Study Guide

Thor Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

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Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

Oily smile? Check. Restless, conniving eyes? Check. Plans of world domination? Check.

Yup: Loki's our villain.

If you check out Loki in the original comics from the 1960's, he's a supremely boring character—just another powerful villain in a silly suit out to rule the world, because: evil.

But if you read the old Norse myths, he's a lot more interesting than that. And with a Shakespearean actor working under a Shakespearean director, you can rest assured that Loki's warped ways and twisted nuances are front and center in Thor.

Sneaky God

We first see Loki as Thor's brother, and the two appear to be the best of buds. Loki's a prince, too, of course, and while he won't ever be king, he's still in the same boat with the powers and the invulnerability and whatnot.

His powers are a little different though—he can cast illusions instead of hitting people with a hammer—and accordingly, he's much more of a sneak.

Turns out, there's a mythological precedent for that. The Norse god Loki was a trickster figure: a kind of deity whose job it was to make things as difficult for the hero as possible. Trickster figures would throw riddles the hero, tempt the hero with visions that never existed, and essentially compounded the difficulty of the whole being-a-hero thing.

And all of this trickiness was designed to help the hero grow. Tricksters weren't evil, exactly. Just difficult.

And by giving the hero such a hard time, they enabled the hero to overcome his limitations and evolve into the person he or she was meant to be. So how do they do this?

Better Call Loki

Step one in the Trickster Figure Handbook For Schooling Heroes is clear: plotting the heroes' downfall in a slick manner.

Loki's one silver-tongued devil. If he had been born a human instead of a Norse god, we're pretty sure he'd end up following in Saul Goodman's sleazy footsteps.

He's a smart cookie—he knows how to read people's insecurities, and he knows exactly how to get them to do exactly what he wants them to do…while thinking that they've made their own decisions.

Just check out how Loki talks to Thor early on, after Thor's big day is ruined by frost giants:

LOKI: If it's any consolation, I think you're right. About the frost giants, about Laufey, about everything. If they were able to slip past Asgard's defenses once, who's to say they won't try again? Next time with an army.

THOR: Exactly!

LOKI: There's nothing you can do without defying Father.

[Thor looks at Loki]

LOKI: No! No, no, no, no! I know that look!

THOR: It's the only way to ensure the safety of our borders!

LOKI: Thor, it's madness!

Loki's so crafty, we want to coo "Clever girl" at him, Jurassic Park -style.

Like a pack of velociraptors, Loki gets Thor in exactly the position he wants him to be. But unlike a velociraptor, Loki essentially signs Thor's death warrant without Thor catching on to his dastardly ways. He manages to do bad while looking good—and we mean "good" as in "virtuous," although articles like "TEXT Tom Hiddelston's Loki Is a Sex Icon For Deathly Pale People Everywhere" and a whole lot of spicy fanfic prove that this trickster figure is also considered a hottie.

But trickster figures are usually born to lose—and to make the heroes stronger. By hustling Thor—and everyone else for that matter—Loki forces the good guys to think outside the box in order to beat him. That helps them grow and change, and eventually learn what they need to in order to become heroes.

THOR: You're a talented liar, brother. Always have been.

Thor is a dude who has always relied on his brawn and not his brain…so Loki's manipulations make Thor strengthen his cerebral muscles in order to best his baby bro. (It's always a good idea to alternate arm day and leg day with some Sudoku.)

Little Orphan Loki

But Thor gives us a nuanced take on Loki…maybe because they realized he'd become the most popular character in the Thor-iverse. (Source)

Part of the reason he's so beloved—besides Tom Hiddelston's trademark sassy smirk, of course—is the fact that he's kind of the underdog. After all, he finds himself in a family that he suspects doesn't quite want him. He's an orphaned frost giant, and, in his mind he's never going to quite be accepted.

To pour salt in the wounds of being an orphan, his adopted pops lied to him about his orphanage. That's kind of messed up by any standards…and it's more messed up to realize one day that you're the children of the people your family considers to be mortal enemies:

LOKI: You could have told me what I was from the beginning! Why didn't you?

ODIN: You're my son... I wanted only to protect you from the truth...

LOKI: What, because I... I... I am the monster parents tell their children about at night? […] You know, it all makes sense now, why you favored Thor all these years, because no matter how much you claim to love me, you could never have a frost giant sitting on the throne of Asgard!

We admit it: our hearts go out to poor Loki. If this were a different story, with a different kind of magic, Loki would be Cinderella: the poor, less-loved, less-legitimate heir to a prosperous household.

The realization of his true family background make all of his actions—seizing the throne, keeping Thor banished, even inadvertently sending Odin into his Sleeping Beauty routine—a little more understandable. After all, all he's trying to do is prove that he's worthy of being Odin's son.

LOKI: I never wanted the throne, I only ever wanted to be your equal!

But unfortunately, he decides that total war is the way to go about proving his worth. Come on, Loki—for a guy who's so smart, you must have realized that your dear old adopted dad is big on the whole "self sacrifice" thing.

We give you an "A" for effort, but a big fat "F" for thinking things through (and being a genocidal maniac).

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