Thor - Norse God of Thunder
The son of Odin and Jord, the earth goddess. Thor was the strongest of the Aesir,
the collective name for the the principal race of Norse gods; they who lived in
Asgard, and with the All-Father Odin, ruled the lives of mortal men. Known as
the god of thunder, his hall is Bilskirnir, which is located in the region
Thrudheim ("place of might"). Thor married the golden-haired Sif, a Goddess of
fertility. He kept a mistress named Jarnsaxa (the "iron cutlass"), with whom he
had two sons, Magni and Modi and his daughter is Thrud.
Thor was usually portrayed as a large, powerful man with a red
beard, flowing hair, hearty enjoyment of food and drink and eyes of lighting.
Despite his ferocious appearance, he was very popular as the protector of both
gods and humans against the forces of evil. He even surpassed his father Odin in
popularity because, contrary to Odin, he did not require human sacrifices. In
his temple at Uppsala he was shown standing with Odin at his right side. The
11th century Christian missionary Adam of Bremen, on noting the great temple of
the gods in Uppsala, Sweden, wrote, "Thor, they say, presides over the air, he
governs the thunder and lightening, the winds and rains, fair weather and
crops...If plague and famine threaten, a libation is poured to the idol Thor."
This temple was replaced by a Christian church in 1080.
The Norse believed that during a thunderstorm, Thor rode through
the heavens on his chariot pulled by the goats Tanngrisni ("gap-tooth") and
Tanngnost ("tooth grinder"). Lightning flashed whenever he threw his hammer
Mjollnir. Mjollnir ("that smashes") was made for him by the dwarfs Brok and
Eitri, who made many magical objects for the gods. Thor wears the belt
Megingjard which doubles his already considerable strength. His greatest enemy
is Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent. At the day of Ragnarok, Thor will kill this
serpent but will die from its poison. His sons will inherit his hammer after his
death. Ragnarok ("Doom of the Gods"), also called Gotterdammerung, means the end
of the cosmos in Norse mythology.
Thor was very well-known for his quick and hot temper. This was often vented on
the giants, the main enemies of the gods. Thor would smash their heads with his
mighty hammer Mjollnir. To wield this awesome weapon he needed iron gloves and a
belt of strength. Mjollnir would return to Thor's hand after being thrown and
was symbolic of lightning.
Thor was foremost of the gods to the common man, who would call on him to ensure
fertility, and widely worshiped. Hammer shaped amulets, a symbol of Thor because
it was his weapon, were worn about the neck well into the Christianization of
Scandinavia. There are molds from that time which contain both cross and hammer
shapes, side by side. His name occurs in numerous place names, and it was his
statue which was central in the great temple at Uppsala. He was associated by the Romans with Jupiter. Donar was an early version
of Thor among the early Germans. The anglo-saxons worshiped a thunder god named
Thor has lived on, not as a part of any religion, but on our weekly calendar. Thursday (Thor's Day) was derived from this mighty god.
The Challenge of Thor
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I am the God Thor,
I am the War God,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!
Here amid icebergs
Rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Miölner the mighty;
Giants and sorcerers
Cannot withstand it!
These are the gauntlets
Wherewith I wield it,
And hurl it afar off;
This is my girdle;
Whenever I brace it,
Strength is redoubled!
The light thou beholdest
Stream through the heavens,
In flashes of crimson,
Is but my red beard
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations!
Jove is my brother;
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder,
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake!
Force rules the world still,
Has ruled it, shall rule it;
Meekness is weakness,
Strength is triumphant,
Over the whole earth
Still is it Thor's Day!
Thou art a God too,
And thus singled-handed
Unto the combat,
Gauntlet or Gospel,
Here I defy thee!
from the Poetic Edda
Thor was distraught when upon awakening one morning he
discovered that his mighty hammer Mjölnir was missing. His shaggy head and his
beard quivered as he, the first-born of Mother-Earth reached around for it.
His first words were: "Loki, listen to me! I have suffered a loss beyond
perception. My hammer has been stolen!"
They hurried to Freyja's home, and he said: "Freyja, will you lend me your
feather-robe so that I can find and retrieve my hammer?"
Freyja said: "I would give it to you, even if it were made of gold or silver."
