I was reading about something and came across the wikipage of Loki. There it says that Loki is a shapeshifter.

Loki is a shape shifter and in separate incidents he appears in the form of a salmon, mare, seal, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman.

But when I take a look at the Dutch wikipage for Loki it says that Loki's parents where giants thus making Loki one as well.

And in some occasions Loki is said to be ( or portrayed as) a god like Thor and Odin.

So from what we know what is Loki?


5 Answers 5


Loki is an anomaly, his parents were a giant, Fárbauti, and a goddess (or possibly a giantess, we don't know for sure) Laufey.

(I can't find any decent images of either Fárbauti or Laufey)

Loki was originally considered a fire deity, before becoming the trickster we know him as. Farbauti means 'fierce strike' and Laufey means 'pine needles'. So his birth was the result of lightening striking 'pine needles', or the forest.

As you say, he is indeed a shapeshifter, in fact he is the mother of Odin's horse Sleipnir, whom he gave birth to after shapshifting into a mare and breeding with Svaðilfari .

But as an Asgardian male, he also regularly mated with Asgardians and giants, the offspring of these pairings were all manner of creatures.

For example with the giantess Angrboða he fathered :

  • Fenrir, the great wolf who kills Odin during the events of Ragnarök
  • Jormungandar, the great serpent whom is so large his body emcompasses the entire planet
  • Hel, the half dead goddess

It really seems as if Loki is a shapeshifter in the truest sense of the word and takes whatever form suites him best at the time.

  • 1
    If memory serves me right I beleve Loki has given birth to about 5-6 offspring. One of those was Sleipnir, but the 3 you mentioned are from one wife that Loki had.
    – maam27
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:05
  • @maam27 you're absolutely right. I mentioned 'in his normal form' in my answer, which was supposed to refer to him as an Asgardian male. Maybe I didn't make it clear enough. I'll edit it now.
    – Daft
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:34
  • 3
    Are you sure about this: "Loki was originally considered a fire deity"? Sounds like confusion between Loki and Logi, like in Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen"
    – femtoRgon
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 15:22
  • Fair enough, I'll just ask a new question. Here, If you'd like to give a look.
    – femtoRgon
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 18:08
  • 1
    I know that question came later, but according to the accepted answer on this question, Loki was never a fire god.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 9:10

I have slightly modified the following from a Yahoo! Answers question I answered sometime ago.

He is referred to as a god in the Nibelungenlied and the Völsungasaga. In the Eddas he is generally referred to as an Ás, i.e., one of the gods called the Æsir. An example of this is in the Gylfaginning, from the Prose Edda, in which appears also the most explicit reference to anything Jötunn [Giant] about him. He and his two brothers Býleipt (or Býleist) and Helblindi are therein said to be the sons of a Jötunn named Fárbauti, while their mother is a certain Laufey, who is also called Nál. We are not told much about Laufey beyond the idea that the reason she was called Nál, "Needle," is because she was "slender and weak".

It is possible that Loki has similar origins to most of the other Æsir, who, like Óðinn and Þórr (Thor), are at least half-Jötunn, since the mothers of these gods were giantesses. Because Loki was among the treaty-makers who commingled their blood to become sworn brethren when the gods were making this pact, he became a member of this group, all of whom were considered to be Æsir from then on, whatever their nature or origins, as Vanir (a tribe/race of deities which for a time were the Æsir's rivals) or Jötnar [plural of Jötunn].

Loki's shadowy origins also make it difficult to ascertain whether he was initially pure Jötunn or not. We know nothing about his brothers apart from their names, so they do not help clear this issue up. Their parents are a bit of a puzzle themselves. In a late document called Sörla þáttr eða Heðins saga ok Högna ("The Tale of Sörli, or of Heðin and Högni"), the Jötunn Fárbauti is described as though he is merely a man, and an old one at that, at the time that he sires Loki. Elsewhere he is said to have impregnated Laufey with Loki by striking her with a bolt of lightning. Could this be a euphemism for a sexual assault? And were Býleipt and Helblindi conceived in the same way?

