To divert the gods’ sadness and make them for a short time, forget the treachery of Loki and the loss of Balder, Ægir god of the sea invited them to partake of a banquet in his coral caves at the bottom of the sea.
The gods gladly accepted the invitation, and clad in their richest garb and with festive smiles, they appeared in the coral caves at the appointed time. None were absent save the radiant Balder, and the evil Loki. In the course of the feast however Loki appeared in their midsts like a dark shadow, and when bidden to depart he ranted his evil passions in a torrent of vindictive lies towards the gods.Then without reason, Loki suddenly turned upon Ægirs servant and slew him. At this wanton crime the gods in fierce wrath drove Loki away once more, and threatened him with dire punishment should he ever appear before them again.
Scarcely had the Æsir recovered from this disagreeable interruption to their feast, when Loki came creeping in once more, resuming his slanders with venomous tongue. He taunted the gods about their weaknesses and shortcomings, dwelling maliciously upon their physical imperfections, and deriding them for their mistakes. In vain the gods tried to silence his abuse but Lokis voice rose louder and louder, and he was just giving utterance to some slander about Sif, when he was suddenly cut short by the sight of Thor’s hammer angrily raised in the air by an arm whose power he knew full well, and he swiftly fled away.
Knowing that he could now never have any hope of being admitted into Åsgard again, and that sooner or later the gods seeing the effect of his evil deeds would regret having permitted him to roam the world, and would try either to bind or slay him, Loki withdrew to the mountains. There he built himself a hut with four doors which he always left wide open to permit a hasty escape if so needed. Carefully laying his plans he decided that if the gods should come in search of him he would rush down to the neighboring stream and change himself into a salmon, thus evading his pursuers. He reasoned however, that although he could easily avoid any hook, it might be difficult for him to affect his escape if the gods should fashion a net like that of the sea-goddess Ran.
Haunted by this fear, he decided to test the possibility of making such a mesh, and started to make one out of twine. He was still engaged upon the task when Odin, Kvasir, and Thor suddenly appeared in the distance. Knowing that they had discovered his retreat Loki threw his half-finished net into the fire, and rushing through one of his ever-open doors he leaped into the waterfall. So in the shape of a salmon he hid among some stones in the bed of the stream.
The gods finding the hut empty were about to depart, when Kvasir perceived the remains of the burnt net on the hearth. After some thought an idea came to him, and he advised the gods to weave a similar net and use it in searching for their foe in the neighboring stream. It would be like Loki to choose such a method of baffling their pursuit. This advice seemed good and the gods quickly made such a net. Once the net was finished the gods proceeded to drag the stream. Loki eluded the net at its first cast by hiding at the bottom of the river between two stones and when the gods weighted the mesh and tried a second time, he escaped by jumping up stream. A third attempt to catch him proved successful, but as he once more tried to get away by a sudden leap, Thor caught him in mid-air and held him so fast that he could not escape. The salmon whose slipperiness is well known in the North, is noted for its remarkably slim tail and Norsemen attribute this to Thor’s tight grasp upon his foe Loki.
Loki now sullenly resumed his normal shape, and his captors dragged him down into a cavern where they bound him fast. They used as bonds the entrails of his son Narve, who had been torn to pieces by his brother Vali, whom the gods had changed into a wolf for the purpose. One of these fetters was passed under Loki’s shoulders, and one under his loins, thereby securing him firmly hand and foot. Yet the gods not feeling quite satisfied that the strips would not give way so they changed them into iron.
Skadi, the giantess, who had joyfully watched the fettering of her foe now fastened a serpent directly over his head so that its venom would fall drop by drop upon his upturned face. But Sigyn, Loki’s faithful wife hurried with a cup to his side, and until the day of Ragnarok she remained by him, catching the drops as they fell and never leaving her post except when her vessel was full and she was obliged to empty it. Only during her short absences could the drops of venom fall upon Loki’s face, and then they caused such intense pain that he writhed with anguish, his efforts to get free shaking the earth and producing the earthquakes which so frighten mortals.
“Ere they left him in his anguish,
O’er his treacherous brow, ungrateful,
Skadi hung a serpent hateful,
Venom drops for aye distilling,
Every nerve with torment filling;
Thus shall he in horror languish.
By him, still unwearied kneeling,
Sigyn at his tortured side,—
Faithful wife! with beaker stealing
Drops of venom as they fall,—
Agonising poison all!
Sleepless, changeless, ever dealing
Comfort, will she still abide;
Only when the cup’s o’erflowing
Must fresh pain and smarting cause,
Swift, to void the beaker going,
Shall she in her watching pause.
Then doth Loki
Shrieks of terror,
Groans of horror,
Breaking forth in thunder peals
With his writhings scared Earth reels.
Trembling and quaking,
E’en high Heav’n shaking!
So wears he out his awful doom,
Until dread Ragnarok be come.”
Valhalla (J. C. Jones).
In this painful position Loki was destined to remain until the twilight of the gods, when his bonds would be loosed, and he would take part in the fatal conflict on the battlefield of Vigrid. There he would fall at last by the hand of Heimdall, who would be slain at the same time.
When the gods were reduced to the rank of demons by the introduction of Christianity, Loki was associated with Saturn, who had also been shorn of his divine attributes, and both were considered the prototypes of Satan. The last day of the week, which was held sacred to Loki, was known in the Norse as Laugardag, or wash-day, but in English it was changed to Saturday, and was said to owe its name not to Saturn but to Sataere, the thief in ambush, and the Teutonic god of agriculture, who is supposed to be merely another personification of Loki.
Such ends my tale of Balder and Loki. I hope that you have enjoyed.