The Odd Couple (Part 1)
NOTE: I’ve created a new icon on the left sidebar for Books and Links. There you can find comic and music links and suggested reading relating to myths, monsters, and folklore. It’s a bit sparse right now but I’ll flesh it out more soon!
Loki and Thor are, without a doubt, the original odd couple. Where would the state of television detective series and buddy movies be without them? Probably up a creek without a paddle. Starsky and Hutch? Ripoff. Jake and the Fat Man? Unoriginal. Harold and Kumar? Infringement. The Odd Couple haven’t got anything on Loki and Thor.
Norse myth is rife with comedic, yet strangely enough, elegantly written poetry about the travels of thick headed Thor and the irascible Loki. Even then, writers knew that what really sells in comedy is oppositional personalities forced together for wacky adventures. In this particular tale, the fabled Mjollnir is stolen from Thor by the Giant, Thrym, whilst he sleeps. We’re one sentence in and already it is ridiculous. How does a GIANT sneak into the Halls of the Gods themselves and steal a hammer? I wish it were covered in the tale, but alas. Anyway, Thor wakes up, finds his hammer gone, and flies into a rage. Loki borrows a cloak to turn him into a bird and flies off in search of the weapon that defends the home of the Gods, finding it with Thrym who vows never to release it until he is given the hand of beautiful Freyja in marriage. Freyja, of course, would never agree to this prostitution so it is up to Loki to formulate a plan. Naturally, he asks the other Gods and Heimdall comes up with the brilliant idea to dress Thor (a large bearded man) up as a woman and trick Thrym into thinking he’s Freyja! Imagine Thor’s feelings about THIS turn of events!
It’s at this point that Loki chimes in, volunteering his services to be dressed up as a woman to accompany Thor.
Nobody even had to ask him.
Take from that what you will.
The story, as I mentioned, is a comedy as well as a tale of adventure. In its original form, it is part of a larger poetic work that is way too elegant given its subject matter. It is also one of the few stories I’ve ever read that has ridiculously clear phallic symbolism. You see, Thor’s hammer is one of the most potent phallic symbols in all of Norse Mythology. The hammer of Thor, when lost, represents the loss of his manhood, one of the things he held most dear. Thor is, in essence, the ultimate symbol of manhood. Strong, muscular, immensely bearded, thick headed, and rash, he had courage and a temper. He was all the positive and negative traits of the male members of Norse society. When he loses his manhood, he is powerless, useless in his society without his hammer, and he is, eventually, forced into drag.
He has, at that moment, become a woman.
Kind of a funny idea when you really think about it.
As serious as that all sounds, it’s clear from the wording and the way the story plays out that it’s not meant to be a serious thing. It’s turning things upside down for the sake of entertainment and it works, it’s one of the most amusing tales in mythology.
There will be more Thor and Loki on Friday. Three more strips, in fact, just like this!