If you like Victorian art of naked men in bondage, rather than women, there are - sadly - a rather limited number of mythological themes to go to. Prometheus is one, as I've blogged before. Another is the Viking story of Loki.

William Pogany: The Children of Loki (1920)
Loki is a fascinating character (even before you reach the Hiddleston era). He's the sworn blood-brother to Odin the Allfather, and present throughout the tales of the gods - with an honoured place in their halls, and constantly at their beck and call to get them out of trouble with his Cunning Plans. But he himself is a giant not a god, so often he's working on the gods' behalf against his own kin. And very often the troubles he saves them from are of his own making. He is a mischief-maker, a trickster and a shit-stirrer. He's also not terribly masculine by the standards of the time - a thinker not a warrior, and one who often shape-shifts (considered a terribly effeminate type of magic) - sometimes into female form, wherein he even gives birth. When he fathers monstrous children by a giantess they are instantly recognised as terrible danger to the gods and imprisoned.

Niels Jacobsen (1861-1941): Loki Chained to the Rocks 

Eventually Loki himself goes too far - he causes the death of the beautiful god Baldur and then gets mean-drunk and talks smack to all the rest. They decide to chain him up forever beneath the earth.

W. G. Collingwood: Loki Bound (1908)
To punish him even further one of his sons is killed to furnish the ropes that bind him.Then the goddess Skadi hangs a snake over his head to drip agonising poison in his eyes. Because gods are sadistic like that.

Loki and Sigyn (1863) by Mårten Eskil Winge
The only god to side with Loki is his wife Sigyn, who stays with him.
Loki and Sigyn, by Gebhardt

She catches the venom in a cup to save him as much torment as possible.

But every so often the cup gets full and she has to turn aside to empty it out. Loki then writhes in agony - which is where earthquakes come from.

Sigyn, by Arthur Rackham

But there is good news for Loki! At the end of the world he will break free from his bonds and - accompanied by his three monstrous offspring, the ice- and fire-giants and the hosts of the Dead, he will slaughter the gods at the Battle of Ragnarok and burn the whole damn place to the ground.

Loki breaks free at the onset of Ragnarök, by Ernst H. Walther (1897)
Which is nice for him, but a bit of a shame for those of us who enjoy picturing him in chains. And, er, the whole wide world, obviously...

1 comment:

K D Grace said...

Wow! I didn't know this. I don't know much about Norse Mythology, but I amor the artwork you've just shared. I had no idea! Amazing. Time to learn more.

KD x