It is sometimes said that Loki was a cousin of Óðinn (Odin) and that this was the reason that Óðinn had to accept him among the Æsir. If this is the case then it means that one of Loki's parents could have been a sibling of Óðinn's mother Bestla, herself one of the frost giants. At any rate, John Lindow has an interesting insight on the issue of Loki's nature in his Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs, in which he says the following in his article on Loki's mother Laufey:

What is most striking about Laufey is that we always read of Loki Laufeyjarson and never of Loki Fárbautason ... There were no last names in old Scandinavia ... One had a given name and a patronymic, except in those rare cases when the father was unknown or unsavory, in which case one had a matronymic. The fact that his father Fárbauti was a giant was presumably something that Loki—and Odin—would rather not be reminded of, especially since in this mythology kinship is reckoned exclusively through male lines. (Consider the fact that Odin has a giant mother and sex with giantesses is one of his weapons.) Was Laufey, then, a goddess? She is listed with goddesses in one of the thulur, and having a goddess mother might have been what enabled Loki to be "enumerated among the æsir," as Snorri puts it in Gylfaginning. If Laufey was a goddess, then Loki's genealogy as offspring of a giant father and a goddess mother would be the same as that of his children with Angrboda, namely the Midgard serpent, Fenrir the wolf, and Hel, all great enemies of the gods, and this might explain his ultimate allegiance.

  • 2
    @Adrinkra Thanks for including that point about the lightning bolt! There is a loose parallel to the Zeus/Semele story. The reason I mention it is that Dionysus is a liminal figure like Loki.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 20:51
  • 1
    Ah, indeed. I've actually never noticed the possible connection there between Loki and Dionysus. Nice one!
    – Adinkra
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 16:06

Both the Dutch and the English wikipedia pages state that Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, who are both giants (Jötun). Loki is a Jötun, a giant, as well. The Dutch page adds that he is also a blood brother to Odin. This comes from the Edda

  1. Odin! dost thou remember when we in early days blended our blood together?

The fact that Loki can shift shape - and can even change his sex while doing so, as (s)he did when (s)he gave birth to Sleipnir - does not alter the fact that he is a giant. It is simply his special gift, which fits his nature as a trickster deity.

However, he is still counted as one of the Aesir. From the Prose Edda on Project Gutenberg:

  1. There is yet one who is numbered among the asas, but whom some call the backbiter of the asas. He is the originator of deceit, and the disgrace of all gods and men. His name is Loke, or Lopt. His father is the giant Farbaute, but his mother’s name is Laufey, or Nal.

So, at least in the Prose Edda, Loki is considered to be an Asa.

  • 1
    Do you have a source other than wikipedia?
    – user62
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 20:03
  • @Vixen Populi you say at the end of your awnser that it fits his nature as a trickster deity. But a deity would mean he is a god and not a giant as you state earlier in your awnser. This once again contradicting.
    – maam27
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 20:07
  • 1
    @maam27 Loki being a Jötun does not exclude him being a god. It might mean that he is not an Aesir, or that he is only an "honorary" Aesir through being a blood brother of Odin. (BTW, I'm still looking for some confirmation of that "blood brother to Odin" thing - I had not heard that one before). Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 20:10
  • @Christofian Not ATM, but the English Wikipedia page itself cites an excerpt from the Prose Edda. Second paragraph under "High's introduction". Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 20:18
  • What is an Asa or Aesir? You mention both but explain neither.
    – Daft
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 8:33

Loki is the son of a giant (Farbauti) according to both Snorri and the 9th century poem Haustlong. Snorri tells us that Farbauti is a giant, but doesn't say what species (?) Laufey is. The fact that Loki's mother is mainly known as Laufey, which probably means "leafy island", has led to speculation that she was a goddess, or at least not a giant. (Giantesses tend to have names indicating mountains, cold, stone, or else they're warlike, i.e. Skadi = Harm.) If Loki's mother is a goddess, then that would contradict the general refusal of the gods to let the giants marry/mate with goddesses, and thus would make him an anomaly in Norse myth. This view was first expressed by John Lindow in Murder and Vengeance Among the Gods, and others took it up. Preben Meulengracht Sorensen suggested that Loki and the saga hero Egil were misfits and this explained a lot about their interactions with others.


I would say he is by biology half Jotunn half Aesir. The only reasonable reason he would be called as a son of Laufey and not of Farboti is that she was a goddess most likely exiled as a result of her marrying Fatboti. This makes Loki an outsider to both Aesir and Jotunn and explains his nature. He needed his fickle nature to survive as both groups wanted him dead. Now his blood oath with Odin should give made the Aesir accept him but they still showed their hate and determined Loki to play tricks on them. About him being Tokk this makes sense only to the wicked mind of the Aesir who unlike Loki seem unable to take responsibility for their actions and fix their mistakes.

  • 2
    Welcome to Mythology. It's a good answer, but we like citations! If you could link to sources, that would be great. Academic sources are ideal.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 21:22

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