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.
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. We'll talk about more of Loki's abomination children later.
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?
Grendel's Mom Has Got It Going On
Some people know the epic of Beowulf, a Norse hero, and how he slays Grendel. But do you know what happened after that?
Well, Grendel had a mother, who was pretty unhappy that Beowulf had killed her son. She sets about taking revenge by killing pretty much everyone she can find, and by keeping body parts as trophies. Eventually, Beowulf gets wind of this and comes looking for her. Upon seeing her son's killer, Grendel's Mother flies at him an and epic fight ensues.Now, Grendel is supposed to be the biggest bad guy of all time, but Beowulf quickly finds that his mother is actually much harder to kill, as none of his weapons work on her. There are some weird, somewhat sexual, straddling moments during this fight as well, making the whole thing a little awkward for the hero. Eventually, however, he prevails, and probably permanently remembers the phrase "never piss off a monster's mom."
The Tree of Life Has an Unreliable Squirrel Who Loves Hatred
According to Norse myth, everything in creation exists on a tree of life called Yggdrasil. In the branches of this tree lives an eagle, and at the base, in the roots, is a dragon. These two creatures greatly hate each other, and it's mostly thanks to a squirrel named Ratatosk, who travels up and down the trunk. This squirrel just loves gossip, and any time the dragon mutters an insult about the eagle, the squirrel runs up and tells the eagle what has been said. Then, when the eagle says something cruel in response, the squirrel runs back down to the roots to inform the dragon. Ratatosk loves the gossip so much that he'll do basically anything to keep it going, even lie. He'll even go so far as to spread unrelated gossip to the gods and others, but his main focus is keeping that hatred between the eagle and the dragon burning. It seems even the ancient Norse knew that squirrels were really dicks.