Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have appreciated Loki from the very beginning. Loki’s character is well-written, intelligently crafted, and brilliantly acted, but that’s not the root of people’s soft spot for him. At the end of the day, something in Loki speaks to us of ourselves.
Loki’s struggle with Trust
It is hardly any wonder that a child who was abandoned by his birth father to die for being ‘too weak’ would struggle to trust in the love of any father. While Loki did not originally know the circumstances of his adoption by Odin, he grew up feeling like an outsider, even in his family. He enjoyed a close relationship with his mother and confessed on several occasions to loving his brother, Thor, but he never really trusted in Odin's love. He was forever trying to prove himself to his adoptive father, desiring to feel the love and esteem Odin showed for Thor.
In a pivotal scene in Thor (2011), Loki confronts his father, demanding to know the truth of who and what he is. Odin replies simply, “my son.” Loki’s failure to accept this proclamation is understandable as he knows Odin is hiding something from him. His father's deception breeds angry resentment. But while Odin made some grave mistakes in raising Loki, his love for Loki as a son was real. Odin attempts to communicate this to Loki, telling him that his initial motivation – a diplomatic hope that taking an enemy's abandoned baby during a war might later help broker peace – doesn’t matter anymore, because he now loves Loki purely as a son. Loki cannot trust in this love so his descent into cruelty and control continues. Without being anchored in his father’s true love, he could not live out of his truest, deepest identity.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) confronts his father in "Thor: The Dark World." © 2013 Marvel/Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Our First Struggle
The failure to trust God our Father’s love marked the fall of mankind from the very beginning. When the serpent shows up in Genesis and starts talking smack about God’s dishonesty to Eve, she fails to trust God, who loved her into being. So does Adam. At no point during Eve’s ill-advised interaction with the serpent does Adam utter a peep to defend the trustworthiness of God, and he too eats the forbidden fruit. Eventually, Adam and Eve recognize that they were wrong to distrust God, but the deed was done and the consequences in motion. After our first parents, history witnesses each generation consistently struggling to trust the Father’s love, often feeling either separated from or abandoned by God, not realising that his love alone is what roots their true identity and fullness of life.
And us? We fall into the same trap. Every time we choose our own way rather than walking in the way of the Lord and relying on his grace, we fail to trust in the Father’s love for us. We lack faith that he wants the best for us and is offering us the way to that good. We turn our back on his love and put our faith in other things, trusting in ourselves and anchoring our identity in characteristics we possess, causes we support, or things we like, rather than the Love that gave us being. Like Loki, we cannot grasp our truest identity doing these things. We, like him, experience chaos and confusion, bitterness and insufficiency, loneliness and abandonment. When we fail to trust in our Father’s love for us, we cannot comprehend or live out of our deepest identity.
Do You Trust in My Love?
Baby Loki in "Thor." © 2011 Marvel/Disney. All Rights Reserved.
When Odin found baby Loki, the abandoned ice giant infant, he used his magic to give Loki a human appearance. In a sense, Odin made Loki in his own image and likeness. He wanted Loki to have a chance to live, to grow, to belong, to love, and to be loved. But Loki could not trust that love, nor could he accept Odin as his father. In a heated conversation with his mother, he rejects Odin as his father. Loki goes on to do many horrible things, both to prove his worth to the father he claims to care nothing about and to prove his rejection of that father.
Still, Odin keeps right on loving him.
In Thor: Ragnarok (2017), there is a poignant scene between Odin, Loki and Thor. The brothers sit on either side of Odin, like in their younger years. Odin calls them “my sons.” At that moment, Loki looks over at Odin. After all Loki has done, Odin still loves him. Odin still calls him ‘son.’ Odin still sees only his child. It was, perhaps, in that moment that Loki accepts his father's love, becoming free to be his real self for the first time. A father’s love that survived all Loki's "mischief" proved itself real and implored to be trusted. Loki responded, now knowing whose son he was.
Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins in "Thor: Ragnarok." © 2017 Marvel/Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Our relationship with our Heavenly Father is like that. We fail, we break away, we rebel, we deny, we hurt, we betray. Yet, after all we do and all we fail to do, our Father never loses his love for us. He always calls us his sons, his daughters. He always desires us to come home to him, longing for us as his precious children. In the moments when we encounter this seemingly impossible steadfast and faithful love, we become free to be our truest selves, because we are rooted in our Father’s enduring love: a love that is more real than any other love, a love we can trust more than any other love. In that love, we know whose children we are.
Our True Identity: Being Rooted in Him who Loves Us Best
In Avengers: Endgame (2019), Loki faces his moment of reckoning. He must either obey the murderous villain, Thanos, and thus betray Thor, the brother who stood by him through thick and thin, or risk his life to defy Thanos, thereby remaining true to his brother. Loki's intentions remain hidden as he approaches Thanos. When he begins his speech, with “I, Loki,” he starts listing off different aspects of his identity, including “Odinson,” claiming publicly and definitively, in the face of death, his true identity. Loki finally put his trust in his father’s love. He finally roots himself in that love, claiming his sonship as his identity. The strength of Odin's love allowed Loki to make his own act of unshakeable love, remaining true to his brother even though it cost him his life.
We can’t fully know or be ourselves without trusting in the love God our Father has for us. As the love which brought us into being, our very identity is hidden in God and his love, and it is only in opening ourselves to him that we can discover the fullness of who we truly are. Mary trusted in God’s love, certain of who she was to the Father, and it allowed her an openness and discipleship that no other woman on earth could equal. Jesus Christ trusted in his Father’s love even into the abyss, showing humanity once and for all that the love of God is trustworthy. And through this trust, he manifested to humanity the fullness of who he was, our Savior.
When we trust in our Father’s faithful love and ground ourselves in it, we discover the fullness of our identity. We claim the God who is Love as our Father. Rooted in him, we become able to live and act out of his love in a radical self-gift of our lives to God and others. We become our truest selves, able to transform the world around us.
This is the real reason we have always loved Loki. For all his faults, many though they be, he reminds us of this fundamental truth of who we are, children of our Loving Father.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki in "Loki" © 2021 Marvel/Disney+ All Rights Reserved.