((I think you all know that I'm not an expert by now so I'll skip over the disclaimer and just mention that today's image is an illustration of Wagner's opera Das Rheingold by Arthur Rackham))

Who: Thor (Þōrr), Member of the Avengers brought to you by Marvel Comics!

What: Personification of thunder. God of thunder, lighting, rain that brings crops, fair weather, war, and protector of the gods and mortal men.

This article would have actually been posted up last week if I hadn't shown it to the Roommate first. She took one look at it and asked me why I was so angry. Initially, I protested that I couldn't be angry at a person who I think of as fictional, but realized that she was right. No, I wasn't exactly angry at Thor, but I was angry at Nazis. And really, being Nazis, they deserve the rabid dislike I feel for them. Out of all of the Norse gods, Thor has retained the biggest presence in the public eye which has been good and bad for his everlasting rep.

The Good: He has his own comic book series, not to mention an upcoming movie just about him. He'll also be in the Avengers movie if that gets made.

The Bad: Ideal poster boy for the Nazi's 'master race' scheme. The religious symbol of his crossed hammers is now better known as the swastika and, this needs repeating, the Nazis liked him. To quote an LOL cat, the Nazis liking anything is a big DO NOT WANT for whatever that thing is.

However, if you can put aside the corruption of asshats (that's a scientific term) who steal symbols to twist them to evil purposes, then Thor himself was a pretty cool guy. He was, by far, the most popular of the Norse gods partially because, unlike Odin, he didn't require any human sacrifices. As far as the mythology goes, Thor is in more stories then any other god. He was also the god that the people were the most reluctant to give up. His aforementioned religious symbol didn't start out swastika shaped. Originally, the symbol was a regular hammer shape which the wearer wore upside down. (See image) When Christianity came to the area the believers, wanting to cover both of their bases, started making symbols of two hammers, crossed into an X, in a sort of cross and Thor mix. This symbol eventually turned into the infamous swastika. I've been told (but have found no evidence to back it up) that the German Iron Cross was based on the crossed hammers as well, but I don't know how true that is.

Thor was one of Odin's many children who he had with the giantess Jörd. In appearance, Thor was a big burly man with red hair and a bushy beard. Physically, he was the strongest of the gods, but he still had plenty of items to increase his strength. Around his waist he wore the belt Megingjord which increased his strength and he also had the iron gauntlets Járngreipr which enabled him to wield his most famous weapon, the hammer Mjöllnir. He was married to the goddess Sif, who was a golden haired goddess of fertility. With her he had at least one child, his daughter Thrud, and possibly a son. However, like his father, Thor was known to sleep around with giantesses and had his two most famous children, Magni and Modi, with the giantess Járnsaxa. Magni and Modi are really only worth mentioning as they will be one of the very few persons to survive Ragnarok and will come to rule the world in the mythic future.

One of my favorite things about Thor is that his worshipers felt comfortable enough to be able to have a bit of fun at his expense. Such was the case when Thor, in a hissy fit, lost his hammer.

How Thor Got His Hammer Back

Now I say 'lost his hammer,' but the mythology is unclear. My favorite retelling of the story has Thor, in a fit of impotent rage, going fishing for Jörmungandr (the Midgard serpent). After fishing the monster up he threw Mjöllnir at it and, to his horror, the serpent swallowed the hammer. Later, the serpent threw the hammer up onto the shores of Jotunheim, the home of the frost giants which starts the story. However, the other version of the tale has Mjöllnir being mysteriously stolen in circumstances that are unclear. Since this story only appears in the Poetic Edda and I only have access to the Prose, I'm going to have to go with what Wikipedia says... Which means that the hammer goes missing for reasons unclear. Blast it. The fishing story is kind of funny.

After realizing that his hammer had gone missing, Thor rushed over to the only person who might have taken it, Loki. "Do I look that stupid to you?" Loki asked, after Thor had asked him if he'd stolen Mjöllnir. Thor decided not to answer and instead asked Loki to go out and find the hammer. Grumbling, Loki went to Freyja and borrowed her feather robe which would allow him to take the form of a hawk for the search. After flying all over Midgard, Loki met the giant Thrymr who admitted that he had hidden Mjöllnir away. Thrymr promised to return the hammer... but only if he could have Freyja for his wife. Loki returned with this information and Thor hurried over to Freyja's home to tell her to get ready to be married. When Freyja heard about her upcoming nuptials, she threw a fit. So angry was she that her beloved necklace Brísingamen burst into bits. Giving Thor a piece of her mind, she flatly refused to marry the giant and stormed off.

