Mortal Wounds

Loki explains the distinction between failing to die and faking one's own death.


People tend to assume all my issues with Thor are mere jealousy. His friends all thought it. Even my mother and Odin believed it to varying degrees. This is the problem with being a complicated creature: you rarely ever feel understood. But more than that, I’ve rarely felt that anyone cared to understand, let alone had the ability to do so. Frigga came the closest, but even she couldn’t help but compare the darkness she saw in me to Thor’s sunlight. I used to think that was only natural, unavoidable. Now, I suspect that’s what they all wanted me to think. Then I wouldn’t question it, but I have.

I don’t even need to present some grand argument to prove my point. There are plenty of examples to be used, but only one is necessary: When we were on Sakaar after Odin died and Hela appeared, my brother said to me: “You faked your own death.”

He’s actually said something to that effect twice now but neither time was the truth. And I’m not just dickering about semantics. I mean it’s outright wrong. Incorrect. Mistaken.

But people tend to believe Thor because he’s Thor. He’s a hero, or so he claims. The thin distinction there is a whole other discussion. So here we have the new king of Asgard thinking I’ve faked my own death not once, but twice. Now to break down each of those instances since I don’t expect anyone to be intimately familiar with my recent personal history.

In the first instance, what actually happened was that I survived a suicide attempt. I’m not terribly proud of the fact, but at the time it seemed like the only option. As the rightful king of Asgard at the time, I had attempted to save Asgard from impending war with the Jotuns by destroying Jotunheim. Genocide wasn’t new to Asgard’s policy against enemies. It would have been a decisive and final blow that ensured the Jotuns would never again be a threat to anyone. That attempt had been thwarted by Thor. Odin had banished him to Midgard and I upheld that banishment, but he returned to oppose me. He, who previously bragged that he would kill all the Jotuns with his bare hands. It made no sense to me, except in the context of the fact that obviously no one respected my rightful authority. No one save Frigga thought I was fit to rule while the Allfather slept.

People I thought were my friends betrayed me, my family betrayed me, lied to me. I’d only just found out I was a Jotun myself, you see, stolen as an infant from King Laufey of Jotunheim as a hostage. His son, not Odin’s. Not exactly my happiest or most stable moment, I admit. I felt there was nothing left for me in Asgard after that failure. And it would have been perceived as a failure, I have no doubt of that. I had no wish to live a life of shame and secrecy, to be reviled as a creature barely better than a beast. I’d tried to save Asgard from my own kind. I’d never be more than an enemy. And so, when the Bifrost was destroyed and Thor and I hung dangling over the edge, when I faced only disappointment for all I’d done, I let go.

The destruction had formed a wormhole beneath me. I assumed it would devour me as it did the Observatory that fell before me. I wanted it to. That’s not what happened. Instead, I found myself far from Asgard in unfamiliar territory among quite unfriendly residents. I had no way to report my survival back to Asgard even if I’d wanted to. And I didn’t particularly want to. Why would they care? Nobody mourns the death of a Jotun. Of a failure. Of a traitor. When I later changed my mind about that, my circumstances in the captivity of Thanos made it impossible.

When the time was right, I did reveal myself and my plans to my mother. She was the only one who didn’t assume I was dead, and who kept searching for me. Thor and Odin apparently preferred to just let me go. Yes, I’m a little bitter about it, and why shouldn’t I be? Had they searched for me, they might have ended my torture sooner, might have freed me from the mad Titan’s grasp before he’d done such damage.

The second instance occurred upon the realm of Svartalfheim. After being returned to Asgard and imprisoned there for the rest of my life in solitary confinement at the Allfather’s command, Thor freed me to assist him in saving his mortal girlfriend’s life. She’d somehow managed to infect herself with The Aether, one of the Infinity Gems my previous captor had been searching for. It was no doubt going to kill her. Humans are not designed to wield such power, despite my brother’s heartfelt protests to the contrary. A determined disposition will not help you in preserving yourself against something that can rip the very fabric of reality apart. No offense to Dr. Foster intended.

Asgard was attacked by Malekith, whose one ship of dark elves had survived the war long ago when all were thought to have been killed. Thor and I were forced to flee Asgard with Dr. Foster, taking one of my secret pathways to Svartalfheim, where we hoped to draw those who were pursuing it. Malekith did come, and along with him came a creature known as Kurse, who had destroyed Asgard’s dungeons in his escape. He was also the one who brought down Asgard’s shields and killed my mother.

Malekith took The Aether from Jane and departed, leaving behind a few of his minions to deal with us. While I fought off a half dozen remaining dark elves, Thor faced Kurse. I fared better than he did and so went to assist him. I attached one of their vortex grenades to his back and ran him through with a dark elf blade. I was pretty pleased with the result until he grabbed me and impaled me on the same blade sticking out of his chest. Hadn’t been expecting that. I suppose now would be the time to mention that being run through really hurts. I don’t recommend it.

So, as I lay gasping and bleeding on the ground clutching at my mortal wound, Kurse was crushed into nothingness by the grenade. That was definitely satisfying to watch, but didn’t do much for my own situation. I expected to die there, just as Thor thought I had. And yes, I’m going to bring up the fact that he simply left my body in the dirt. I know this because that’s exactly where I woke up. I suppose I should be glad of that. At least I didn’t have to dig my way out of a hasty grave or cairn.

It was at that point that I realized I had inexplicably survived what should have been a fatal stabbing. I then had a choice to make. I could try to follow Thor, who had abandoned me on Svartalfheim like discarded baggage in favor of his mortal female, or I could do what I wanted. And what I wanted was to be free. If I told anyone I lived, I would be imprisoned once again. And so the only planned part of the entire endeavor came to be: I would disguise myself as one of Odin’s guards who had been sent after us and return to Asgard with news of my own death. Nobody goes looking to incarcerate the dead. Thus, as a ghost, I would be free. Didn’t quite turn out like that, but that’s not the point here. The point is that I didn’t fake my death. I merely took advantage of the fact that I hadn’t died. Did I lie to Odin about it afterwards? Yes, I did. And for good reason. That’s still not the same thing as staging it. And I never lied to Thor about that.

Allowing people to continue to believe you’re dead isn’t at all the same as making a plan to make them believe that in the first place. That’s like saying if you allow someone to believe the wine is poisoned, that’s the same as actually poisoning the wine. No one with any logical faculties would consider those two things equivalent. That Thor considers both instances cases of me tricking him speaks more about his bias than my intent. If you claim that’s mere semantics, then intent and premeditation can’t matter, and if intent and premeditation don’t matter, then Thor’s own actions are no better or worse than my own.


Edit: mine  | Canon material from Marvel Studios, 2011-2019.

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