Thor

Annie Lee | Jul 4, 2022

Table of Content

Summary

Thor is the god of Thunder in Norse mythology. He is one of the main gods of the Nordic pantheon. He was venerated in the whole Germanic world. We find different forms and spellings of his name according to the periods and regions of the Germanic world: Þórr in Old Norse, Þunor in Anglo-Saxon, Þonar in West Frisian, Donar in Old High German, etc. Initially, Thor is "Thunder", an attribute of the Father Sky.

His cult in the ancient Germanic world was first reported by external chroniclers, notably Tacitus. However, the myths associated with him are mainly found in the Eddas, much later Scandinavian texts written and compiled around the 13th century, a few centuries after the official Christianization of the last Viking kingdoms and the Völuspá.

According to these Norse texts, Thor is the most powerful of the warrior gods. Symbolizing strength, valor, agility and victory, he uses lightning and calms or excites storms. His powers are thus linked to the sky. He has a chariot pulled by two goats that allows him to cross the worlds. His most famous attribute is his hammer Mjöllnir, with which he creates lightning, and which allows him to be the protector of gods and men against the forces of chaos, such as the giants, which he regularly slaughters and of which he is the worst enemy. As god of the storm, he brings rain, which also makes him a deity linked to fertility. He is the son of Odin and Jörd, and his wife is the golden-haired goddess Sif.

Etymology

The form Thor is the common spelling for the Norse god, but it is also an anthroponym. The usual Norse spelling is Þórr, runic ᚦᚢᚱ (þur). It is also the Norse word for thunder: þórr, from an older þónr "thunder". Like the West Germanic words (Old High German thonar, donir donar > German Donner all meaning "thunder"), it comes from the common Germanic *þonaroz or *þunraz meaning "thunder". This theonym is based on a hypothetical Indo-European root *(s)ten-, *(s)tenh₂- > *terh2- "to cross over to its end", which enters a network consisting of two other roots implying the idea of "to strike", *perh2- "to strike while crossing over" and *kerh2- "to give blows", which poets have constituted by change of the initial consonant.

Nicknames

Thor has a multitude of names that are mentioned in the Eddas and other Norse poems. He is most regularly referred to as Asa-Thor, especially in the Gylfaginning of Snorri Sturluson's prose Edda. From the Old Icelandic Ása-Þórr, it literally means "Thor of the Aesir" or "Thor, who belongs to the race of the Aesir gods". He is also nicknamed Aka-Thor (Old Icelandic Aka-Þórr). The verb aka means "to drive", "to move" (in a chariot, wagon, etc.), which is relevant for a god who drives a chariot pulled by two goats.

The kenning (plural, kenningar) is a figure of speech in Scandinavian poetry that consists in replacing a word, or the name of a character or a creature by a periphrase. In chapter 11 of the Skáldskaparmál part of Snorri's Edda, the author reveals the kennings that can designate Thor ("Son of Odin and Jörd, Father of Magni and Módi and Thrúdr, Husband of Sif, Father-in-law of Ullr, Wielder and Owner of Mjöllnir and the Belt of Force, and of Bilskirnir, Protector of Ásgard and Midgard, Adversary and death of the Giants and Troll-women, Executioner of Hrungnir, Geirrödr and Thrívaldi, Master of Thjálfi and Röskva, Enemy of the Serpent of Midgard, adopted son of Vingnir and Hlóra".

Family and residence

According to the Eddas, Thor is the son of the sovereign god Odin and the personification of the Earth Jörd. He is the husband of Sif, with whom he had a daughter Thrúd. With his mistress, the giantess Járnsaxa, he had Magni. The name of the mother of his second son Modi, is unknown to this day. Thor also has a stepson, the god Ull, who is the child of Sif, but his father is not mentioned in the preserved texts.

Thor resides in a mansion called Bilskirnir ("Glittering Shard"), located in the kingdom of Þrúðheimr ("Stay of Strength") or Þrúðvangr ("Field(s) of Strength"), which contains 540 rooms, where he lives with his family. This mansion is the largest building in existence.

Attributes and functions

Thor is a very powerful warrior, with a colossal and unequalled strength. His magic belt, called Megingjord, increases his strength even more. He has a short-handled war hammer called Mjöllnir that always returns to Thor's hand when he throws it. This hammer also creates lightning. To manipulate its handle he uses iron gloves called Járngreipr. The Mjöllnir is Thor's main weapon when fighting the giants. This uniquely shaped hammer became a very popular ornament during the Viking Age, and was worn as a pendant.

Thor travels through the sky in his chariot, pulled by two goats named Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr ("Gritting Teeth" and "Sparkling Teeth"). He travels with his servant and messenger Thjálfi and the latter's sister Roskva. The Edda of Snorri relates that Thor can roast his goats when he is hungry and then bless the bones and skins with the Mjöllnir in order to resurrect them to resume their functions. However, the bones must not have been broken.

