Thanks to Angela for suggesting Loki as our Baby Name of the Day.
Loki has never been a good guy.
But he wasn’t always an irredeemable villain, either.
In Norse mythology, he’s a trickster, a disobedient god. He ranges from troublesome to downright malicious – but he always keeps you guessing. In some stories, he travels with ravening hordes bent on destruction. In others, he’s more benign – even occasionally helpful.
Loki is associated with air and magic and fire, but the origin of his name is a riddle. Some connect him with the Old Norse word luka – close. Others suggest that he comes from lopt – air. Or maybe a word meaning to break.
He survived in folk sayings like “Loki is driving his goats” to explain the shimmering effect when heat rises from the ground in sunlight.
You might also recognize Loki from:
- Richard Wagner called him Loge in his masterwork series of operas, known as the Ring Cycle.
- In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Loki and Odin are in cahoots – though this is no folk tale.
- Then there’s Dogma, the 1999 Kevin Smith movie starring a pair of fallen angels – Ben Affleck as Bartleby and Matt Damon as Loki. After a long banishment in Wisconsin, the duo are traveling to New Jersey in a bid to get back into God’s good graces. Their scheme could potentially destroy mankind, and plenty goes wrong along the way.
Chances are that the Loki you picture is borrowed from the big screen and looks something like Tom Hiddleston.
He’s been a classic comic book baddie since Marvel introduced him in 1949. His origin story is close to the original myth. Odin, ruler of Asgard, killed the King of the Frost Giants in battle. Loki was the orphaned son of the defeated king. Odin took him home to raise alongside his own son, Thor.
The foster brothers were competitive, with Loki’s jealousy growing year by year. They eventually became open enemies, as Loki schemed to usurp power from Thor, resorting to sorcery and manipulation. Eventually he decided to take over Earth.
Loki was exiled to the underworld for some of his schemes, but he kept coming back. He and Thor are sometimes reluctant allies – they jointly defeated fire demons in one storyline. But mostly Loki is a scene-stealing troublemaker. The same is true in the movies – 2011’s Thor, followed by 2012’s The Avengers. The next Marvel flick about Thor will see the return of Loki, keeping him very much in our imagination.
So where does that leave the name?
While Loki is a villain in the movies, he’s not the devil – not an unambiguous force of evil. It’s not like naming your child Lucifer. Some suggest that Loki represented chaos – not evil – in Norse myth. If we can borrow the names of gods like Jupiter and Hera for children, why not Loki?
In 1996, five newborn boys received the name. By 2006, that number was 39. With the big screen exposure of recent years, we’re up to 77 in 2012. How far will he climb? I don’t see Loki in the US Top 1000, or bumping names like Liam and Levi out of consideration.
But for truly daring parents after an unusual name, Loki is an intriguing option.