Loki laughed loudly. Just as he thought he had become accustomed to his extraordinarily high standards of humor, he managed to surprise himself. Last night he snuck up to the bed of Sif, the beautiful golden-haired wife of Thor. While she lay asleep, Loki managed to silently shave all of her golden locks, leaving Sif completely bald. Ah, how he wished he could have seen the look on her face as she woke up.
Loki was ripped from his daydream as somebody bashed on his door with tremendous force. ‘Loki, I know you’re in there, open the damn door’. Loki recognized the voice of Thor, the god of thunder and strength. Since Loki knew the door would not withstand Thor’s power for long, he saw no choice but to let him in. At the same time he reluctantly opened the door, Thor came rushing in, grabbing Loki by the throat. ‘You miserable excuse for a god, you will pay for this!’.
A hairy problem
As Loki looked in the bloodshot eyes of the raging god, he felt his iron grip tighten, effectively blocking a healthy flow of oxygen. As Loki felt himself suffocating, he realized he had to stop Thor in his efforts. ‘S-s-stop’ he hardly got out. Thor loosened his grip to allow Loki to speak, and breathe. Loki inhaled and slowly started to get back to his senses again. ‘I promise to get your wife new hair’, he yelped. Thor, still furious, looked upon Loki in anger. ‘Well, you’d better’ he grunted. ‘Otherwise, I will break each and every bone in your miserable body’.
After Thor had stormed out of the room, Loki started to think. Restoring shaved off hair was not an easy task, not even for a god. He would need some help in this matter, and he knew just whom he should turn to. So, Loki traveled to Svartalfheim, the world of the dwarfs, excellent miners, and cunning craftsmen.
The sons of Ivaldi
When Loki arrived in Svartalfheim, he went to visit the sons of Ivaldi. This band of dwarfs was widely renowned for their crafting capabilities. As he got drunk with the dwarfs, he told them of an upcoming crafting competition which would be judged by the gods. He stated that the dwarfs Brokk and Eitri would participate, and dared the sons of Ivaldi to join the contest as well. ‘Those yokels boasted that you would never be able to match their skills’ Loki said. The dwarfs grunted in angry disbelief. ‘We will show them they are not nearly as capable as we are. We will join this competition and show the gods that the sons of Ivaldi are the best smiths in all nine worlds!’.
Loki explained that each contestant was expected to craft three gifts worthy of the gods. These gifts would be judged by no one less than Odin, who would eventually appoint the winner. Loki casually mentioned that Sif lost her golden locks and that the competitor who could give her back beautiful living hair, would certainly increase his chances of winning. The dwarfs replied that they would fashion the most extraordinary golden hair that would be worthy of adorning the head of Thor’s wife.
Brokk and Eitri: a price on your head
After he had visited the sons of Ivaldi, Loki rushed to the forge of Brokk and Eitri. While enjoying the hospitality, and beer, of the dwarfs, he informed them about the upcoming contest. He explained that the Ivaldi brothers would participate in the contest and certainly made a good chance of winning. Brokk and Eitri, proud as they were, boasted that no dwarf could match their skills in smithing. To proof this, they would also participate in the contest.
And so it was that Loki succeeded in involving the most skilled dwarfs in providing a solution for the problem he created. Since both groups of dwarfs would create three gifts for the gods, a nice bonus would be involved in the solution as well. However, there was one catch. Since Brokk and Eitri did not entirely trust Loki, they only agreed to enter the contest on one condition. If they would win the contest, they would demand a special price: Loki’s head. Loki agreed to this condition as he expected to be able to sabotage the dwarfs. After all, he was famed for being the trickster god.
Since both the sons of Ivaldi and Brokk and Eitri were famed for their skill in forging remarkable objects, it was to be expected that a small flaw could decide the outcome of the contest. Loki, who was also known for his shapeshifting abilities, turned himself into a fly. That is, a fly with remarkably sharp and powerful fangs. He waited in the smithy of Brokk and Eitri for the right moment to strike.
Forging for the gods
The dwarfs first crafted Gullinbursti, a golden-haired boar that was able to run the skies and water alike. At a crucial moment in the crafting process, Loki landed on the arm of Brokk and sunk his fangs into his flesh. His aim was to distract the dwarf, to ensure that the crafted object would have a small imperfection. However, Brokk did not even flinch.
