As someone who does read Norse themed fiction, I have been noticing a trend. The podcast Mythology did a 3 part series of the Eddas in Loki’s POV. Joanne M. Harris wrote the Gospel of Loki as part of her four book Runemarks series, which is once again the Eddas in Loki’s POV. Then the various Loki novels on Amazon that the algorithm keeps pushing me towards.
These works, separately, are not bad works. I enjoyed the Mythology podcast, and I liked Harris’s series (although if I was being honest the Gospel of Loki is the worst in the series). The Eddas are popular and still written in many books like Neil Gaimen’s Norse Mythology. I personally think that the eddas are a series of excellent and entertaining stories, which is why they remain popular.
Loki becoming the most poplar villain turned anti-hero turned whatever he is now in MCU continuity (ok ok, I have a few movies and TV shows to watch to be caught up…) does probably have an influence as well. Re told fairy tales has been a popular genre for a couple of decades, and there are plenty of retold myths in the perspective of a villain or minor character. Disney itself has been going through a period of telling more tales of their popular and iconic villains.
I suspect part of what is going in the tale of Sleeping Beauty has already been told, but the tale of Maleficient had much more material to mine. Disney the churning pile of content creation has so many villains in their catalogue its natural the company will seek to use them. Other artists jump on the trend. There has been some excellent villain reimagining works, and others not so great.
As a pagan, to me it is very clear Loki and other Norse gods are surging. Loki and Odin have a reputation of never letting an opportunity go to waste, and I have no doubt they are sneaking themselves in through the back door. Also, think for a moment of the time we are living in. An old order is being destroyed, and is in the process of being replaced by a new world that is taking shape before our eyes. John Beckett has blogged repeatedly about Tower Time. Within destruction there is chaos, but within chaos I do admit there is also opportunity. If our current time isn’t a Lokean time I don’t know what is.
However, the trend is in the category of the first time I saw it, I loved it. The second time, is this another angle? By this time I have seen so many examples I am now completely turned off by it. Mining Loki’s perspective in the traditional Edda stories produced some rich ore. But at this point, I think the pit is tapped out.
I am not saying there aren’t other angles for writers to look at. I personally would love to see a novel in Sigyn’s POV. There are other Norse books that hint at the eddas that I think are much better books. Or the Witch’s Heart, which is in Angrboda’s perspective. There are also other stories outside of the Eddas proper that would make good stories brought to a modern audience. But unless a writer can come up with a new angle or a new story inspired by the Eddas that goes into a different direction, it would be same old same old.
This feels like the King Arthur problem. There have been so many different versions, done from so many different angles, in so many different genres, that it is difficult to come up with something fresh. Granted, Arthurian fanfiction has been written for a few centuries. But the new examples I see are changing the perspective, putting the characters in a different world, or taking the elements and reboiling them in a pot.
As someone who loves Neil Gaimen, it was strange that I didn’t really like Norse Mythology. It is probably because there was only one story in there I didn’t already know, and I was expecting it to read like a modern novel. Likewise Joanne M. Harris’s book the Gospel of Loki is without a doubt the worst of the four books, precisely because all it is doing is treading Loki’s POV in stories I already know. The other books explore a post Ragnorak world, and Loki’s journey in our world to that world. Both of which are treading new ground not covered by Snorri.
I will say I personally keep a firewall between my religion and my fandoms. While I am an X-men fan I never read Thor the comic book, so I didn’t have any pre-existing ideas about the Norse gods I had to dispel when I read actual mythology. That said, coming to Heathenry and paganism in general through a fandom is a perfectly valid path. Loki is a shapeshifter, and there are plenty of people who report him taking the form of Marvel Loki to approach them. If a Marvel Loki picture or statue is what belongs on your altar, I don’t judge. What doesn’t work for me can work for someone else.
The one danger is people confusing fiction about a god with the actual god. When someone decides to worship a god they met in fandom, they still have to go through the steps of learning their stories and how other devotees approach Them. Which means learning what is Lore and what is fiction and being able to separate the two. Now, there is so much not said in the Eddas that I think making stories based on the material is totally valid. But that isn’t Lore. To become Lore, a story has to have Shared Gnosis—be a part of a community’s story. It can make doing research a little harder, because there a bunch of junk mixed in with accurate info.
Loki being the complex trickster he is, depictions of him are all over and beyond the map. Some based on gnosis feel accurate. Others just don’t make sense if you know the lore. Some of them are just terrible. I suspect though that is inevitable when so many writers like writing Loki characters, the majority of which aren’t pagan.
This is why I made the personal decision in my fiction writing to not include actual pagan gods. Anyone who is familiar with Norse and Celtic pantheons will figure out who the inspiration is in about 5 seconds, but I prefer to make up my own gods in fiction. It allows a lot more freedom artistically, and also makes a lot more sense considering the world I am creating.
The irony of creativity is that closing on path can often open many others. There are plenty of figures within Norse Mythology that have so little attention paid to them that could inspire excellent stories. Loki as a character is awesome, but please take him out of the Edda stories and do something new. Hopefully accepting that part of the story has been explored will inspire writers to create new and thrilling stories.