Lokasenna – The Flyting of Loki

The Lokasenna is, according to some commenters online, one of the less popular poems of the Poetic Edda. I feel …

The Lokasenna is, according to some commenters online, one of the less popular poems of the Poetic Edda. I feel that is selling it short as it is a great insight into the dynamic between the gods. You also get a feel for how it seems most grievances could be settled in coin in the Viking Age. 

Lokasenna
Lorenz Frølich, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The old tales from Norse mythology aren’t strictly chronological, but the Lokasenna does come somewhere toward the end. Soon after this feast at Aegir’s hall takes place, the gods will hunt down and capture Loki. Next, they tie him down somewhere deep underground, forever to be tormented by poison dripping on him. Returning only at Ragnarok to get retribution.

In the poem, Loki goes out of his way to insult every god in attendance. The bantering and insults are a little similar to the dialogue between Harbard (Odin) and Thor in Harbardsljöd. They also throw insults back and forth and from that share some choice observations.

While being full of references to previous things that have happened, Lokasenna is not like the almost encyclopedic poems Grimnismál and Vafthruthnismál. Where the two latter lists all kinds of information, Lokasenna alludes to a number of things you need prior knowledge of to understand.

As such this poem is a reminder of all the knowledge and stories that are lost, likely forever.

Lokasenna

Ægir, who was also called Gymir, had prepared ale for the gods after he had got the mighty kettle, as now has been told. To this feast came Odin and Frigg, his wife. Thor came not, as he was on a journey in the East. Sif, Thor’s wife, was there, and Brag, with Ithun, his wife. Tyr, who had but one hand, was there; the wolf Fenrir had bitten off his other hand when they had bound him. There were Njord and Skadi his wife, Freyr and Freyja, and Vithar, the son of Odin. Loki was there, and Freyr’ servants Byggvir and Beyla. Many were there of the gods and elves.

Lokasenna
British Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ægir had two serving-men, Fimafeng and Eldir. Glittering gold they had in place of firelight; the ale came in of itself; and great was the peace. The guests praised much the ability of Ægir’s serving-men. Loki might not endure that, and he slew Fimafeng. Then the gods shook their shields and howled at Loki and drove him away to the forest, and thereafter set to drinking again. Loki turned back, and outside he met Eldir. Loki spoke to him:

1. “Speak now, Eldir, for you shall not go one step further; what kind of conversation do the sons of the glorious gods have in there?”

Eldir spoke:

2. “They talk about their weapons and their strength in battle, the sons of the glorious gods; from the gods and elves who are gathered here, you shall not find a friend in words.”

Loki spoke:

3. “I shall go into Ægir’s hall, for I want to see the feast; I bring misery and hatred to the gods, and I will mix their mead with venom.”

Eldir spoke:

4. “If you go into Ægir’s hall and you want to see the feast, and you want to sprinkle the gods with slander and spite, be careful that they do not take revenge on you.”

Loki spoke:

5. “Think about it, Eldir, if you and I will argue with bitter words; I will become richer in ready words if you talk too much to me.” Then Loki went into the hall, but when they who were there saw who had entered, they were all silent.

Loki spoke:

6. “I come thirsty into this hall, I, Lopt, from a long journey, to ask the gods for one to give me fair mead for a drink.”

“Why do you sit silently, swollen with pride, gods, and not give an answer? Prepare a place and seat for me at your feast or tell me to leave.”

Bragi spoke:

8. “The gods will prepare no more place and seat for you in their midst, for the gods know well which men they want to find at their mighty feasts.”

Loki spoke:

9. “Remember, Odin, in the old days that we both have mixed our blood; then you promised not to pour ale unless it was brought for us both.”

Odin spoke:

10. “Stand forth then, Vithar, and let the father of the wolf find a seat at our feast; lest Loki speaks evil aloud here within Ægir’s hall.” Then Vithar arose and poured a drink for Loki; but before he drank he spoke to the gods:

“Hail to you, gods! Hail to you, goddesses! Save for the god who sits over there, Bragi on the bench.”

Bragi spoke:

12. “I will give you a horse and a sword from my hoard, and Bragi will also give you a ring so that you do not create hatred among the gods; do not provoke the great ones to wrath.”

Loki spoke:

13. “You will never be rich in horses and rings, Bragi, but you will lack both; of the gods and elves gathered here, you are the least brave in battle (and the most afraid of the shot).”

Bragi spoke:

14. “If I were outside as I am inside, and here in Ægir’s hall, I would take your head in my hands away, and pay you the price of your lies.”

