My Brother, My Enemy

 
  • Composer: Ada Palmer
  • Format: Duet

This song will appear on our upcoming Norse themed CD, Sundown.

This fierce and angry duet for the Norse gods Odin and Loki is one of the centerpieces of our Sundown Norse myth album project.  In Norse mythology, the end of the world, Ragnarok, comes about as a form of cosmic retribution when the gods break their oaths too many times.  Ragnarok is ultimately brought about by the enmity between Odin Allfather, Lord of Asgard and god of wisdom, war and witchcraft, and his blood-brother Loki.  The song expands upon the myth, exploring the details of how these two central figures, once the best of friends and later the bitterest of enemies, feel about each other and the conflict which has doomed all Creation.

Loki comes from the race of Jotuns or ice giants, the traditional enemy of the gods, but while Jotuns are normally brutish and ugly, Loki is handsome and winning, with a brilliant mind and the ability to take any shape he chooses.  Odin was impressed by Loki and invited him to Asgard to become his blood brother, and the two swore never to harm the other, allow the other to be harmed, or accept food or drink which was not also offered to the other.  They were unable to keep this oath, because Loki was a wild and untameable trickster, and the rift between gods and giants was too deep.

The song is set after the point of no return, as Odin and Loki look back on the deeds that led to the disaster, each blaming the other.  Loki was the father of three earth-shaking monsters, the Fenris Wolf, the Midgard Serpent Jormungangir, and Hel or Hella, a dangerous crone-witch who became queen of the dead.  Foretelling disaster if they were left free, Odin banished all of them, and worse, the gods broke their oaths for the first time when they lied to the Fenris wolf in order to trick him into his bonds.  Later–perhaps related perhaps not–Loki committed the gravest crime in all history, the murder of the god Baldur, Odin’s firstborn legitimate son and heir, and god of the spring thaw, family love, sunlight, monogomy, delicate spring flowers and all the small things that make life bearable when living on the edges of the arctic.  Loki’s motives are largely unexplored in the mythology, and generally attributed to malice or envy.  After Baldur’s death, Odin’s entreaties convince Hella to release Baldur from the underworld on condition that every single object in the world weep for him; all do except a mysterious crone assumed to be Loki, so Baldur is forced to remain dead.  When Loki is exposed as the culprit, Odin decides such a crime must be punished even if it means bringing about Ragnarok, so breaks his oath and binds Loki in a pit, where he waits for his day of vengeance.

Composer’s Notes:  I wanted here to bring to the foreground the unique moral structure which underlies Viking legends.  Loki is too often portrayed as a simple villain and Odin a simple hero, while both are very complex characters, and there are many steps that build toward the schism between them.  This isn’t a battle between good and evil because no one in Viking mythology is strictly “good” in the moral sense except Baldur himself; Odin is also a trickster, warlord, seducer, rapist and murderer, though what he does he has to do to create and preserve the worlds.  Pretty much the only purely good god in the mythology is Baldur, who is therefore too good and pure to exist in such a dark and bloody universe.  Rather than good and evil, then, the choice over whether or not to punish Loki comes down to a choice between life and retribution, in which either the world can continue but allow an unforgivable crime (the literal murder of all things good) to go unpunished, or the world can avenge the wrong but be destroyed.  By weeping, every object in the world proves its love for Baldur, suggesting universal consent to Odin’s decision to choose vengeance over life.  Yet, if you think about it from Loki’s perspective, a world in which every single object has effectively condoned Odin’s betrayal must seem equally worthy of destruction.

Lyrics:

