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October 27, 2023 16 min read

Thor: The Incredible Origins of This Viking Legend

Thor: The Incredible Origins of This Viking Legend

Ancient god and modern hero, Thor is an emblematic figure in Norse mythology. He reigns over the sky and unleashes thunder at will, becoming one with the elements.

Considered the most powerful of the Viking gods, he battles the forces of evil with his iconic hammer Mjöllnir. A peerless warrior and faithful companion, his mythical stories are inspired by the values of the Nordic people and are full of morals.

As popular as he is, there are many facets that the common admirers do not know about this venerable warrior. Let's discover together the legend of Thor, the Viking god of Thunder, the most popular Nordic deity!

The Legend of the God Thor: The Mighty God of Thunder!

Thor is the most popular of the Viking deities. Among the pantheon of Norse deities, none was equal to Thor, not even his father, the god Odin. Indeed, he is referred to as the supreme Viking god, a symbol of the strength and bravery of the Scandinavian warrior. He is the true god of war that all beings respect and fear.

In addition to his immeasurable power, Thor is actually the god of the people. Besides being the god of fertility, he is worshipped by all the Nordic peoples. He understood men as well as their fears and concerns, but beyond that, Thor believed in the goodness and strength of humanity.

All of this propelled Thor to the rank of the first Nordic deity, and allowed him to have a cult of his own, perhaps greater than that of the god Odin. So, without further ado, let's discover the unique place of Thor among the Scandinavian people!

The Primordial God of Viking Civilization

Although the figure of Thor is generally associated with Odin, his place is no less crucial. Thor is the most loved and adored Viking god in the entire history of Norse mythology.

Whether in certain rituals, celebrations, or even in Viking jewelry, Thor's influence is found everywhere in Scandinavian traditions.

Unlike Odin, who was capricious and had a somewhat unpredictable behavior, Thor was very close to men. Benevolent towards humanity, he embodies trust and divine understanding.

It is aboard his flying chariot, pulled by two magical goats, that he creates thunder and lightning to warn the Vikings of storms. With his mythical hammer Mjöllnir, he tames lightning and makes it his greatest strength.

With this weapon, Thor is endowed with unparalleled power that allows him to fight the forces of evil. He thus protects the Vikings from the evil giants "jötnar" who want to eradicate gods and men.

Therefore, in addition to his role as protector, Thor also ensures the enforcement of law and order within Viking civilization.

The Real Meaning of Thor's Name

Thor's online viking store

A prominent warrior and Viking god, the etymology of Thor's name originates from the ancient Germanic language. According to linguists, it derives from the runic inscription √ěunraz, or √ě√≥rr in Old Norse, which means "thunder".

Thus, the god Thor is the Nordic deity of thunder, lightning, and storms. Revered by the Scandinavian people, his name reflects his omnipotence and his destructive power, comparable to the unleashing of the forces of nature.

According to the Nafna√ĺulur of the Prose Edda of Snorri, he is also referred to by other names, including:

  • Einri√įi, or the one who reigns alone;
  • Atli, or the terrible;
  • or even Har√įv√©urr, the talented archer.

He is also called Har√įhuga√įr, the brave soul; or Hl√≥ri√įi, the loud god of storms, according to the √ěrymskvi√įa, found in the same source.

More Than a God, a True Cult!

Although he primarily embodies the god of thunder and war in Viking myths, Thor had a unique facet. The legends about Thor depict him as a powerful and fierce god who can unleash storms and natural disasters.

However, his cult depicts him in a completely different manner.

Indeed, historian Hilda Ellis Davidson states that Thor's cult was mostly related to men's material goods, but also to their well-being. Thus, Thor is the protector of the family and the Viking community.

Often depicted as a towering warrior with a red beard, his benevolence towards humanity hides a fierce hatred against the race of giants. He is their mortal enemy and the guardian of the realm of Midgard.

In her 1975 publication on Viking mythology, Ellis Davidson stated:

"In our time, small stone axes from a distant past have been used as symbols of fertility and placed by the farmer in the holes made by the seed drill to receive the first seed of spring."

Thus, the Vikings invoked the benevolence of Thor for the success of the harvests and the fertility of the fields.

