Interview: Louie Stowell on Loki: A Bad God's Guide to being Good - Fart jokes and fake parents
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
Viking Mythology has given us a lot. Not only are the stories a series of brilliantly bonkers misadventures in their own right, they have also provided Laura and I with one of our favourite workshops to perform, 'Viking Mythology: (Un)Traditional Storytelling'. Not only that, but the Viking Myths gave us Thor and pals in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the brilliant online video game Valheim and a fabulous ruby red hoodie with Mjölnir printed on that I am wearing RIGHT FREAK'N NOW.
Erm... sorry about that, I ate far too many Sugar Puffs this morning. Maybe three boxes was overdoing it a bit after all?
Anyhow, now we can add to the above Viking-themed list of goodness with the wonderful new children's book, 'Loki: A Bad God's Guide to being Good'. It's a charming and laugh-out-loud spin on the Viking myths by author Louie Stowell. We loved the book and so sought out Louie to have a chat and find out about all things Viking.
Imagining History: Can you tell our a readers a little bit about your book 'Loki: A Bad God's Guide to being Good?' What makes it so awesome?
Louie Stowell: It's the story of the Norse god, Loki. He's been sent to earth as a punishment by Odin for cutting off Sif's hair (again). As well as the exile part of his punishment, he also has to live as a mortal boy, with all the horrors that entails (school, homework, limited screen time). The book is meant to be his diary, which Odin has programmed with his own voice. So every time Loki lies, the diary corrects him.
As to the last question, I feel like only Loki could answer that with the requisite arrogance, so I'll skip that bit.
Over a thousands years since their first telling, why do we still find the Viking Myths so fascinating?
As far as I'm concerned, myths never die, they just occasionally go quiet for a while. The Norse myths appeal to me because everyone in them is petty and flawed but you also get vast, dramatic battles. It's as though Lord of the Rings had a few more jokes and considerably more insult battles and immature pranks.
How did you come up with the idea of a story in which the fearsome god of mischief, Loki himself, was trapped as an 11-year-old school boy?
I can never quite put my finger on where ideas come from, but I liked the idea of punishing Loki by making him powerless, suffering indignities such as chores and doing what his (fake) parents tell him. As a god, he's arrogant and self-centred, and putting him into a family situation where he has to try and live with other people and be part of society tickled me.
The book is tremendously funny, why do humour and history - or historical myths in this case I guess - go so well together?
In writing Loki I was able to think about what it would be like to return to earth after 1,000 years of history and see modern life through new eyes. History allows us to see ourselves in a new - and not always flattering - light. So, something everyday like cars, or crisps, or school itself might seem absurd to someone from outside time. History, from that point of view, is a set of largely absurd repeating patterns, made up of human nature playing out its worst aspects on a world-sized stage. Which is funny when it's not tragic. Sometimes it's both.
How did you go about weaving the characters and the events of the Viking Myths into your story?
I decided that all the events of Norse mythology have already happened before the book starts, except for a few key stories that lead up to Ragnarok. So, in my story, Loki hasn't killed Balder yet, and he hasn't sided with the monsters and giants against the gods. So a lot of the myths are presents as throwaway anecdotes from Loki. But some of the key characters - Loki, Thor, Odin - are present in the story, as well as slightly more marginal figures who I just happen to like, such as the giant Hyrrokkin. She's on earth as Loki's fake mum, while Heimdall is his fake dad. Thor is undercover as his eleven year old brother.
I feel like Loki and Thor are quite childish characters anyway, so making them literally children didn't take much. I just added a few more farts and got rid of the drinking and rude stuff. Oh, on Heimdall: I wanted him to be there, partly because he seems a suitable guardian, since guarding Bifrost is his day job in Asgard but also because he's supposed to kill Loki at Ragnarok. So I had the chance to play with the idea of the executioner becoming a more nurturing figure, trying to save Loki from himself.
How did you go about researching Viking Mythology?
I read the prose and poetic edda in translation alongside a few saga, but also read some secondary materials, such as Carolyne Larrington's EXCELLENT Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes. I also did a fair bit of nosing around online, looking for images of viking stones and other carvings. I found the fact that there are no contemporary written versions of the myths quite freeing - not quite a case of my guess is as good as Snorri's, but, knowing there's no version written at the time means I feel at liberty to add and subtract cultural elements where it suits the story (or, you know, Loki's whim).
What's the weirdest thing about Viking Mythology you learnt during your research?
It's ALL weird! From Loki going round biting people's eyelids while disguised as a fly to the fact that, according to a Norse creation myth, the clouds are made out of the brains of a giant.
Other than Loki, which is your favourite Viking God and why?
Odin. He's every bit as much of a trickster as Loki, but he's better at getting away with it.
When can we look forward to reading Loki's next misadventure?
Book 2 is out in August. Thor's hammer goes missing, Loki gets the blame and he has to turn detective to clear his name. Oh, and there are lots of horses.
Awesome! We can't wait!
A big thank you to Louie for answering our questions!
You can, and should, buy the book here: https://booklink.walker.co.uk/loki-a-bad-gods-guide-to-being-good/
Also, you can find Louie online here