Loki as Hermes (and other random trivia)
I’m reading “Odd and the Frost Giants” by Neil Gaiman, which is a beautiful original Nordic folktale. In it Loki has a pair of shoes that can walk on the air. He also refers to himself as Loki Sky Walker.
Hermes is the Greek messenger god known for his winged helm and shoes. He’s known as Mercury in the Roman myths, and Nathaniel Hawthorne very tellingly dubs his Quicksilver in his Tanglewood Tales. He’s also known for being one of the youngest and most fun-loving of the Olympians, not to mention being the patron of thieves and a cunning trickster.
I’d wondered about a connection between Loki and Hermes, despite the obvious differences. But this business about the shoes required looking into. So I tried googling “Loki Sky Walker” not knowing what I would find.
I found someone else asking the same question I wondered about the name. Was “Sky Walker” a legitimate title for Loki, or something Neil Gaiman made up? You can read the entirely forum thread here, which I highly recommend you do. It sums everything up in a tidy manner that forums are not usually known for.
But the long and the short of it is this–the shoes appear in the Poetic Edda, the Skáldskaparmál to be precise. Remember the incident where Loki loses his head in a wager? He tries to run away and Thor brings him back.
Then Loke offered to ransom his head. The dwarf answered saying there was no hope for him on that score. Take me, then! said Loke; but when the dwarf was to seize him Loke was far away, for he had the shoes with which he could run through the air and over the sea. Then the dwarf requested Thor to seize him, and he did so.
Those are Hermes shoes. They exist in the mythology. As for the bizarre connection to Star Wars? Loki is referred to as Sky Traveler somewhere (haven’t been able to find a source yet) and Sky Walker is a simple modification.
(Of course someone is eventually going to point out that Loki can’t be both Hermes and Prometheus. Don’t worry–he’s not. He’s Prometheus. Someone else can be Hermes. I actually already know who, but I’ve forgotten. It’s written down somewhere. One thing Loki never was is a messenger to the gods.)
On another note, it’s tempting to drawn an etymological connection between their names. Hermes is also known as Logios Hermes, and Loki was referred to as Loge by Wagner and often confused with Logi. Logi is not Loki, however, but a fire-giant frequently confused with him. (Really frequently. Horribly often. I keep second-guessing myself. But Logi is not Loki. Really and truly. They’re different people. They’ve even been in the same room together.) Not to mention the fact that Greek and ancient Norse are in no way etymologically similar. Logi means fire and Logios means orator. It’s a nice coincidence though.