Today, we know that Thor's influence has spread throughout Europe. Indeed, historians have found evidence that a deity named "Thunor" or "Thonar" exists in several European countries, especially in England.

You better understand how the cult of Thor has become an inseparable pillar of the Germanic people, even among the most ancient Vikings.

The Origins of the Viking God of Thunder

Before becoming the adventurer with many adventures, the Viking god Thor was imbued with the moral values of his entourage. Thus, the origins of Thor largely explain the evolution of his character in Norse mythology, and the place that historians give him.

The Genealogy of Thor

A prominent character in the pantheon of Norse deities, Thor is of celestial descent. Although some mistakenly consider him a demigod, he is actually a full-fledged Aesir god.

Thor is the son of Odin; the Norse god reigning over the realm of Asgard, and of Jörd; an Aesir goddess considered to be the personification of the Earth. Her origins go back to the lineage of giants, a serious paradox since they will become the sworn enemy of her son. He was raised by his father to one day take over the realm.

Thor marries Sif, an Asynja goddess of the earth, with golden hair, with whom he has a daughter, Thr√ļd. He is also referred to in the Snorri Struson by the nickname Kenning, which means father of Thr√ļd. The Viking god of thunder has two other children: Magni, whom he had with his mistress J√°rnsaxa the giantess, and Modi, from an unknown mother.

The Young Thor in Asgard

From his young age, the Viking god Thor is predestined to become a renowned warrior. Future heir to his father, the god Odin, he takes charge of protecting the pantheon of Norse deities.

To ensure the balance of the 7 worlds, he watches over Asgard from the danger of the jötunn. He quickly stands out for his unparalleled strength, and rumors circulate that he might even surpass his father's abilities.

That said, the role of the god Thor does not stop there. He is also recognized as the god of agriculture and fertility. Associated with rain, his union with the goddess Sif symbolizes the harmony between earth and sky, guaranteeing rich harvests and prosperity.

Indeed, chapter 9 of the Gylfaginning explains the origin of Thor and the birth of this unique union with the earth. For the first time, in a passage from the first part of Snorri's Edda, we learn that Odin marries the earth to create Thor. It is said:

"The earth was his daughter, and also his wife; it was from her that he had his first son, Asa-Thor, in whom strength and vigor were innate ‚ÄĒ that is why he triumphed over all living beings."

These elements explain why Thor was venerated by various social classes:

  • The warriors and the Viking military corps, who aspired to match his bravery, and who implored his protection;
  • The proletarian class and workers, especially Scandinavian farmers, who relied on his blessing to survive.

The Relationship Between the God Thor and the God Odin

Despite their blood relationship, the father-son relationship between the god Odin and Thor was tarnished by their differing opinions. Although they allied for the common good of the Aesir gods, their interest in humans was different:

  • The kings, jarls, and noble counts turned to God Odin, king of the Norse gods. His status and notoriety brought him closer to the noble class of Midgard.
  • On the opposite side of his father, the Viking god Thor came to the aid of the struggling Scandinavian people. He was the hero of the less fortunate. His human side is thus recognized.

This does not mean that they were not complicit. Their differences did not prevent them from engaging in countless adventures together.

The Story of the God Thor: Intrepid Adventures of a Glorious Warrior

Symbol of courage, strength, and pride, Thor engages in multiple adventures. He is a heroic Viking god who constantly fights dark forces.

However, like all Norse deities, he had attributes that allowed him to successfully complete all his adventures. But above all, Thor loved to engage in battles where he unleashed all his strength.

The Story of Thor's Hammer "Mjöllnir"

The Story of the God Thor | Norse Mythology

The immense strength of the god Thor was enhanced by his short-handled hammer, Mjöllnir. Inseparable from its owner, it returned to his hand each time he threw it. Legend has it that it was with this hammer that he managed to create lightning.

The creation of the thunder god's hammer is mentioned in the poems of Snorri Sturluson's Poetic Edda, specifically in the Skaldskaparmal poem. Loki, known for his intelligence and cunning spirit, cut off the beautiful golden hair of Thor's wife, Sif. When the god became aware of Loki's foolishness, he flew into a great rage and threatened to kill Loki. Loki begged for his life, promising in return to go to the realm of the dark elves to ask them to make a new head of hair for the goddess Sif. Thor agreed to the deal.