Loki then flew, with whirring feathers, from the home of the Æsir to the land of
Thrym, the King of the Thurse, [The Thurse were a race of giants] was
sitting on a mound, pleating golden halters for his hounds and smoothing the
manes of his mares.
Thrym said: "How are the Æsir, and how are the alfs, and what brings you to the
land of the giants?"
Loki said: "It's not well with the Æsir, nor with the alfs. Are you the one who
hid Thor's hammer?"
Thrym said: "Yes, I hid Thor's hammer a full eight leagues beneath the ground.
And no one can get it from me unless he brings Freyja here to be my bride."
Loki then flew, with whirring feathers, from the home of the giants to the land
of the Æsir. Thor met him in the central courtyard, and he said:
What good news do you have to report? Have your efforts been rewarded? Tell me,
even before you light, what you have learned. A sitting person is often
forgetful, and a lying person lies. [The play on the two meanings of "to lie"
also exists in the original]
Loki said: "My efforts have been rewarded. Thrym, the King of
the Thurse, has your hammer. But no one can get it from him unless he brings him
Freyja to be his bride."
They hurried to Freyja's home, and Thor said: "Freyja, dress yourself in bridal
linen! The two of us are going to the land of the giants."
Freyja grew angry and foamed with rage. The entire hall shook with her fury. The
necklace of the Brisings [The necklace of the Brisings is also mentioned in
Beowulf] broke apart. She said: "I would have to be the man-craziest of all
to go with you to the land of the giants."
All the gods and goddesses of the Æsir hurriedly assembled at the Thing to
discuss how they might retrieve Thor's hammer.
Heimdall, the fairest of the gods and one of the prophetic Vanir, foretold the
"We shall dress Thor in bridal linen, and adorn him with the necklace of the
Brisings. Let him wear a woman's clothes with a bundle of housewife's keys
dangling about him and with bridal jewels at his breast and on his head."
Thor, the mighty god, said, "the Æsir will call me cowardly and womanish if I
allow myself to be dressed in bridal linen."
Then Loki, the son of Laufey, said: "Save your words, Thor. The giants will soon
take over Asgard if you do not retrieve your hammer from them."
So they dressed Thor in women's clothes and bridal linen and adorned him with
the necklace of the Brisings, with a bundle of housewife's keys dangling about
him and with bridal jewels at his breast and on his head.
Then Loki, the son of Laufey, said: "I will be your servant girl, and the two of
us will go to the land of the giants."
The goats were driven home and tied with ropes to run with them. The mountains
burst and the earth broke into flames as the son of Odin rode to the land of the
Then Thrym, the King of the Thurse, said: "Stand up, you giants, and cover the
benches! Bring me Freyja, the daughter of Njörd from Noatun, to be my wife!"
In my yard I have cows with golden horns, pure black oxen, everything a giant
could want; I have riches and treasures; Freyja alone is all that I lack.
That evening they brought ale to the giant's table, and Sif's husband ate an
entire ox, eight salmon, and all the baked goods that they brought for the
women, and then he drank three measures of mead.
Then Thrym, the King of the Thurse, said: "Have you ever seen a bride bite more
sharply? I have never seen a bride bite more broadly, nor have I ever seen a
maiden drink more mead."
The maiden quickly responded to the giant's words: "Freyja was so eagerly
awaiting the land of giants that she ate nothing for eight full nights!"
He peeked beneath her veil, wanting to kiss her, but then jumped to the back of
the hall with a single bound. "Why are Freyja's eyes so terrifying? They seem to
be aglow with fire!"
The maiden quickly responded to the giant's words: "Freyja was so eagerly
awaiting the land of giants that she did not sleep for eight full nights."
The giant's poor sister entered and begged for a bridal gift: "If you want my
friendship and love, then please give me those red-gold rings from your arm."
Then Thrym, the King of the Thurse, said, "Bring the hammer so that we may
consecrate the bride. Lay Mjölnir in her lap, from the hand of Vár [Vár is a
goddess who hears and enforces oaths and contracts], and let us be
consecrated as a pair.
Hlórithi's [Hlórithi is another name for Thor] heart laughed within him
when he saw his hammer. First he struck down Thrym, the King of the Thurse, and
then he slew all the giant's kin.
He also killed the giant's poor sister who had begged for a bridal gift. Instead
of shillings she received blows and instead of rings, a hammer hit. And thus
Odin's son retrieved his hammer.
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