Loki spoke:

15. “You are bold in your seat, but not in your deeds, Bragi, adorner of benches! Go out and fight if you feel angry, no hero has such forethought.”

Ithun spoke:

16. “Well, please, Bragi, consider his kinship, since he was chosen as a wish-son; and don’t speak such spiteful words to Loki here in Ægir’s hall.”

Loki spoke:

17. “Be silent, Ithun! You are, I say, the most lustful of women in love since you wrapped your washed-bright arms around your brother’s killer.”

Ithun spoke:

18. “I don’t speak spiteful words to Loki here in Ægir’s hall; and I try to calm Bragi, who is hot-tempered from beer, for I don’t want them to fight fiercely.”

Gefjun spoke:

19. “Why do you two raise hate among us here with bitter tongues? Loki is famous for his foul mocking and consumes the dwellers in heaven.”

Loki spoke:

20. “Be silent, Gefjun! For now, I will say who led you to an evil life. The fair boy gave you a bright necklace and you lay your leg around him.”

Odin spoke:

21. “You are mad, Loki, and have little wit to provoke Gefjun’s wrath; for she sees the fate that is set for everyone, just as I do, I think.”

Loki spoke:

22. “Be silent, Odin! You do not set the fate of the fight among men justly; you often gave to him who did not deserve the gift, the prize of battle to the weaker.”

Odin spoke:

23. “Though I gave to him who did not deserve the gift, the prize of battle to the weaker; you were eight winters under the earth, milking cows as a maid, (yes, and you bore children; your soul must seem unmanly.)”

Loki spoke:

24. “They say that in Samsey you once worked like witches with spells and charms; and in witch’s guise among men, you went; your soul must seem unmanly.”

Frigg spoke:

25. “You two should not speak of the deeds you have done of old among men; whatever you have done in the past, old tales should never be told.”

Loki spoke:

26. “Be silent, Frigg! You are Fjorgyn’s wife, but always lustful in love; for Vili and Ve, you, wife of Vithrir, have lain with both in your bosom.”

Frigg spoke:

27. “If I had a son like Baldr now here in Ægir’s hall, you would not leave from the sons of the gods until your ferocity in fight was tested.”

Loki spoke:

28. “Then, Frigg, you want me to tell more about the evil I know I have done; it is my fault that Baldr no longer rides home to the hall.”

Freyja spoke:

29. “You are mad, Loki, that you reveal the wrong and shame you have done; Frigg knows the fate of all, even though she doesn’t say it herself.”

Loki spoke:

30. “Be silent, Freyja! For I know you well, you are not innocent yourself; of the gods and elves who are gathered here, each one has lain with you as a lover.”

Freyja spoke:

31. “Your tongue is false, and you’ll soon find out that it’s singing you a bad song. The gods are angry, and all the goddesses too. You’ll be going home in sorrow.”

Loki spoke:

32. “Be quiet, Freyja! You filthy witch, you’re steeped in sin. The bright gods caught you in the arms of your own brother when Freyja let her wind go.”

Njord spoke:

33. “It doesn’t matter much if a woman has a lover or a lord or both. But it’s amazing that this womanish god has come here, even though he’s had children.”

Loki spoke:

34. “Be quiet, Njord! You were sent eastward as a hostage to the gods. And the daughters of Hymir had their way with you when they used your mouth.”

Njord spoke:

35. “I gained a lot, even though I was gone a long time as a hostage to the gods. I had a son who no one can eat and he’s the best of the gods.”

Loki spoke:

36. “Listen, Njord, and don’t boast too much. I won’t keep it a secret any longer. You had a son with your own sister. That’s not much to be proud of.”

Tyr spoke:

37. “Among all the brave heroes, Freyr is the best here in the home of the gods. He never hurts girls or married women, and he frees prisoners from their chains.”

Loki spoke:

38. “Be quiet, Tyr! You’ve never been able to make friends with anyone. I could tell you how Fenrir once tore your right hand off.”

Tyr spoke:

39. “I may have lost my hand, but you, Hrothvitnir, and I both miss it. The wolf will have a hard time when the gods meet their end.”

Loki spoke:

40. “Be quiet, Tyr! Your wife once had a son with me, but I don’t think you got a penny for it or even an inch of satisfaction.”

Freyr spoke:

41. “The wolf is tied up by the river until the end of the gods. And if you don’t keep your mouth shut, you’ll be tied up too, you troublemaker.”

Loki spoke:

42. “You bought Gymir’s daughter with gold and sold your sword as well. But when the sons of Muspell ride through the dark forest, you’ll be weaponless and helpless.”