Loki went to see the dwarves Brokkr and Sindri to ask them to make a new head of hair for Sif, which they did. At the same time, they created two other items: the deadliest spear ever created, called Gungnir, and the best of all ships, called Skidbladnir. Loki then told them that they were incapable of creating other wonders superior to these (the spear, the ship, and the hair) and challenged them, betting his head in the process. Sindri and Brokkr accepted the challenge and got to work. Loki transformed into a fly to disrupt their work and win the bet.

A pigskin was placed at the hearth by Sindri, who asked Brokkr to continuously operate the bellows until he returned. Brokkr got to work and was stung on the hand by the fly, but this did not stop him from continuing his work. Upon his return, Sindri took a golden-bristled pig (or boar in some versions) out of the forge, which was named Gullinbursti. This animal emitted light and was capable of running as well on water as in the air. It was a thousand times faster than any type of horse.

This time, Sindri placed gold in the forge and again asked Brokkr to operate the bellows continuously until he returned. Loki, transformed into a fly, came back while Brokkr was working on the bellows and stung him on the neck, but Brokkr continued his action. Upon his return, Sindri took a magnificent ring out of the fire, which was named Draupnir. This ring had the magical power to drop eight similar rings every nine nights.

Sindri placed a piece of iron in the forge and gave the same instructions to his brother Brokkr. Brokkr operated the bellows, and the fly came back again and stung Brokkr on the eyelids. Blood flowed into Brokkr's eyes, and he had to stop the bellows to clean his eyes. When Sindri returned and they took the result out of the forge, they found a hammer, which was named Mjolnir. The hammer had the ability to never miss its target and to return to the hands of its owner. However, there was a flaw: the handle of the hammer was very short, and this was caused by the temporary stop of the bellows.

The two elves decided to go to Asgard to give these jewels to the gods. Draupnir and the spear went to Odin, the hammer and the hair were given to Thor, and the ship and the golden-bristled pig went to Freyr. The gods agreed that Thor's hammer was the most beautiful of the jewels and that it would be of great help to them in protecting themselves from enemies. Loki thus lost the bet made with the elves. Brokkr decided to cut off his neck when Loki, who is very cunning, told them that he had bet his head and that his neck was not part of it. Overwhelmed by such cunning, the elves Brokkr and Sindri decided to sew Loki's mouth shut to silence him, and then they returned to their forges.

The Attributes and Precious Objects of the God Thor

Although Mjolnir was the most powerful object of the thunder god, he had other fantastic objects to his name. Typically, Thor's three precious objects are described as follows:

  1. He had to wear a belt of strength, Megingjord, to have enough power to lift his hammer;
  2. Mjöllnir had a too short handle. To be able to wield it, Thor had to wear a pair of magical iron gloves, Járngreipr, to grip it;
  3. The last attribute of Thor is a magical chariot. Two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, pull this flying chariot and allow Thor to travel from world to world. According to the Prose Edda, their names mean "grinding teeth" and "snorting teeth," respectively.

It is largely thanks to these attributes that the god Thor was able to successfully complete his adventures.

The Myths and Legends of the God Thor

The Story of the God Thor | Norse Mythology

Norse mythology is full of tales and feats of the Viking god Thor. Sometimes amusing, sometimes moralizing, they represent a significant part of the Viking heritage.

For example, there is the time when a giant, Thrym, stole his hammer Mjöllnir. We learn from the Thrymskvida, a passage from the Poetic Edda, that in return, he demanded the hand of the goddess Freya.

With the help of the god of mischief, Loki, Thor disguised himself as a bride and managed to retrieve his hammer. Of course, this story ends with the slaughter of all the giants present that day. Thor could not let his honor be tarnished so easily!

On the other hand, it has been proven that Thor was the most powerful Viking god, but he was far from being the strongest in the Norse cosmos. His escapade to the world of giants somewhat bruised his ego when he discovered a being better than himself.

The giant Skymir stole his belongings, and Thor couldn't even untie the knots by which they were bound. Striking him as hard as he could on his head while he slept, the jötunn felt as if he had been brushed by a tree leaf.

