Ouroboros from 'Loki' next to an illustration of an ouroboros in an alchemical tract.

‘Loki’ Has the Potential To Deliver the Most Metal Norse Mythology Tie-In Ever

Loki season 2 introduces an explosively popular new character: Ouroboros (Ke Huy Quan), the tech wizard in the Time Variance Authority’s Repairs and Advancement department. Ouroboros, or O.B. for short, is an integral part of Loki season 2’s plot, as he helps Loki stop time slipping and works on retrofitting the Temporal Loom to avoid a meltdown. He’s so important that “Ouroboros” is the title of the season 2 premiere. But what does O.B.’s name mean? What exactly is an ouroboros?

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The ouroboros has some pretty deep significance in world mythology and philosophy—and its counterpart in Norse myths, Jormungandr, has an amazing connection to Loki himself.

What does ‘ouroboros’ mean? What is the ouroboros?

A red lizard-type creature, curled in a circle with its tail in its mouth. There's Greek writing around it. From a 15th century tract on alchemy.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The ouroboros, first recorded in Egyptian myth and Greek magical traditions, is an image of a snake eating its own tail. The word comes from the Greek οὐρά (oura), which means “eating,” and βορός (boros), meaning “tail.”

Snakes eating their own tails can be found in myths and iconography all over the world, but the ouroboros is especially prominent in the West as a part of mystical traditions like Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and alchemy. As a symbol of wholeness, unity, and infinity, the ouroboros constantly devours and rebirths itself, containing the whole of the cosmos inside of its coils. It points to the cyclical nature of reality, in which every death is a new beginning.

Like the term “mobius,” the ouroboros isn’t explicitly related to the concept of time, but it’s easy to see how it fits into the TVA. In Loki season 1, Mobius tells Loki that the same events on the timeline happen “again and again.” In the season 1 finale, He Who Remains warns Sylvie and Loki that if they kill him, the events that led to the creation of the TVA will simply happen all over again. In Loki, time is a loop, a snake eating its own tail.

What does that say about Ouroboros himself? Although he claims that Miss Minutes does all the maintenance on the Temporal Loom, O.B. is clearly the caretaker of the Sacred Timeline. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a mastermind like He Who Remains, but the name resonates with his role at the TVA.

Ouroboros’ surprising connection to Loki in Norse mythology

Engraving of Thor sitting on the shore, with a gigantic snake thrashing in the waves.
(Louis Moe – AU Library, Campus Emdrup, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The ouroboros has a counterpart in Norse mythology: Jormungandr, or the Midgard Serpent, which circles the entire world and holds its tail in its mouth. But where does Jormungandr come from? The answer is what makes Norse mythology so strange and fun—and what makes Loki such a fascinating character.

According to the Norse Eddas, Jormungandr is one of Loki’s children. Loki has an affair with the ogress Angrboda, who then gives birth to three monsters: Hel, the goddess of the underworld; the giant wolf Fenris; and Jormungandr. At the end of the world, during Ragnarok, Thor kills Jormungandr, but not before Jormungandr poisons him with its venom.

Loki’s fearsome offspring is pretty cool in the myths, but so far no one’s mentioned Jormungandr in the Marvel series. Marvel does take some pretty big liberties with its source material, but here’s how the myth could still influence the series.

Could Loki “father” the Sacred Timeline in the MCU?

Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Loki

No, I’m not suggesting that Loki is secretly O.B.’s dad. Rather, Loki might create the Sacred Timeline itself.

We know that Loki season 2 involves a lot of time loops. Loki finds himself transported to the near future at the end of episode 1, where Sylvie is inexplicably opening an elevator door in the TVA. Some mysterious figure prunes Loki, sending him back to the present. The trailers are really leaning hard into the time loop thing, with Loki explaining in voiceovers that he’s been pulled through time. It’s possible that the entire series will turn out to be one big loop.

One very fast shot in one trailer supports this theory—even suggesting that Loki could go back in time and help build the TVA from scratch. Loki wants to prevent a multiversal war, and he seems to want to do that by keeping the Temporal Loom working, and the TVA in place.

The shot from the trailer shows Loki sitting in the middle of O.B.’s workroom. Mobius is on the left, wearing civilian clothes. The workroom looks to be in its early stages, though, with some features like the fans and pneumatic tubes already in place, but others not having been built yet. Whatever’s going on in this shot, Loki seems to be present at the TVA’s inception.

Blurry shot of Loki sitting in an early version of O.B.'s workroom. Mobius is visible next to him, wearing a white shirt and blue vest.

But wait! Doesn’t He Who Remains create the TVA? It’s true that this theory isn’t perfect. But if Loki does have a hand in creating the TVA and establishing the Sacred Timeline, then in a sense, he’d be fathering Jormungandr.

If the series already has an ouroboros, will it mention Jormungandr, too? Marvel has drifted further and further away from Loki’s Norse roots, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. But we Norse mythology hyper-nerds will know.

(featured image: Wikimedia commons / Disney+)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>