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Literature / The Gospel of Loki

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Norse Mythology retold from the perspective of the villain. From his first recruitment by Odin, through his rise and fall on Asgard, to his imprisonment, escape, and involvement in Ragnarok, the Trickster God sets the record straight — or crooked — on his deeds and motivations.

Written by Joanne M. Harris and published in 2014, The Gospel of Loki takes place five hundred years before Harris's previous books, Runemarks and Runelight. While pretty much self-contained, it explains a lot of the back story to Runemarks, and may thus be worth reading first.

As much of the plot is drawn directly from Norse Mythology, expect a lot of the same tropes to show up.


Examples of tropes present in the novel:

  • Arch-Enemy: Heimdall for Loki
  • Bride and Switch: With Thor subbing for Freyja.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Loki
  • Disguised in Drag: Thor and Loki
  • Exact Words: Brokk has the right to Loki's head — as long as he doesn't touch his neck!
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Loki's reaction to the sexual taboos on Asgard is telling:
    No animals, no siblings, no men, no married women, no demons — frankly, it was amazing to me that anyone had sex at all, with so many rules against it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Several of the descriptions listed on the "Characters" page give clues to the characters' future actions.
      • Hoder is "a better shot than you might think".
      • Njörd has "nice feet".
      • Brokk is "good at sewing".
    • At the end of "Bricks and Mortar", Loki glances at Svadilfari and remarks that he's "quite a nice-looking horse". Is he sizing him up? Or checking him out?
    • Loki spends much of the book muttering about his dislike of snakes. Anyone who knows Norse Mythology knows where that's going.
  • Gender Bender: Loki
  • Groin Attack: Loki. To himself!
  • Ironic Nickname: Honir the Silent. Never shuts up.
  • Killed Offscreen: Loki's sons, Vali and Narvi. We know that they die, but the exact circumstances are never specified.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: The chapters in Book 1 all begin with a quote that is a variation on "Never trust a [person]."
  • Mr. Seahorse: Loki
  • Mythology Gag: If Vali is transformed into a wolf by Odin, it happens off-page and Loki never learns about it. But earlier, both he and Narvi are very impressed by their werewolf half-brother Fenris and take to copying his style.
  • Prequel: For Runemarks and Runelight, though Harris almost certainly worked this story out before writing the other two. Basically has the same kind of relationship to them as The Silmarillion does to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
  • Really Gets Around: Loki. Also, Freyja "will sleep with practically anyone as long as jewellery is involved."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Loki gives each of the gods one in the Lokasenna retelling.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Harris clearly knows her subject well, and stays very close to the source material — or, at least, a reasonable re-interpretation thereof. However, there are a few out-and-out contradictions:
    • Sleipnir is described as a strawberry roan, even tough Gylfaginning specifically says he is grey.
    • Odin's brother Honir is nicknamed "The Silent", even though he never shuts up. In the original mythology, it's Odin's son Vidar who is called "The Silent God''
    • Vidar is also supposed to kill Fenrir, but this version has Thor doing it. Basically, Vidar's been left out of the story, with his part split among the other characters.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: It occurs to Loki that the Prophecy of the Oracle only works when people know about it, but once you do, you're trapped. He hadn't thought of killing Balder until Mimir told him how he was going to do it, and he only really betrayed the gods when his awareness that they were expecting him to led to him running out of options.
  • Trickster Archetype: Loki
  • Unreliable Narrator: Loki himself refers to the story as a "tissue of lies", but reassures us that "it's at least as true as the official version".

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