Norse mythology isn't nearly as bright and cheery as it's shown in the recent Marvel movies. Sure, most people have at least heard of Ragnarok, the great end of all things, and people know that it involves fire and a lot of death. But there are many more Norse myths that are often disturbing, disgusting, and sometimes downright funny. And yes, before you ask, Loki is involved in most of them.
You see, the gods in ancient Norse myths had one thing in common with the Greek gods: they were fallible and totally capable of messing things up. They drank too much, they slept around, they messed with mortals just for fun, they ended up getting a lot of people killed... ok, so they had a lot in common with the Greek gods.
So, prepare yourself for strange monsters, weird punishments, a world made of body parts, and trickery the likes of which you've never seen. Get excited, because it's about to get weird, Norse-style.
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Loki Becomes A Mare, Because He Really Likes Horses
Let's just put it out there right now that, as far as sleeping around goes, Loki gives Zeus a run for his money. Case in point: Loki really liked the stallion, Svadilfari, of a mason worker who was building a great wall for the gods. This mason worker was also a giant, who the gods wanted to go away, so Loki offered to help by "distracting" the giant's horse.
In order to get close to this stallion, Loki changed himself into a mare and then ran off into the woods with him to mate. Because, as we said, he really really liked this horse, so it seemed like the thing to do.
Mare Loki became pregnant by the stallion, and then gave birth to an eight-legged steed named Slepnir. This monster-horse then became Odin's steed, who you might have seen for a moment in the movie Thor, when Odin comes to rescue his dumb son from the Ice Giants.
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The Gods Make A Giantess Laugh So She Doesn't Kill Them All
Occasionally, Loki did prove himself to be useful for something. In one case, the gods were approached by a giantess, Skadi, whose father they'd slain, demanding vengeance. After some seriously amazing negotiating, the gods managed to convince her to take some reparations instead.
The first was a husband of her choosing (though she had to choose him only by his feet); the second was memorializing her father's eyes in the stars; and the third was giving her one good, honest-to-god laugh.
This last one proved to be the most difficult. They tried and tried, but none were able to make her laugh, so at last they turned to Loki who basically said "Chill, guys, I've got this." What he did then baffles the mind. He brought in a goat and tied one end of a rope to it. Then he tied the other end of the rope to his own testicles and proceeded to have a tug of war with the goat in this way.
Both goat and god screamed in pain, and finally Loki collapsed. Only then did the giantess finally laugh. So, while Loki is pretty good at getting a laugh, one must wonder: at what cost?
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Kvasir As Killed By Dwarves, Who Turn Him Into Mead And Poetry
Kvasir's birth alone is a pretty weird story. The gods had just won a war and wanted to celebrate, so they all chewed berries, spat them out, and fermented them to create an alcohol. Except, the fermented berries became a person instead, and that person was named Kvasir, which basically translates to "fermented berry juice."
Weirder still, this alcohol god was also the smartest god who ever existed. He liked imparting wisdom to whomever he met, and traveled extensively to do to. One day he came upon two dwarves with whom he tried to share his worldly knowledge.
Instead of listening, as they probably should have, the dwarves killed him and drained his blood. From that, they created a special mead that made the drinker quite poetic. In fact, this mead was supposedly the birth of all poetry. So at least he didn't die in vain.
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Signy Has A Lot of Family Love - And Not In A Good Way
Norse mythos doesn't tend to look favorably on incest, but that doesn't stop the gods from indulging in it a whole lot. One particular goddess, Signy, was certainly guilty of this faux pas. She was due to marry Siggeir, whom she really didn't like at all because he was puny and annoying. Siggeir only continued to be a terrible husband, as he killed her father and all of her siblings except for one. That one was named Sigmund, and together he and Signy plotted to kill her husband.
Signy's current two sons proved to be completely incompetent in killing Siggeir, so she figured she needed to get better, more family-friendly help. To do this, she slept with her brother Sigmund for three nights to create a stronger warrior, and to continue the family bloodline.
This son seemed to know what he was doing and eventually killed Siggeir and all of his offspring. This son's name was Sinfiotli, because apparently these folks really liked names that start with "Si."
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Loki Fathers A Lot of Little Monsters - Literally
Just in general, Loki sleeps around and fathers a lot of babies. You already know he was mother, somehow, to Slepnir, but he was also father to other strange and confusing creatures, in particular with one woman. Loki once slept with a giantess named Angrboda, and she became pregnant with three children.
One would think that these children would be part god and part giant, but would look pretty humanoid in general. This was not the case. Upon giving birth, Angrboda saw that her children were a massive snake, a giant wolf, and a young woman who was half alive and half dead. The two beasts have their own strange stories, but the girl, who was named Hel, probably got the best deal out of the lot.
The gods kidnapped Loki's kids and sent Hel to the afterlife, Nifilheim, to look after the honored dead and to take care of them. Once there, she built a massive hall and became a pretty decent, if not greedy, ruler.
Of course, she was still genuinely rotten and dead from the waist down, but considering her dad was the biggest jerk of all time, she did alright for herself.
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Clouds Look A Little Like Brains Because They're Really Giant Brains
Ever notice how clouds look a little like huge brains? Well, the Norse thought there was a reason for that. According to their myths, the world was made from huge severed body parts from the giant Ymir. Upon his death, his blood was turned into the oceans, his flesh became the land, his bones became the mountains, his teeth became the rocks, his hair became the plants, and his eyelashes became the human realm called Midgard.
His skull was tossed high up into the air and it became the sky, which is held up in four corners by dwarves for all eternity. And the giant's brain? It too was tossed up and it became the clouds. So when you look up into the sky to watch the clouds, you're really looking up at scattered bits of giant brains - at least according to the Norse.