He had a second encounter in the world of giants, this time with a jötunn named Utgarda. She challenged him to lift a giant cat, and Thor failed. Then, he returned the challenge, asking to face one of them. To his surprise, they chose an old woman for him to wrestle, against whom he miserably failed a second time.

Even though he did not understand what was happening, Thor suspected that something was amiss. Indeed, it was only later revealed to him that the cat was none other than the serpent of Ragnarok, Jörmungandr, in disguise. The old woman, on the other hand, was the embodiment of infinite time.

Despite this apparent defeat, Thor had in fact once again proven his superiority. We learn in chapter 47 of Gylfaginning what the giant king √ötgar√įa-Loki said to Thor:

"The fact that you lifted the cat seemed to us no less remarkable. To tell you the truth, all those who saw that you managed to lift one of its paws off the ground were frightened, for this cat was not what it seemed to you: it was the Midgard serpent, which lies all around the lands, and its size is barely enough for its tail and head to touch the ground. But you, you lifted it so much that you were only a short distance from the sky."

The Servants of Thor

The Story of the God Thor | Norse Mythology

The thunder god is known for his two young servants who always accompany him (Roskva and Thj√°lfi). The Gylfaginning of Snorri's Edda recounts how these youngsters ended up becoming the god's servants.

He was traveling with Loki to the land of the ice giants. They made a stop at a peasant couple's house, which had two children: a girl named Roskva and a boy named Thj√°lfi. For dinner, the god roasted his goats as usual and asked the peasant family not to break the bones and to place them on the skins after finishing their meal.

The boy Thj√°lfi used a knife to split one of the bones to get to the marrow. In the morning, Thor resurrected the two animals and noticed that one of them was limping.

The god flew into a great rage and clenched his hammer very tightly in his hands. The peasant couple got scared and offered to give the god anything he wanted as compensation. Thor calmed down and asked for their children in return, so that they would become his servants.

1000 Years Later, Thor in Vinland

Thor is a powerful, benevolent, and very generous god. His myths are found in Viking traditions, even during the colonization of America, a land called Vinland.

Indeed, it is said that a hungry Viking in a Vinland village presented the thunder god with what little food he had left as an offering to the god of thunder. Thor rewarded him by providing an entire whale, saving his life and lifting him out of misery forever.

The Fate of Thor: The Norse Legend of Ragnarok

It goes without saying that the end of such a god should reflect his life and character. Like his father, Thor is destined to perish during Ragnarok, but only after fighting the greatest battle of all. Let's discover the tragic circumstances of Thor's heroic death!

Jörmungand, Thor's Mortal Enemy

Jörmungand is one of the three children of Loki with the giantess of desolation, Angrboda. Realizing the threat, Odin quickly disposed of this serpent by throwing it into the seas of Midgard, the land of men. However, he did not predict that it would survive.

Thus, the serpent grew so large that it encircled the world, biting its own tail. It surrounds all of Midgard, holding it in its grip. Jörmungand, along with its brother the wolf Fenrir, and sister the goddess Hel, become the harbingers of Ragnarok.

Thor despised many evil creatures, but none as much as Jörmungandr, the serpent of the seas of Midgard. Although he crossed paths with Jörmungandr several times, there are few accounts of their encounters.

The most famous myth of their meeting took place during Thor's quest for a magical cauldron. The Gylfaginning and Hymiskvida tell the story of Thor seeking a cauldron with unique properties to brew a beverage for all the gods of Asgard.

The only being in the universe to possess such a cauldron is the giant Hymir. After Thor finds the giant, they both go fishing at sea.

The giant Hymir, very skilled, brings several whales back to the ship, while Thor traps in his net a deadly creature, the serpent Jörmungandr. From this point, the story diverges a bit, as sources are not unequivocal about what happened:

  • Terrified, Hymir cuts the fishing line. In this version of the story, he saves Thor's life and warns him of the danger of this serpent;
  • On the other hand, according to Gylfaginning and Hymiskvida, Thor pulls J√∂rmungandr onto the boat and meets it for the first time.

In the Gylfaginning, Hymir is malevolent. He releases Jörmungandr and prevents Thor from killing it. While the Hymiskvida claims that the monster freed itself from the net and went back to the depths of the oceans.

Regardless, Jörmungand, the deadly serpent, survives and continues to grow. It will only resurface from the seas when Ragnarok begins.

