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Posted in Norse Mythology
May 29, 2019

Norse Myths Explained: Thor

There are a lot of misconceptions about Norse mythology, mostly because of the Marvel movies which are awesome, but inaccurate. So, I’ve decided to tell the real stories. This may end up being a series, but I probably won’t update it very often.

Let’s start with Thor.

Thor is one of the Aesir (pronounced “ice-ear”), the Norse gods who live in Asgard. He is the most exciting figure in Norse mythology if you’re interested in action. Odin is interesting for other reasons and Loki is… well, Loki, but Thor is the guy with the big hammer, big muscles, and a big, red beard. He’s a hero – no thought, all action.

Since Thor’s hammer is his most defining feature, we’ll talk about it first.

Mjölnir

Thor didn’t always have his hammer and he did alright without it – he was already the strongest being in the cosmos and a great warrior. When he got the hammer though, he became unbeatable.

It was Loki who commissioned Mjölnir, but not out of a desire to be helpful. He was just trying to scam free stuff out of a pair of dwarves. That ended with Loki getting his mouth sewn shut, but that’s a story for another time.

You may think Thor uses Mjölnir to summon lightning but that isn’t quite true. Mjölnir is the lightning. When thrown, it never misses its target and it always returns to Thor’s hand. The only flaw to the weapon is that the handle is too short (Loki’s fault). Besides smiting his enemies, Thor can also use Mjölnir to cause rain, bless his worshipers, and raise the dead. I’ll get back to that last thing in a bit.

If you were wondering what makes Thor worthy of Mjölnir, there’s a simple answer to that; he’s the only one strong enough to use it. Considering how heavy it is and that the short handle makes it a one-handed weapon, you need the strength of Thor to wield it. In fact, even Thor has to wear his belt of strength and magical gauntlets.

Warrior/Commoner/Man

Being one of Odin’s many illegitimate sons doesn’t bring Thor any special treatment. He isn’t noble and doesn’t want to be. In Norse mythology, Thor earns his respect through he deeds and in so doing, defines what it is to be a warrior and to be a man.

As a warrior, Thor is loyal, courageous, and dutiful, though he has an alarming temper. He protects Asgard and Midgard from the threat of giants. He always obeys Odin’s orders and keeps any promises he makes, even if they were stupid promises.

As the ideal Norse man, Thor has a thick red beard which he is completely unwilling to shave. He abstains from any unmanly practice such as fortune-telling, witchcraft, and cross-dressing… except of course for that one time when Mjölnir was stolen. Loki convinced him to dress up as Freya to get into the house of the giant who stole it. But it’s ok because when he got the hammer back, he violently slaughtered every giant in the house, thus redeeming his manhood.

Commoners love Thor. He blesses their homes and brings rain to their fields. During weddings, a ceremonial hammer is given to the bride to show that Thor blesses the union.

Appetite

Thor has an insatiable appetite and is a notoriously bad house guest. The best example of this is when he went to visit the giant, Hymir who slaughtered and cooked his three best bulls, thinking that this would be enough food to feed his entire house, including Thor, for the whole weekend. Thor, however, ate most of it in one sitting. Hymir was shocked, but tried to salvage the weekend by taking Thor fishing to catch some more food. Thor surprised him again by killing the rest of Hymir’s herd to use as bait.

The expedition only went downhill from there. Thor forced the giant to sail to the dangerous area where Jormungandr the sea serpent lived. Thor almost sunk the boat while trying to catch the serpent. Hymir, who was terrified of Jormungandr, cut the fishing line and let the serpent get away, so Thor tossed him overboard. The story hints that the giant survived, but when he got home, Thor had taken his giant cooking pot to brew ale in it.

Thor is perfectly capable of feeding himself while he travels. His chariot is pulled by two goats which he slaughters each night. After he eats them, he carefully sorts out their skins and bones so he can resurrect them with Mjölnir in the morning. One can only imagine how the goats feel about this arrangement.

Relationships

Odin

I don’t know anything about Thor’s upbringing. I imagine he was well provided for and received the best training possible but I doubt he got any fatherly affection. Odin is too busy holding the universe together. The two don’t always see eye to eye but Thor is obedient.

Frigg

Frigg is not Thor’s mother, as the Marvel movies suggest. They do not have a familial relationship. He respects her as an authority figure.

Loki

Loki is not Thor’s brother. The two can barely stand each other. I believe the only reason Thor hasn’t killed Loki is because Odin forbids it.

Jormungandr

I don’t know what happened between Thor and the giant serpent, Jormungandr but their mutual hatred is legendary. They are destined to kill each other during the Ragnarok.

Sif

Sif is Thor’s wife. She has beautiful golden hair made from actual gold. It used to be made from actual hair but Loki cut it off as a prank. After Thor threatened to kill him, Loki went to some dwarves to get a replacement made.

I can’t say if Thor and Sif have a good relationship. Thor has been unfaithful to her on occasion but then, he is one of the Aesir. The singular of Aesir is Áss.

Giants

Though Thor is three quarters giant, he spends much of his time killing giants. I don’t know if this is because he hates them or because it’s his job.

Jorth

Thor’s mother is the Giantess, Jorth, whose name means Earth. I don’t know if she is the actual Earth or if she is just named after it but I wouldn’t put it past Odin to impregnate a planet. There is a reason they call him the All-Father.

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