Thor is the ultimate defender of Midgard and the guardian of gods and men against the giants. This is why he is one of the most revered gods. Thor is the god of the storm (and thus by extension, of fertility) and of the warrior force.

Thor was the most popular of the Norse gods. He was the favorite god of the humble and it was also to him that newlyweds asked for a blessing. Thor, with his hammer, the Mjöllnir, is the protector of blacksmiths, craftsmen and farmers.

Its frequency in the names of people and places symbolizes its immense popularity. In Uppsala, Adam of Bremen shows him in the place of honor. His attributes go far beyond his warlike functions. He is the protector of livestock and crops. His hammer, Mjöllnir, is not only an instrument of destruction, but it is the instrument with which the god consecrates the solemnity of an assembly, of a rite. It is probably for this reason that many Runic inscriptions end with the formula: "May Thor consecrate these runes".

For Hilda Ellis Davidson, the cult of Thor was related to the dwelling and possessions of men, and the well-being of the family and community. This included the fertility of the fields, and Thor, though depicted primarily as a storm god in myth, was also concerned with fertility and the preservation of the seasonal season. "In our time, small stone axes from the 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. The marriage of Thor with golden-haired Sif, of which we hear little in the myths, seems to be a reminder of the ancient symbol of the divine marriage between the god of the sky and the goddess of the earth, when he comes to earth in the storm and the storm brings the rain that makes the fields fertile. In this way, Thor, as well as Odin, can be seen to continue the worship of the sky god that was known in the Bronze Age."

Outdoors in the Scandinavian world

The Germans and their beliefs are first mentioned in Roman accounts. Tacitus' Germania, an ethnological text written around the year 98, is probably the earliest preserved mention of the god Thor among the Germans. By interpretatio romana, Tacitus substitutes the Germanic name of Thor for that of Hercules. We read in chapter 1 of part 9:

"It is Mercury that they venerate the most. To conciliate him, they go so far as to sacrifice human beings to him on certain days and find this in conformity with the divine laws. As for Hercules and Mars, they appease them by offering them the animals required for this rite."

- Germania, IX, 1

Mercury then corresponds to the god Odin, Hercules to Thor and Mars to Týr.

The god Thor is mentioned by the German Christian chronicler Adam of Bremen in his Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum written during the second half of the 11th century.

"It is said that he governs the air which commands thunder and lightning, winds and showers, fair weather and the fruits of the earth Thórr, with his scepter, seems to represent Jupiter."

- Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, IV, 26

This confirms Thor's place beyond his warlike function; he is also a god of fertility. This passage is also an example of interpretatio germanica making Thor the equivalent of the Roman Jupiter (see below).

Thor appears quite degraded in Normandy, since he is reduced to a kind of domestic goblin in Wace, a Norman poet of the twelfth century, who tells that the archbishop of Rouen, Mauger, had a small private goblin Toret ("little Thor") who came only at his call and who could be heard, but not seen.

Wace, Roman de Rou, c. 971-972.

In the late Scandinavian texts

The Alvíssmál is a didactic poem, similar to another Eddic poem, the Vafþrúðnismál, since it features two mythical characters playing games of questions and answers about the worlds. Here we understand that Thor's daughter is promised to Alvíss, a dwarf. Then Thor, who is opposed to the marriage, explains to her that he will only have her consent if he manages to answer all her questions about the worlds. At first, the dwarf answers correctly to each question, but Thor succeeded in his ruse to get rid of the dwarf, the god reveals in the last verse that the Sun has risen. The dwarf Alvíss ends up petrified by the light of the Sun.

In this poem, Thor's role is surprising. Here, he solves his problem by a subterfuge, a ruse, which is however not his usual way. Indeed, in other myths, the thunder god is content to get rid of his enemies by force or threat.

Thor is quickly referred to in the Grímnismál when the god Odin describes the heavenly abodes to his adopted son Agnarr. He explains in stanza 4 that Thor resides in the realm of Thrǘdheimr ("Stay of Strength," which is where his residence Bilskirnir is located), and that he will remain there until the end of the world; the Ragnarök.

Hárbarðsljóð is introduced by a short prose text that sets the scene. Thor arrives from the world of the giants at a strait and sees a ferryman with his boat on the other side.

The verses begin when Thor asks the ferryman to introduce himself, and the ferryman's response introduces him from the start as a sarcastic, even insulting character. Thor asks to take him across the strait in exchange for a meal, but the ferryman responds with insults, and tells him that his name is Hárbardr ("Greybeard", which is one of Odin's names, so it is probably the god Odin hiding under another guise and mocking Thor). A series of exchanges follows, where Hárbardr praises his sexual prowess, and his magical and tactical abilities, asking progressively what Thor did at that time. Thor answers successively by telling his adventures where he killed giants and protected the worlds of gods (Ásgard) and men (Midgard). After having insulted him all this time, Hárbardr tells Thor to make a detour if he wants to pass, then he curses him.