The Serpent of Ragnarok

The Story of the God Thor | Norse Mythology

Thor and Jörmungandr are destined to meet again during Ragnarok, the "fate of the gods." This is the cataclysm that triggers the end of times in Scandinavian mythology.

According to the predictions and prophecy of the seer völva in Völuspá, the events of Ragnarok will begin when Jörmungandr releases its tail. It triggers a tsunami and devours the mainland with its great mouth.

There, the serpent joins forces with its brother Fenrir. While this terrible wolf swallows the sky, Jörmungandr fills the air with deadly poison. It is at this moment that Thor and Jörmungandr will confront each other one last time.

Although Thor is destined to kill his worst enemy, he does not emerge unscathed from the battle. He sustains mortal wounds in this final confrontation. True to his glory, Thor takes nine steps after slaying Jörmungand before succumbing to the serpent's poison.

Chapter 56 of Gylfaginning in Snorri's Edda tells the story of Thor's brave death:

"Then comes the glorious

Son of Hlódyn,

√ďdinn's son goes forth

To slay the serpent,

Furious he strikes

The guardian of Midgardr;

All men will

Leave their homes;

The son of Fjörgyn,

Exhausted, retreats

Nine steps from the viper

Fearless of disgrace."

Mjöllnir, fallen to the ground, is picked up by Thor's two children: Magni and Modi. Together, they survive Ragnarok and lay the foundations for a New World. This is the circle of renewal so often described in Viking mythology.

The Viking God Thor in Popular Culture

Dating back over 1000 years, the adventures of the god Thor continue to influence us in modern times. Timeless fantastical stories, they are classics that are constantly being revisited, much to the delight of audiences fascinated by ancient Norse beliefs.

The God Thor in Marvel Comics

Everyone knows Thor thanks to the famous Marvel comic. First published in 1962, the iconic Marvel comic character is credited to the prodigious Stan Lee.

Although the story of Marvel's character differs from the true legends of the god Thor, Stan Lee achieved a real feat. Indeed, he transcribed the complexity of the character of the god of thunder, and it has become a favorite among all fans.

This Thor is the most popular of the Norse deities, even today!

Film Adaptations of the God of Thunder

As you know, there are numerous film adaptations of the Viking god of thunder. But when we talk about Thor in the world of cinema, we can't help but think of Chris Hemsworth, who portrays him in the Marvel films.

The first Thor film, released in 2011, was a global success. Even though the franchise experienced a slight dip afterwards, the charisma and humor of Chris Hemsworth gave a second wind to the character of Thor. Thus, the third installment, Thor: Ragnarok, was acclaimed by fans and critics alike, and became the most successful film in the franchise!

A legendary Viking god, Thor is a favorite among lovers of Norse mythology. Appreciated for his supernatural powers as well as his compassion towards humans, he is a character that has proven that the Norse people were far from barbaric. His stories, recounted by numerous historical sources, represent a significant part of Scandinavian folklore and inspire modern legends.

Thor: Similarities and Differences Between the Film and Norse Mythology


The Hammer Mjolnir

The hammer is present in the Thor film just as it is mentioned in Norse mythology. The power of the hammer is also the same: it can create lightning. However, there is a slight difference in the origin of the hammer. In the Marvel film, it is Odin, Thor's father, who teaches the dwarves how to forge the hammer, whereas in the mythology as mentioned above, the hammer was created as a result of a bet between Loki and the elves.

The Massacres

The god's massacres of giants according to Norse mythology are replicated in the film. The majority of giants are seen as enemies of the gods, which is why Thor does not like them. He is thus responsible for several massacres of giants. This destructive character is well portrayed in the film.

Wearing the Helmet

Gods are often depicted as beings wearing a helmet with a small white wing on each side. However, no wearing of a helmet is emphasized in Norse mythology, and it is therefore considered that the god did not wear one. In the film, the actor playing the role of the god is rarely seen wearing anything to protect his head.

Lifting the Midgard Serpent

In both mythology and the film, the god Thor is seen lifting the Midgard Serpent, which is an immense feat. Indeed, it is said that this serpent would weigh between 3 and 6 sextillion tons. With the help of his belt of strength, the god was able to lift the Midgard Serpent out of the water.

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