Surprised that she had refused, Thor called a council of the gods who, to his greater surprise, sided with the goddess. Yet, they agreed that the idea of Thor without his hammer was a horrifying one and tried to figure out a way to get it back. Heimdall, quick to come up with a plan before anyone could think of a better idea that didn't involve cross-dressing, proposed that they go through with the marriage but send Thor as the bride! Needless to say, Thor was not amused by this idea and protested that it would be unmanly for him to dress in woman's clothing and regain his hammer through deception. Loki, agreeing with Heimdall for the first and last time, pointed out that if Thor didn't do this then the giants would probably invade Asgard. So Thor grudgingly agreed.

They went to Freyja who, happy that she wasn't going to be the bride, lent Thor some of her clothes as well as her suddenly repaired necklace and her chariot pulled by cats. Miserable, Thor got into the chariot and was further annoyed when Loki ran up, also in woman's clothing, and hopped inside. "I wouldn't miss this for the world," he cheerfully told the other god.

Together, they rode north to Jotunheim until they arrived at Thrymr's kingdom. Once there, Loki claimed he was Freyja's handmaiden and presented his 'mistress' to her future husband. Overjoyed, Thrymr ordered the start of the marriage feast at which Thor ate an entire ox, eight salmon, all of the baked goods intended for the women, and washed it down with three measures of mead. Puzzled, Thrymr turned to Loki and asked him if Freyja was always like this. He'd never seen a woman eat or drink so much before! Not to mention that when he had briefly pulled aside her heavy veil to steal a kiss he'd seen her eyes to be rimmed with red. Loki, thinking quickly, replied that 'Freyja' had been so excited about the upcoming marriage that she hadn't slept or eaten for the eight days. "Be a man," Loki secretly told the other god. "If I can go through childbirth, you can pretend to be a woman for a couple more hours." Thor did not think that this was a fair comparison since Loki didn't seem to entirely mind doing unmanly things, but managed to make it through the rest of the feast without breaking his cover.

After the feast was over, Thrymr ordered the start of the marriage ceremony. As with mortal marriages of the time, the key component was when a hammer was laid on the bride's lap. In mortal ceremonies, this ritual was supposed to be a fertility blessing for the bride. In this ceremony, it was the moment Thor had been waiting for. As soon as the giants had laid Mjöllnir on his lap, he seized it and slayed everyone in the room except for Loki who I like to think was busy giggling hysterically in the corner. Once Thor was done killing everyone, Loki approached the other god. "Feel better?" he asked.

"This never happened," Thor grumbled, pulling uncomfortably at his blood drenched clothes. "Got that? This. Never. Happened."

"Of course not," Loki said. And then promptly went and told everyone who would listen about the time that he and Thor had to cross dress and Thor got married to a giant. Surprisingly, he left off the bit where Freyja gave Thor a tongue lashing Part II when she saw that Thor had ruined her favorite dress, but maybe that last bit is only in my mind.
8 Responses
  1. Amalia T. Says:

    That's the best retelling I've ever heard. I was giggling to myself through the whole story. Way to go!

    Also, of minor note: The swastika doesn't actually come from Thor's crossed hammers. It comes from the ancient eastern religions, and is a symbol of the god Brahma in the Hindu faith, representing both creation and destruction of the universe, basically. Thor's crossed hammers do in fact offer a resemblance, yes, and you're absolutely correct that there is an attraction to Norse mythology by the Nazi's (especially in modern times), which they twist into a justification for white supremacy, but I've never seen any evidence that indicates Hitler ripped it off from Thor, and was taught, in fact, that he did rip it off from the far eastern cultures, which consider it a gross perversion.

    I'd be interested in seeing any evidence you've found regarding the link between Hitler himself, the Swastika, and those hammers though. So that I, too, can be horribly offended and upset--because if it isn't true, it bothers me that it's being spread, and if it is true, it bothers me that the Norse mythology has that history of perversion as well as the modern supremacist garbage.

