Why Everyone Loves Loki

I just spent ten days with three young children on spring break. The weather outside was frightful…at times, so we were cooped up inside most of the week. Besides the usual errands, project writing and cooking adventures, those children of Midgard kept busy watching their favourite movie series of superheroes. They even invited stray children from other households to join them in a movie fest of mammoth proportions.

Between explosions, realm hopping and fighting to save Midgard (for those uninformed beings: Earth) emanating from the livingroom, I heard laughter and impressive one-liners. I discovered the Midgardians sprawled across the chesterfields gripping half-eaten bowls of chips, Cheesies and popcorn not only liked the evil guy named Loki, but they adored him. They thought he was just as great as the superheroes who were saving the planet.

This piqued my curiosity. Why did they love this Loki guy? What did he possess? Charisma? Charm? Awesome power? A brave and loyal steed?

Evil doers were supposed to be disliked, perhaps even hated. Movie-goers are supposed to cheer when the bad guy goes down, but not the Midgardians in my house. They instead cheered him on, laughed at his expressions and repeated his dialogue until it echoed in my head for days later: “Mmm, Brother, you look ravishing!”

I popped in and watched ten minutes here and there of various movies to learn more about this Loki and the worlds in which he played. I found myself attracted to this quirky, dark-haired guy with the mischievous smirk that made me smile, the charismatic grin that made me want to watch more and the one-liners that had me thinking I’d like to use them if the need arose.

This man who was adopted as a baby and became the brother of Thor was born to rule but had no kingdom to command. He truly loved his brother in spite of the fact he wanted to kill him. Loki was an admirable character even though he wanted to enslave the humans on Earth and create chaos.

How did that happen?

Because the writer gave Loki redeeming qualities.

Loki had a likable appearance though some might consider him less handsome than his brother (I was not one of them). His smile lit up his face and his devilish grin was very attractive. Loki was not overflowing with evil. He had a purpose. He failed in the most unusual and comical way. He loved his adopted mother, and he loved his brother Thor.

So he killed 80 people and unleashed evil forces upon Midgard…well, he was adopted. And he read a book while imprisoned. He was calm, cool and collective.

Loki is the perfect bad guy and the reason I will watch the Avengers in full when I get the time. He is so unlike the evil guys in Middle Earth. They were the reason I was somewhat bored with the Lord of the Rings trilogy: the bad guys were pure evil with no redeeming qualities. Their only purpose was to inflict their evil on everyone and everything around them. They were ugly, so narrow-minded that all they could think of was death and destruction. They loved nothing. There was no logic to their madness. Their beginning, middle and end were all about evil and death. How boring. They didn’t even have hobbits hobbies!

I wrote about this in my review of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring in which I made the following observations:

Speaking of orcs, or goblins, whichever ugly being the director Peter Jackson has as slaves to the evil forces in Middle Earth, I find them not scary, just horrible looking. Which leads me to ask: why must all evil beings be horribly, disgustingly ugly and grotesque? Does ugly translate into terror? Do they need to be dripping of some type of slime? Must they look like the devil and breathe fire? Perhaps the young find this entertaining and unique, but for someone who has lived through as many winters as I have, I become bored with the redundancy.

Although sword fighting, fantasy races and high adventure inspire me, watching this film a second time reminded me of why I was only half interested in the second one in the series and why I didn’t watch the third installment: too many countless grotesque, purely evil creatures with no redeeming qualities. Endless battles with creatures so easy to kill a green hobbit can wipe out a dozen in one fleeting moment seem a bit senseless for someone who wants something with more depth.

Would I abandon my kingdom and run away with any evil force in Lord of the Rings? Never! They were too ugly, too narrow-minded, had no redeeming qualities and were not funny. I repeat: not funny. Did they even smile? Did they derive pleasure from anything that ignited even a hint of happiness? They were cardboard cut-out characters with no depth or personality.

Loki of  Jotunheim, God of Mischief, is quite another matter. I’d share my kingdom, my table, my bed with this lovable character. The always unpredictable, crafty and genuinely lovable Loki has many redeemable qualities…he’s just a little misunderstood.

He is exactly the reason why the bad guys in my fantasy stories will have redeemable qualities: so readers will know there is more to them then their evil deeds.

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9 thoughts on “Why Everyone Loves Loki

    • Thanks, Libby. I hadn’t heard of Hiddleson before Loki, so the actor had no influence on my like for Loki. But I think I’ve just become a Hiddleson fan. He appears in “The War Horse”, a movie I plan to see. And gosh, can he dance!

  1. In defense of Tolkien, not everything in his oeuvre is as black and white as Jackson made it. Especially in the less known books apart from LOTR and The Hobbit. Sauron, for example, is a Maia who was seduced into evilness, betrayed his former master, made amends and taught the elves before he succumbed to power again. He wasn’t always the evil for evil’s sake and was not meant as such by Tolkien, and what we see in the trilogy is only the last stage of a pretty complex character development.

    I’d not blame Tolkien for making his villains too narrow-minded and bland, but rather his heroes. They’re boring, without flaws and weaknesses. Can’t blame Arwen for falling in love with a bore like Aragorn when she had to grow up with an infallible superman like Elrond.

  2. Tom Hiddleston brings a lot of charisma and charm to the role. He’s a likeable villain, with just enough vulnerability to be loved. I think the glimmer of redemption keeps us watching. Also, he is sly and clever, and a lot of fun to watch work.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Debby. I don’t intentionally analyse characters when I’m watching movies; it’s just something that happens. It must be the writer in me. I enjoy great characters, ones that are adventurous and subtly funny. It’s why I’m a huge fan of Harrison Ford. I’ve seen him act so often that one facial expression delivers the ‘joke’.

      I think the Marvel movies are a great example of how fans shape the success and how you can’t predict what they’ll favour. I’m sure they meant to have Loki entertaining, but I bet they never guessed he would be so popular, even more popular than the superheroes.

  3. As for evil going hand in hand with ugliness, that comes from the Romans and Greeks. This concept still lingers in our modern society.
    In LOTR, Tolkien was veiling his devout Catholicism. Mordor is hell, Sauron is Satan, Orcs are demonic…evil for evil’s sake. Elven lembas bread is the Holy Eucharist. Too much to flesh out here, but I think you can see what I mean.

  4. Great post and very good points! Loki is a great character, he is the villain but we understand why and can even sympathise with him, which makes people drawn to him. He’s a well-written and acted character and it helps he’s played by Tom Hiddlestone 😀

    • Yes, that is the other part I didn’t mention: we know why he is a villain, so we can sympathise with him. I agree; his character is well written. I’m partial to comedy, so if an action/adventure movie has it, I’m more likely to enjoy it. Life is too serious, and films are my break from it.

      I have never seen Tom Hiddlestone act before–at least I don’t think I have–and I enjoyed his performance. I’m horrible for names, so I often have no idea what the actors’ real names are.

      Thanks for commenting.

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