In the early half of the twentieth century, several scholars began to explore the similarities between the Norse god Loki and the devil character of folklore. Woolf makes the argument that the similarities between Loki and Satan in Christ and Satan cannot be ignored and that the Anglo Saxons would have seen in Satan a familiar character due to these similarities, while Cawley explains how the role of tempter for the devil appears to have originated with Loki, which the Anglo Saxons would have carried over with them. Milton’s Satan is often viewed as a new character or at the very least, a reimagining of an old character, as Milton fused characteristics together that had never been combined before- he is charming, and seductive and intelligent, however, if one looks at the character of Loki, Milton’s Satan begins to look less new and avant garde.
Cawley examines how the Loki of myth can most easily be compared to Prometheus, a clever man who defies the gods in order to serve man. She also points out that Loki is characterized as sly and treacherous, known as a shape shifter, as well as a tempter who possibly heralds the end of the world, Ragnarok. Milton’s Satan defies God’s order, is sly, treacherous, changes his shape so that he won’t be recognized by the angels guarding Earth and tempts Eve in the Garden. Given that Anglo Saxons would been familiar with Loki myths, despite their Germanic origins, it is important to understand the impact of Norse myths on the British literature tradition, specifically how the devil characters were portrayed.
In the last half of the twentieth century, this comparison, and the analysis of the impact has been largely ignored. I believe that through an understanding of the folklore/mythic characteristics that Milton drew on can only enhance a reading of Paradise Lost. Investigating the impact that Anglo Saxon myths had on the British Literature tradition, and how this culminates with Milton’s portrayal of Satan is a section of scholarship, that while incredibly valuable has been mostly ignored of late. This presentation will analyze the characteristics of Loki in Poetic Edda and compare them to Milton’s portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost, arguing the similarities.