Alis Franklin on Wicked Loki and Loyal Sigyn
Posted November 6, 2014on:
Remember Neil Gaiman’s American Gods? Give it a different kind of edge and then smash it up with a very contemporary urban fantasy that takes place in a IT department, and you’re on the right track for the premise of Alis Franklin’s debut novel Liesmith. I’ve a weakness for mythology retellings/mythology in the modern world, so she had me at “Norse”. click here to read an excerpt of Liesmith, and when you’re back, I’ve got a guest post below from Alis on how she fell in love with Norse mythology, and specifically, Sigyn.
Wicked Loki and Loyal Sigyn, Terrible and Victorious
by Alis Franklin
Ever since I was a kid, curled up behind a well-thumbed copy of the Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend one of the old Viking gods always fascinated me more than the others.
It wasn’t Thor, god of thunder, or Odin, god of wisdom. It wasn’t Hel, goddess of death, or Frigg, the prophetess who spoke no secrets. It wasn’t even Loki, thief and trickster, and my second favorite god, as far as these things went.
Instead, it was Sigyn.
Who? you might ask. I wouldn’t blame you.
Here’s the funny thing about Norse mythology; the Vikings didn’t write it down. They weren’t a particularly literate society so, bar a few inscriptions on rocks and swords, we really don’t know much about what they thought of their own culture. Instead, most of what we know about them—in particular their myths and legends—was recorded several hundred years after the official end of the Viking era.
And that writing? Was done by men. Men who, it seems nowadays, were far more interested in preserving the stories of the Big Manly Gods and their Big Manly Adventures—particularly in the areas of monster-slaying and riddle-solving—than they were retelling the stories of the ásynjur, the goddesses.So we come to Sigyn. Here’s what we know about her: she’s one of the fourteen ásynjur; she’s Loki’s wife, and they have two kids; Loki is often referred to poetically as the “burden in her arms”; she’s an old goddess, attested to since at least the 9th century CE; and her name means something like “victorious girlfriend”.
And that’s it. That’s all we know.
Literally the only times Sigyn appears in the Norse sagas is during Loki’s punishment for the murder of Odin’s son, Baldr. In that one story, she loses not just her husband, who’s bound in a cave until the end of time, and not just her children, who are killed/cursed by Odin in order to create Loki’s bindings, but also her own freedom; Sigyn stays with Loki during his imprisonment, holding a bowl over his face to catch drops of burning snake venom that were set to drip into his eyes.
It’s not a fun punishment. For either of them. But the reality is, Sigyn doesn’t have to be there. Not really. Despite what old Marvel comics might have you believe, the Vikings did practice divorce, and wives who were unhappy with the conduct of their husbands could leave them without becoming destitute or pariahs from the community.
Sigyn didn’t, though, despite the frequent questionable conduct of the man she was married to. As a kid, I thought there had to be a story there.
I did go looking. Unfortunately, while Loki is a common recurring figure in pop culture, Sigyn… isn’t. She appears in old Marvel comics, where she’s tricked into marriage by Loki, who murders her groom and takes his place at the wedding. (Apparently this isn’t grounds for an annulment in 70s-era Marvel Asgard. Go figure.)
Still in the comic world, she also turns up in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman where, from memory, she cowers and simpers in the corner of a few panels. Aside from that, there there’s a glacier, a ship that carries spent nuclear fuel, and some varieties of winter-resistant wheat.
As far as modern references go, however, that’s about it. It was a pretty unsatisfying search. That’s one of the good things about being a writer, though: don’t like a story?
Write a new one.
So I did. I wanted to imagine a Sigyn who could be married to a god like Loki. Not just married to him, but so devoted she’d send herself into exile by his side when he was banished from their home in Asgard. I imaged how strong someone would have to be to do something like that. How driven. It’s a frightening thing, being able to sacrifice yourself so completely. Maybe not a wholly admirable thing, but heroes can be flawed.
Mostly, I wanted to give Sigyn a plan. A con, an end game. reason for doing what she did. I didn’t want to simply regale her to being a passive victim of fate and circumstance. She is, after all, the wife of the god of lies and scheming, step-mother to death and monsters alike. And I always liked to imagine her and Loki roaming the world together, Sigyn playing the naive straight woman in their well-practiced double-act.
So this is where Liesmith’s Sigyn comes from. I wanted to rewrite her story, and I wanted her to want to rewriter her story. So she did. I just provided the inks.
As for how it turns out?
Well. Let’s just say they don’t call her “victorious” for nothing…
it’s Andrea again. I can’t help but make this connection, thanks to some recent movies with a surprise fan favorite character. So, let me get this right: Sigyn was married to Loki. She has kids with him. What I’m getting at is that she got to spend a whole lotta of time with this guy:
Sigyn may have just won the internet.