Comparison of Prometheus and Loki

Published: 2021-06-29 04:32:14
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Cultures from around the world have their own myths that are unique to their geographical region and people. However, in many cases myths from different cultures have striking similarities even though they are thousands of miles apart and from different times. One such case that is worth looking at would be the similarities in Greek and Norse mythology one finds that this case is no different. Although, Greek mythology may be regarded as the most well known and popular mythology amongst those of western society, Norse mythology should not be overlooked as it offers much to its readers.

For the analysis of my essay it will be important to have a definition of Heroes and Tricksters. In Roy Willis' "World Mythology", a hero is defined as someone, usually male, "who perform extraordinary feats in the course of laying the foundation of human society" (Hesiod, 1993, p. 28). Whereas, the trickster is "Mischievous, cunning and humorous, tricksters are often seen with the ability to switch between animal and human personae" (Hesiod, 1993, p. 28). It is important to understand that although heroes may be perceived as the more important of the two, tricksters in many myths undeniably play an equal if not larger role.
One can gain a new appreciation for how similar Greek and Norse mythology is by looking at specific deities that appear throughout the myths. Looking at Prometheus from Greek mythology and Loki from Norse mythology provides interesting and compelling evidence to suggest that Greek and Norse mythology share many similar aspects and qualities. They conduct themselves in similar manners, as it is they are both tricksters in their respective mythologies. The following part of my essay will look in-depth at major similarities and differences that these two share and how their actions had an effect on the world and mankind.

Looking first at Prometheus we find a cunning and intelligent Titan. He is the son of Iapetus and Clymene who were also Titans, "She bore him Atlas, a stern-hearted child, and proud Menoitios, and Prometheus, subtle, shifting-scheming, and misguided Epimetheus," (Hesiod, 1993, p. 19). Prometheus used his wit to antagonize the immortals, mainly Zeus. He is seen as one of the main Tricksters in Greek mythology along with Hermes; however, Prometheus in some myths shows actions that are more accustomed to more heroic figures. Although he was seen as devious, his actions were not self serving. His ambition was to help the plight of man. For his actions Prometheus suffered greatly.

Prometheus first "angered Zeus with men by cheating him of his portion of animal-meat when sacrifice was instituted" (Lecturer, 1980, p. 122), which caused Zeus to withhold fire from man. Zeus actions then forced Prometheus to once again revert to his tricks and challenge Zeus. Zeus' attempt to keep fire from man "But the noble son of Iapetos outwitted him by stealing the far-beaconing flare of untiring fire in the tube of a fennel" (Hesiod, 1993). This was the last straw for Zeus; he could no longer go without punishing Prometheus "And he bound crafty Prometheus in inescapable fetters, grievous bonds, driving them through the middle of a pillar. And he set a great winged Eagle upon him, and it fed on his immortal liver, which grew the same amount each way at night as the great bird ate the course of the day." (Hesiod, 1993, p. 18) Prometheus suffered through the torture of the eagle until "It was killed by trim-ankled Alcmene's valiant son, Heracles, who saved the son of Iapetos from that affliction and set him free from his distress" (Hesiod, 1993, p. 18), all this suffering "was because Prometheus pitted his wits against the mighty son of Kronos." (Hesiod, 1993, p. 19). Prometheus actions to bring fire to mankind also had greater repercussions than the one Zeus imposed upon Prometheus. Zeus with the help of Athena, Aphrodite and Hermes were able to create woman "moulded from the earth" (Hesiod, 1993, p. 39) Pandora, she would release unto the world great evils, "For formerly the tribes of men on Earth lived remote from ills, without harsh toil and the grievous sicknesses that are deadly to men" (Hesiod, 1993, p. 39). However, this all changed when Pandora "...untopped the jar and let it all out, and brought grim cares upon mankind" (Hesiod, 1993, p. 39).

Turning our attention to a trickster in Norse mythology we find Loki. Although he is the son of giants, he lives in Asgard amongst the gods. Throughout his time in Asgard Loki provides many troubles for the gods and can be described as "... a trickster figure, a thief and a slanderer, abusing the gods and putting them into jeopardy by his mischief, but also saving them through his cunning" (Willis, 2006, p. 195). At one point Loki is bound to a rock with a snake overtop that drips poisonous venom on to him, this is described starting on line 35 of the Voluspo "One did I see in the wet woods bound, A lover of ill, and to Loki like; By his side does Sigyn sit, nor is glad To see her mate: would you know yet more?" (Bellows, 1923, pp. 15-16). In this case Loki is subdued with only his loyal wife there to stop all the poison from dripping onto him and killing him. This was punishment for causing the death of Baldr. Loki convinced Baldrs blind brother Hoth to toss Baldrs the only thing that could harm him, "From the branch which seemed so slender and fair Came a harmful shaft that Hoth should Hurl;" (Bellows, 1923, p. 15).

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