Byggvir spoke:

43. “If I had a birth as famous as Ingunar-Freyr and sat in such a high seat, I would crush this troublemaker and beat his body to pieces.”

Loki spoke:

44. “What little creature is crawling around here, sniffing and snarling? You’ll always be found at Freyr’s ears or grumbling around the mill.”

Byggvir spoke:

45. “Byggvir is my name, and I am nimble,
As both gods and men will attest;
And I am proud to say that the children of Hropt
All drink ale together.”

Loki spoke:

46. “Be quiet, Byggvir! You could never
Set portions of meat for men.
They found you hiding in straw on the floor
When heroes were ready to fight.”

Heimdall spoke:

47. “You are drunk, Loki, and your actions are mad.
Why don’t you stop, Loki?
Because excessive drinking leads all men
To lose control of their tongues.”

Loki spoke:

48. “Be quiet, Heimdall! In ancient days
Your fate was an evil one.
With your back held stiff, you must always stand
As the guardian of heaven.”

Skadi spoke:

49. “You may be light, Loki, but you won’t be able
To flourish your tail in freedom for long.
The gods will bind you to rocks with your entrails
Torn from your icy son.”

Loki spoke:

50. “Even if the gods bind me to rocks with my entrails
Torn from my icy son,
I was first and last at the deadly fight
When we caught Thjazi.”

Skadi spoke:

51. “Even if you were first and last at the deadly fight
When Thjazi was caught,
From my home and fields will always come
Cold counsel for you.”

Loki spoke:

52. “You spoke more kindly with Laufey’s son
When you asked me to come to your bed.
Such things should be remembered if we two
Are going to confess our sins.”

Then Sif came forward and poured mead for Loki in a crystal cup, and said:

53. “Hail to you too, Loki, and take this crystal cup of old mead;
At least you know that I am blameless among the gods.”

He took the horn and drank from it:

54. “You would be alone, if you truly wanted
To avoid all men so much;
But I know of one person, I think,
Who took you from Hlorrithi’s arms,
(Loki the cunning in lies.)”

Beyla spoke:

55. “The mountains shake, and I think
Hlorrithi is coming from his home;
He will silence the man who is slandering here,
Both gods and men.”

Loki spoke:

56. “Be quiet, Beyla! You are Byggvir’s wife,
And you are deeply steeped in sin;
A greater shame never came to the gods,
You are defiled with your filth.”

Then Thor came forth and spoke:

57. “Stop, unmanly one, or the powerful hammer,
Mjollnir, will silence you;
I will cleave your shoulder-cliff from your neck,
And so will your life be lost.”

Loki spoke:

58. “Look, the son of Earth has come;
Why do you threaten so loudly, Thor?
You will fight less fiercely with the wolf
When he swallows up Sigfather.”

Thor spoke:

59. “Coward, stop talking or my hammer Mjollnir will shut your mouth. I’ll throw you out to the East where no one will see you again.”

Loki spoke:

60. “You should not boast about traveling to the East. You once hid in the thumb of a glove, you big coward, and Thor forgot who he was.”

Thor spoke:

61. “Coward, stop talking or my hammer Mjollnir will shut your mouth. I will strike you with the same weapon that killed Hrungnir and break all your bones.”

Loki spoke:

62. “Despite your threats, I expect to live a long time. The straps of Skrymir’s wallet seemed rough when you couldn’t get your food and nearly starved.”

Thor spoke:

63. “Coward, stop talking or my hammer Mjollnir will shut your mouth. The weapon that killed Hrungnir will send you to hell and the gates of death.”

Loki spoke:

64. “I’ve spoken to the gods and their sons but now I speak only to you because you are a worthy opponent.

“You cursed ale, but Ægir, you will never host a feast again. Your halls will be consumed by flames and your back will be burned.”

Lokasenna
Lorenz Frølich, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

And after that Loki hid in Franang’s waterfall in the guise of a salmon, and there the gods took him. He was bound with the bowels of his son Vali, but his son Narfi was changed to a wolf. Skadi took a poisonous snake and fastened it up over Loki’s face, and the poison dripped on him. Sigyn, Loki’s wife, sat there and held a shell under the poison, but when the shell was full she bore away the poison, and meanwhile, the poison dropped on Loki. Then he struggled so hard that the whole earth shook; and now that is called an earthquake.

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia commons

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Marius

Norse mythology enthusiast, Norwegian and living next to a series of old Viking age burial mounds.Quite surprisingly I am also able to navigate and understand quite a lot of the old Norse texts and have used those as well. in editing posts. As a Norwegian, although quite foreign, the old texts are still understandable, even more so with a bit of practice.