Loki, the Bellows, and Hot Air

The Snaptun stone is a hearth stone that was found in 1950 on a Danish beach, though the soapstone from which it was carved originated elsewhere in Scandinavia. It was most likely made around 1000 AD, and has two holes drilled into it that allow the user to insert the tip of a bellows into the front and pump air out of the top. This protects the bellows from the heat of the flame.

Now, we (by which I mean “everyone invested in knowing what this artifact is”) are reasonably sure that this is an image of Loki judging by the stitched mouth. I could absolutely do without the Dick Dastardly mustache, but it is what it is.

The idea that the Snaptun stone portrays Loki makes sense, especially given that there is an established connection between Loki’s lip scars and the working of bellows to keep a flame sufficiently hot in the Skáldskapármal. Namely, that Loki attempts to manipulate the outcome of his wager by sabotaging the dwarf working the bellows, and is punished by having his mouth sewn shut for doing so:

Then Sindre placed iron in the furnace, and requested Brok to work the bellows, adding that otherwise all would be worthless. Now the fly lighted between his eyes and stung his eye-lids, and as the blood ran down into his eyes so that he could not see, he let go of the bellows just for a moment and drove the fly away with his hands. Then the smith came back and said that all that lay in the furnace came near being entirely spoiled. Thereupon he took a hammer out of the furnace.

[…]

Then Loke offered to ransom his head. The dwarf answered saying there was no hope for him on that score. Take me, then! said Loke; but when the dwarf was to seize him Loke was far away, for he had the shoes with which he could run through the air and over the sea. Then the dwarf requested Thor to seize him, and he did so. Now the dwarf wanted to cut the head off Loke, but Loke said that the head was his, but not the neck. Then the dwarf took thread and a knife and wanted to pierce holes in Loke’s lips, so as to sew his mouth together, but the knife would not cut. Then said he, it would be better if he had his brother’s awl, (Note from me: Or his brother is the awl, if you ask Dr. Crawford) the awl and as soon as he named it the awl was there and it pierced Loke’s lips. Now Brok sewed Loke’s mouth together, and broke off the thread at the end of the sewing. The thread with which the mouth of Loke was sewed together is called Vartare (a strap).

The existence of the Snaptun stone is, for many, evidence of a link between Loki and fire. I’ve read Axel Olrik’s essay on the fire connection. (Mind, he pre-dates the rediscovery of the stone.) I’ve read Eldar Heide’s “Ash Lad” essay. I’ve read Dagulf Loptsson’s “Sacramental Fire” theories. I’m currently working through Stephen Grundy’s God in Flames, God in Fetters. But I’ve also read Jan de Vries’s The Problem of Loki, so I disagree, for a few reasons.

Continue reading Loki, the Bellows, and Hot Air

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