The second object that Brokk and Eitri created was a golden ring called Draupnir. This magnificent ring would reproduce itself eight times at every ninth night. And again Loki tried to distract Brokk by biting him at a crucial moment in the crafting process. However, this second attempt to meddle with the crafting competition also failed. The ring was flawless and certainly worthy as a gift for the gods. Loki, who might have become a little nervous, was determined to make a success of his last distraction attempt.
The third, and last, object that Brokk and Eitri created was a hammer, named Mjölnir. This powerful warhammer could be thrown at anything and would always return to the wielder after being thrown. A magnificent gift indeed. Loki again waited for the crafting process to enter a crucial phase. This time he landed on Brokk’s eyelid and bit as hard as he possibly could. Due to the force of the bite, Brokk briefly lost his focus causing the hammer to be imperfect. Mjölnir was meant to be a dual-handed weapon. Because of Loki’s distraction, the handle ended up being too short. Brokk and Eitri did not have enough time to correct this, so it seemed like Loki was successful.
On the day of the competition, the gods assembled to witness the objects the dwarfs had fashioned. They were encouraged by Loki to expect greatness, and the dwarfs did not disappoint. The sons of Ivaldi presented their objects first. They first showed off beautiful golden hair that would attach itself to anyone’s head and would grow and live like normal hair. This gift was handed to Sif who immediately attached the wonderous hair to her bald scalp. Secondly, the sons of Ivaldi presented Skidbladnir, a ship that could be folded to fit in someone’s pocket and would always have the wind in its sails. This gift was handed to Freyr. Last but not least, the band of dwarfs revealed Gungnir, a deadly spear that would never miss its target. Gungnir was bestowed upon Odin.
The gods were marveled at the objects crafted by the sons of Ivaldi. They were also curious about the gifts that their other contenders had fashioned. Brokk and Eitri were called forward to reveal the results of their work. They presented the boar Gullinbursti as a present to Freyr, the golden ring Draupnir was given to Odin, and the hammer Mjölnir was handed over to Thor. All objects were magnificent examples of masterful craftsmanship. However, Mjölnir was obviously flawed. Since its handle was too short, it could only be wielded with one hand. Despite this imperfection, it still was an extremely powerful weapon suited for a god.
The winner takes all
The gods discussed which band of dwarfs should be declared the winner of the contest. Since they were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the gifts, they found it hard to come to a decision. Loki pointed out that the perfect golden hair, created by the sons of Ivaldi, was of extravagant splendor. All gods agreed with this point of view, making the chances of Loki being able to keep his head increase.
However, Odin did point out that Mjölnir, despite its imperfection, could be a crucial asset in the battle during Ragnarok. With this weapon in their possession, the gods might just be able to defeat the giants. In this way, the gods might be able to alter fate and prevent their destruction. And so it was that Odin declared Brokk and Eitri to be the winners of the crafting competition. Loki realized what this meant. Since he was quite fond of the idea to keep his head on his shoulders, he tried to sneak away. Before he was able to slip away into the darkness, Thor grabbed hold of him. ‘Where might you be going?’
A deal is a deal
Brokk and Eitri stepped forward and demanded the prize they had agreed upon with Loki. The other gods laughed out loud when they understood that Loki had gambled away his head. How ironic that the trickster god, of all gods, would lose a gamble with his head at stake. Despite the fact that Loki was one of their own, they would see that he would stick up to his head of the deal. At this moment, Loki’s mind was racing. How would he manage to get out of this mess? Suddenly, an idea came to mind. ‘Dear Brokk and Eitri, it is true that you have one my head fair and square. However, my head is attached to my neck and how would plan to obtain my head without damaging my neck?’.
After pondering this problem for some time, both the gods and dwarfs agreed that it would be impossible to obtain Loki’s head without damaging his neck. Loki grinned, he had managed to outsmart everyone once again. Despite being outsmarted by the trickster god, Brokk and Eitri still demanded payment. They came up with the idea to sew the lips of ‘their’ head together. Thor, still looking for revenge, grabbed hold of Loki and worked him to the ground. Brokk grabbed thread and needle and sewed the lips of Loki firmly together. The trickster god would not be able to deceive anyone any longer… even it was for a short while.