  2. Mimzy Says:

    Hey Amalia! Glad you enjoyed it! I was giggling myself throughout writing the story as well.

    The thing about the swastika is that it seems to be one of those symbols that argues the universal unconsciousness theory of humanity. While I'm not going to say that people of the the Norse and Hindi faith never met (because they probably did), the symbol seems to have evolved in both cultures separately. At the same time it appears in Aztec and Mayan artifacts as well as among the Zuni, Blackfoot, and Navaho tribes of North America which probably weren't affected by Buddhism or Hinduism.

    In Hitler's case, idealizing the Aryan race, he probably took the swastika symbol without ever realizing that other cultures used it too. Even if he had known he probably wouldn't have cared either. For examples of the swastika being used as a German symbol before Germany there is the elephant gate of Copenhagen (although that is in Denmark)which has giant swastikas carved into the sides of the elephants. The swastika also appears in a lot of the heraldry coat of arms of the times, but I couldn't find any images of those. Heck, it was hard enough finding pictures of the elephant gate, and I knew that existed since I saw a BBC news article several years back when a Jewish organization was trying to get swastikas removed from the gates.

    For a more dry but far more accurate source there is the ever wonderful Northvegr article. There's also a more condensed article that appeared in The American Theosophist in 1975 that talks about all of the places the swastika is found although for some reason the author for the article is unknown. Considering the scholarly tone, I would have thought that somebody would have known who wrote it.

  3. Mimzy Says:

    Bah, my link to the elephant gate didn't show up. Here it is in non-pretty linked form.


    Probably a good thing it didn't link properly because it inspired me to make a last ditch effort to find out more about the gate. It was built in 1901 by a brewery company. Curiously, I finally found the information about the gate itself only after I left out the word 'swastika' from my search. That, and the vast majority of the images that pop up once you leave off the swastika bit show the gate from the front so you can see the nice elephants... without being able to see the giant swastikas on their sides.


  4. Amalia T. Says:

    The symbol does comes from a lot of places, but Hitler's definition of it's meaning (Generation of Life, like Brahma) seems to come from the far east, NOT Thor and Mjolnir, which leads me to believe he was perfectly aware of the other cultural meanings and uses involved. Hitler wasn't an idiot--a terrible, terrible man, but not an idiot. While it is tempting to attribute his evil to ignorance, because we don't want to believe an educated person would engage in such horrifying agendas and atrocities, I don't think we can or should.

    Maybe I'm totally wrong, and in denial. The whole perversion of ANY faith to justify mass murder just cheeses me off to put it mildly, no matter who is using it--and Thor is kind of my favorite, so it's possible I'm repressing :-/ I do know that modern nazis are clinging to Norse Mythology, and I would not be surprised if they were projecting that backwards onto Hitler. That makes a lot more sense to me, personally. But again, I could be deluding myself. (I also like to dream that the Sea Peoples of ancient times were Marauding Norsemen, even though I know it can't be true :( )

    Thanks for the links, I'll definitely be taking a look at them.

    I've really been enjoying your Norse Mythology Mondays :) And I appreciate your explanation and response today!

  5. Gary Corby Says:

    I agree with Amalia, I love your Norse posts. Can we have one on Freyja please?

    After all the erudite commentry I'm going to bring the tone down several notches by mentioning Elephant Beer, which was named for the Elephant Gates. It's one of the strongest beers in the world: you need the constitution of an elephant to drink a lot of it.

  6. Mimzy Says:

    **waves** Hey Gary!

    If I could stand German beers in general, I would try this Elephant Beer just to see how it tastes. Alas, the strongest beer I can handle is Guinness and that is only because I trained myself to like it to embrace my Irish heritage. (I still think it tastes pretty bad though.)

    Freyja is coming! I'm planning on hitting up Freyr first since he finishes up the triple god with Odin and Thor, but I personally think that Freyja is the more important of the two.

  7. Sqrt(D) Says:

    The telling of this story is fantastic. I love it.

  8. Hi Mimzy,
    Amalia T sent me over. This is a most excellent telling of the tale. I, too, laughed out loud.

    I love the interplay between Loki and Thor. You just know those guys were brothers.