Odin Loki

The
view from above has no start and no end,
just the fields and the halls and the calls of the men and the
races that rise and get slaughtered again and
barely leave their mark.
Still the
view from above has no start and no end, just the
fields and the halls and the calls of the men and the
races that rise and get slaughtered again and
barely leave their mark. Past the
stones and the ice and the oceans of gray, in the
land where the frost never yields to the day, with the
brutes all around you I spotted your blaze
like fire in the dark.
You
banished all my ancient race to
ice and stone and harsher borders, but
I survived and carved my place where
gods would never dare to wander
Through, ’til you
watched from your forbidden
throne, a single eye
like fire in the dark.
In those early days I shared with no one, an
Allfather’s questions I bared to no one, for
none of my brothers or sons could match me,
thought for thought or plan for plan.
As borders spread I shared with no one,
wars raised kings, I bowed to no one, for
none among my race could match me,
thought for thought or plan for plan,
What the gods couldn’t give I could feel inside you, a
fire too bright for the ice to hide you.
I’d never been terrified by anyone before.
‘Til you came down, the
prayers of men made flesh before me.
I’d never been terrified by anyone before.
And when I asked to make us brothers
and to share all that we were,
how could anyone resist becoming
part of what I thought you were?
And when you asked to make us brothers
and to share all that we were,
how could anyone resist becoming
you?
But as your blood coursed through me
I could feel our powers mix.
My sight, your burn, my sacrifice,
the fears of men, the rage of ice,
my wisdom, cunning, hunger, heart,
your secret plans and secret arts.
But as your blood coursed through me
I could feel our powers mix.
Your sight, my burn, your sacrifice,
the fears of men, the rage of ice,
your wisdom, cunning, hunger, heart,
your secret plans and secret arts.
Chorus:
My brother, my enemy,
don’t dare say the word destiny,
I offered you the best of me,
you turned it into this!
My traitor, oathbreaker,
don’t say you had no choice!
He was my son; it was your promise.
There are things I can’t forgive and this is one.
And though this world may burn I’ll see my justice done.
Where’s the brother I wanted and thought that I knew?
Where’s the love and the oath that I traded with you?
There was poison at work in the ice where you grew
and where you should have stayed.
My brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy.
I gave you my family, my power, my pride,
shared the food at my table, the seat at my side,
so treat me like a brother and I
wouldn’t be your enemy.
My kingdom I left and
chose you over all my race,
so treat me like a brother
and a brother I will be.
My brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy.
I realized too late what I’d taken as kin, with your
plots and your smiles and the harshness within.
You came to me for something new.
Was that too much for you to handle?
I opened mountain doors for you.
At first you weren’t so slow to follow
through. You knew we
both had secrets.
You had nothing
left to gain.
Did you never wonder what it
was I plotted for?
It wasn’t war.
Where’s the brother I wanted and thought that I knew?
Where’s the love and the oath that I traded with you?
If you’d kept on pretending it could have stayed true,
at least for me.
At least not in those early
days.
It wasn’t me that changed.
The monsters you bred were a danger to all,
first the wolf that would smother the sun in its jaws,
the the serpent that strangles the world in its coils,
the witch as hard as death.
My brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy.
My brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy.
These worlds are my duty to guard and protect.
Your children were my enemies.
I can’t make exceptions before such a threat.
Your children were my enemies. Since the
monsters you bred were a danger to all,
first the wolf that will crush even me in its jaws;
then the serpent whose poison will topple my sons;
the witch who calls the hosts.
My son and heir you banished from
the kingdom you had me abandon,
an island prison, not enough.
You sent your faithful sons to bind him
fast.
With cunning and magic and
lies.
The first crime wasn’t mine. But you did
more,dear Uncle,
took my second son,
my daughter too.
You can’t blame me
You know I can see what the future will be,
I told you what happens if those three go free. These
worlds are my duty to guard and protect,
there was no other way.
If
I pay you back one for
three. Don’t say
there was no other way!
And when I asked to make us brothers and to
share all that we were, how could
anyone resist creating what I thought
we’d make the world?.
And when you asked,
and when I answered,
how could anyone
resist?
Chorus:
My brother, my enemy,
don’t dare say the word destiny,
I offered you the best of me,
you turned it into this!
My traitor, oathbreaker,
don’t say you had no choice!
He was my son; it was your promise.
There are things I can’t forgive of anyone.
Why did you have to do the only one?
The gods up above and the men below
have a single sun to part the snow,
and a single crime we can’t forget:
you ripped him from the skies.
My brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy.
Your silence pretends you have cause to conceal
some higher agenda you couldn’t reveal.
Don’t think I can’t see jealousy
transparent in your eyes!
My brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy,
my brother, my enemy.
You made yourself my enemy. You
made yourself my enemy. You
gave your sacred word to me, you
made yourself my enemy.
You knew I had my reasons; it’s
not my fault if you can’t see them. You
gave your sacred word to me;
that promise doesn’t end!
The gods up above and the men
below have a single sun to part the snow,
you couldn’t stand to see a brighter
fire in the dark!
Did you forget who taught you to mix
cunning with magic and
lies? You knew that I was
fire in the dark!
I gave you my family, my power, my pride, shared the
food at my table, the seat at my side.
You sent my precious son to join the
shadows in the dark.
Was I so wrong to
act as you do?
And send your precious son to join my
daughter in the dark?
And when I asked,
and when you answered,
how could anyone
forgive?
And when you asked me to release him
and to shed repentant tears,
how dare you demand from me what you would
not give in a thousand years?
Chorus:
My brother, my enemy,
don’t dare say the word destiny,
I offered you the best of me,
you turned it into this!
You
ran and you
hid and you
fought and you
cursed and you
struggled in your shackles as I
watched for lonely centuries.
You chased me,
you found me,
you beat me,
you bound me.
Shrieking in my shackles as you
watched for heartless centuries.
From my throne up above I can see you there,
serene now like a child at prayer,
waiting;
I am
waiting too.
My captor, my enemy,
my captor, my enemy.
Did you never wonder what it
is I’m praying to?
It isn’t you!
My riddle, monster, slaughter, whisper
asker, question, answer.
The sickness creeps through
just as you do,
poison dripping down.
For in the deep there’s a dragon who listens.
And with time we will crack every prison.
And there’s a sickness that creeps
through the rot that you’ve sown
in the tree that deserves to come down!
There’s a sickness, it’s true, that is spreading.
And there’s a sin that takes root in my worlds. For every
child, every man, every
root, every tree, every
stone, every mountain is
crying to me that this
life’s not worth facing, its
wars and its plagues, without the
comfort and sunlight that
you took away, and they
pray not for justice, for-
giveness, or peace
but for
vengeance, vengeance,
vengeance, vengeance!
Dare you bind me?
Time will find me.
Men know,
beasts know,
stones know,
seas know,
stars know,
skies know,
you know,
I know.
Never justice,
never peace,
but
vengeance, vengeance,
vengeance, vengeance!
My brother, my enemy,
don’t dare say one more word to me!
We should have had eternity,
you had to make it end!
Deceiver, corruptor,
my prisoner, my tormenter. So,
treat me like a brother
and I wouldn’t be your enemy.
My traitor, Oathbreaker,
don’t say you had no choice!
He was my son; it was your promise.
There are things I can’t forgive, and this is
one. And though this
world will burn I’ll see my justice
done!
My brother, my enemy,
don’t dare say one more word to me!
We should have had eternity,
you had to make it end!
Deceiver; Corruptor;
my captor, jailer, tormenter.
Treat me like a monster
and a monster I will be!
My traitor, Oathbreaker,
don’t say you had no choice!
He was my son; it was your promise.
There are things I can’t forgive, nor you
and those are all that’s left of me!
I’ll burn this world to see my justice
done!