If Thor and Loki Can Reconcile, So Can We

"Thor Loki-Thunders and Spells" | Art by LadyMintLeaf. Used with permission.

It’s an understatement to say that Thor and Loki have a strained relationship in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Loki stabbing Thor during their childhood, after luring him in by transforming himself into a snake, seems like nothing after his later betrayals. After they became adults, Loki tries to steal Thor’s birthright as King of Asgard, and let’s not forget the continual lies and manipulation by the trickster god.

I’m no stranger to sibling rivalry, but my brother and I never moved much beyond the “Mom! He’s bothering me!” stage. Though neither of us were in line for a kingship like Thor and Loki, their motivations feel familiar.

Thor is the older brother. For his whole life he’s been told that he’ll be the one to take the throne and rule the kingdom. He may not be a born leader, but he was born to lead. I identify with that—a responsibility I didn’t ask for. Older than my only brother by six years, I tried to notice him as little as possible. If ever I turned my attention to him, it felt like I had to slow down so he could keep up. What ten-year-old is interested in playing games with a four-year-old, after all?

Thor’s Inattention

When we’re first introduced to him, Thor avoids any responsibility for others, including his younger brother. How might his first film have been different if he had treated Loki like an equal from the start? Against the wishes of his father, Odin, Thor takes his friends to attempt the conquest of Jotunheim—and Thor just assumes Loki will follow without complaint (he does, but not because of the loyalty that Thor assumes).

Loki’s actions are his own, but Thor could have looked outside of his own interests. Focused on his own power, pleasure, and privilege, Thor doesn’t notice that Loki is feeling eclipsed by him.

No matter the past, reconciliation is possible as long as everyone involved is willing to put in the work.

Thor’s banishment to Earth clears the way for Loki to assume the throne and sets in motion the plan to betray and destroy the Frost Giants. It’s only then that Thor realizes how little he considered his brother and how deep Loki’s anger runs, discovering humility along his way.

My brother didn’t turn into a jealous trickster determined to win our father’s approval, but I still wish my ten-year-old self could have understood the impact I had on him. Perhaps I would have been more patient and our relationship would have developed differently. We might have been closer as adults before he died.

Loki’s Jealousy

Loki’s jealousy doesn’t end with Thor’s character growth in the first movie. By defining himself in terms of his brother, Loki behaves like a child squabbling over possession of a toy. His angst only carries over into The Avengers, and after his plot to destroy Earth is foiled, he’s taken back to Asgard in chains for punishment. In Thor: The Dark World, Loki fumes in his cell, lashing out at anyone who comes to comfort him—including his dear mother, Frigga. Perhaps it’s after her death that he begins to reconsider his attitude towards his family, but he’s still full of anger. When Thor says he wishes he could trust his brother, Loki replies, “Trust my rage.”

What keeps Loki clinging so tightly to this hatred? Perhaps he’s scared of the emotions that might replace it; regret and vulnerability are heavy weights to bear.

Finding Reconciliation

At the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok, Loki is ruling Asgard disguised as Odin. He seems to be having a grand time of it, erecting giant statues of himself and staging plays in which he is the tragic hero. Although he’s matured a little, he’s still amusing himself by pretending to have Thor’s authority. Thor, however, has gained some wisdom during the past few movies. He seems to genuinely care about Loki, mentioning that he mourned and cried for him when he thought Loki had died. He is angry at Loki for wreaking havoc and sending their father away, but still cares about him.

However, while making their way off Sakaar, Thor finally seems to give up on his brother, suggesting Loki’s better off staying there than returning to Asgard:

“Loki, I thought the world of you. I thought we were gonna fight side by side forever. But at the end of the day, you’re you and I’m me. I don’t know, maybe there’s still good in you. But let’s be honest, our paths diverged a long time ago.”

And it would seem that Thor is right to give up on Loki, as the trickster betrays the god of thunder one more time (though by this point, Thor is prepared for it).

I wonder if Loki is surprised to realize he wants the relationship with Thor.

But this parting of ways may be the moment of change for Loki. Perhaps Loki realizes that the only way the relationship will change is if he makes the effort now. I wonder if he is surprised to realize he wants the relationship. He shows up on the later at the climax of the fight with Hela, appearing to his brother and declaring, “I’m here”—a surprising action for someone who’s constantly running away or denying Thor’s desire for a relationship.

He’s still a trickster and mischief-maker, but now he has the opportunity to use those skills differently. When Thor becomes the king of the displaced Asgardians, Loki stands proudly beside his brother, seeming content. And in Avengers: Infinity War, he makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect Thor.

In his last (probably?) act, Loki demonstrates that he is no longer Thor’s rival, but truly his brother. Fighting side by side, they seek to conquer the greatest evil in the universe. Loki has learned his lesson and, for a moment that is too brief, he and Thor have the relationship they both always wanted.

If my own younger brother had lived long enough to see the Marvel movies, perhaps we would have learned from Thor and Loki. We might have understood that no matter the past, reconciliation is possible as long as everyone involved is willing to put in the work and can learn to value the other above themselves.

Kevin Cummings

Kevin Cummings

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Kevin grew up reading the ABCs—Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. Since then he's expanded his fandoms to include films, television, web series and any other geek property he can find.

He has been married to an extraordinarily patient woman for more than three decades and they have two adult sons. Kevin also has entirely too many DVD boxes with the words "Complete Series" on the cover. He enjoys exploring themes of faith through his fandoms.
Kevin Cummings

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