Minor spoilers if you haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World.
The first Thor movie is absolutely my favorite Marvel movie, and I was happy with the sequel, too. A few weeks ago, I saw this on Pinterest:
Basically, it’s an observation that Loki’s Asgardian mother Frigga fights the same way Loki does: with trickery. Loki’s signature move is to create an illusion of himself and get his attacker to lunge at it, thus trapping him, luring him off a cliff, or providing an opportunity to attack him from behind. I had noticed Frigga doing it too in The Dark World, so I pinned the picture happily and went on about my business.
However, I’ve recently realized this is more important than I thought. I don’t care if Loki was adopted, and Frigga doesn’t either — she raised him, and it’s clear in TDW that they were close. (Tom Hiddleston has said he and Rene Russo created that relationship as their own headcanon during the first movie, but either way it’s clear in the second one). So, it’s reasonable to assume Frigga taught this magic illusion to him. They’re doing the exact same thing, with the exact same CGI effect, and Loki does it before he finds out he’s a Frost Giant. That means it’s not a Frost Giant thing he taught her for some reason, it’s clearly Asgardian magic/tech that she taught to him.
This can be a “D’aww, Loki loves his mommy” moment, sure, but I think it’s more significant. It’s the redemption of Loki’s entire strategy, and an empowering revelation for Frigga, too.
Loki and Thor are presented as archetypical opposites. The big, blond, cheerful, wholesome bruiser (the good guy, the knight, the prince) and the thin, pale, dark-haired, unhealthy younger son (the trickster, the liar, the traitor). Using these tropes subtly implies that being cunning, fighting with words and using your opponent against himself, is all part of what makes Loki lesser than Thor. If they grew up in the same environment and Thor grew up “right,” it must be something inherent inside Loki that made him grow up “wrong.” Going back to fairy tales and old stories, a character like Loki is supposed to make us feel revulsion, because the “ideal” son has been twisted into something undesirable.
Now that we have this new information about Frigga, we know better. The whole idea that the two brothers were raised in exactly the same circumstances isn’t true, and why would it be? They have entirely different skills, interests, and abilities. Thor takes after his father, a big bearded guy who attacks his enemies straight on with a hammer, just because he can. Loki takes after his mother. He’s more intellectual and is physically smaller. (It’s implied that his biological father Laufey abandoned him because he was so tiny for a Frost Giant, and he’s also small compared to the other Asgardians). Loki needed to learn different skills to take care of himself, the same way Frigga did.
Think about it. I don’t care how good you are, if you run into someone else who’s equally skilled and three times your size, that other guy’s gonna win. You have to figure out something else, find something other than brute force to put you at an advantage. Frigga is shown to be skilled with a sword, but she’s not a Mighty Swordmistress. Realistically, most people do float between “utter crap” and “the best in the land,” and she’s a queen of mature years who’s basically tiny compared to everyone else in Asgard. I love that she can have those sword skills to defend herself and others, and also take advantage of this magic that most people wouldn’t be able to use. No one can say she’s twisted or villainous, and Loki’s doing exactly what she does because she taught him to do it that way.
I think Loki subscribes to the archetype theory himself. His motivations are complicated and personal, rooted in the fact that he’s nothing like his father, but Thor is. Discovering his Frost Giant heritage just gave Loki an excuse to hate himself and confirmed what he already believed: “I’m wrong, I’m messed up, I didn’t turn out right. I’m not as good as Thor, I don’t belong here.”
It comes down to this: Being small and crafty does not make Loki a villain, he just thinks it does. Probably all of Asgard thinks it does. They mostly fall into a Norse-like glorification of physical size and violence, and a fairy-tale-like belief that appearances reveal who you really are. The great thing is the movies don’t agree with this; Frigga has been demonstrating to him all along that he can play to his strengths and still be an Asgardian. I think if the movies have realized this whole dynamic, it’s concrete evidence that Loki could still redeem himself at any time.
Review: “Thor: The Dark World”