Humor, sometimes crude, is very present in some mythological texts, so Hárbarðsljóð is no exception. It contrasts Thor, frank, naive and clumsy, and the cunning and refined Odin. This poem faithfully transcribes the personalities of these gods and testifies to the very human and familiar way in which the Vikings perceived them.

In the Hymiskviða, Thor asks the giant Ægir for a feast, but Ægir then asks for a cauldron big enough to brew beer for all the Aesir. When the gods can't find one, the god Týr offers to get such a cauldron from his father the giant Hymir. So Thor and Týr go to Hymir and the giant receives them with great displeasure. The giant tests Thor's strength and courage several times. Thor eats two oxen at dinner by himself. Then, Hymir proposes to go fishing with an ox head as bait. They rowed out to sea and the giant was reluctant to go further, and he pulled two whales by himself. As for Thor, he pulls the serpent-world Jörmungand and hits it with his hammer, which makes the earth tremble. Then the snake sinks into the sea. Hymir is displeased and directs the boat to the way back. He then doubts that Thor has the strength to bring the boat back to shore but the god carries it to the farm. But Hymir still doubts Thor's strength and challenges him to break one of his cups. Thor throws the cup at Hymir's skull and it shatters. Hymir agrees that Thor and Týr can take the cauldron if they can lift it. Týr tries to lift it, but to no avail. So Thor goes to work and by crossing the floor he manages to lift the cauldron and leaves with it. The gods are quickly pursued by giants, and Thor slays them all with his hammer. He brings the cauldron back to Ægir and since then, every autumn, the gods can drink beer at Ægir's feast.

In Hyndluljóð, Thor is mentioned briefly in stanza 4 when Freyja explains to the völva Hyndla that Thor will always be loyal to her even if he does not like the wives of giants.

In the Lokasenna, the prose introduction explains that the giant Ægir has invited the Aesir to his banquet, almost all the main gods are present except Thor because he is on an expedition to the east. At the feast, the evil god Loki is irritated and attacks the gods in a verbal joust, insulting and offending almost each of them in turn. Then, in stanza 57, Thor comes back from his expedition, and threatens Loki to keep quiet:

There follows an exchange between the two gods until the end of the poem, where Thor is nevertheless content to respond with redundant threats not very different from stanza 57. Loki criticizes Thor because he will not have the courage to fight the wolf Fenrir at the prophetic battle of Ragnarök when the latter engulfs Odin (Thor will in fact be busy fighting the snake Jörmungand, and they will give each other death). Loki also laughs at Thor's ridiculous expedition to the giant Útgarða-Loki as told in the Gylfaginning (see below). Finally, Loki is impressed by Thor's threats and decides to go out because he knows that Thor will carry them out. He then curses the banquet of Ægir. The poem is concluded by a prose text telling the story of Loki hiding in the form of a salmon in a waterfall while the gods chase him. They capture him and inflict upon him the ordeal he will endure until Ragnarök, also detailed in the Gylfaginning.

For a long time, scholars believed that this poem was of Christian influence, for the contempt it shows to the deities through the insults of Loki. However, today, the authentic paganism of this text probably composed around the year 1000 is no longer in doubt. Loki's mythical references are confirmed in other writings, and this parodic genre is classic of mythological texts. Moreover, Thor is relatively spared from serious insults, the author of the poem probably did not want to offend him.

The burlesque myth of the theft of Thor's hammer is told in the Eddic poem Þrymskviða. Thor wakes up and finds his hammer Mjöllnir missing. Loki flies to the world of the giants to find it, and meets the giant Þrymr who declares that he has taken it, and will only return it in exchange for the hand of the goddess Freyja. Loki returns to inform Thor, and Freyja is furious and refuses to give herself to the giant. The god Heimdall proposes to disguise Thor as a bride to deceive the giant, which he then does not without reluctance. Loki accompanies him disguised as a maid. The two gods are welcomed at a banquet of the giant who is deceived by the subterfuge. The giant notices some strange elements in the way his wife acts; she eats and drinks much more than one would expect. Loki in disguise explains that this is because she has traveled eight nights in a row without eating in her eagerness to give her hand. Þrymr then asks why she has such angry eyes. Loki answers that it is because she has not slept for eight nights in her haste to give her hand. Þrymr orders the hammer to be brought to him to consecrate the bride, so Thor grabs it, throws off his disguise, and kills Þrymr before slaughtering his entire family.

If the theme of the poem undoubtedly emanates from an authentic myth, this version written in the thirteenth century, probably by Snorri Sturluson, betrays its Christianity by its obviously satirical tone, amused by Thor's gluttony and brutality, without however being scornful.

In the famous poem Völuspá, which describes in detail the events of the prophetic battle of Ragnarök during which the majority of the gods perish, Thor is mentioned in stanza 56 by the kenning "glorious son of Hlódyn". The stanza mentions his fight against the Midgard serpent Jörmungand, where exhausted after the fight he retreats nine steps without shame. It is stated in Snorri's Edda that he slays the snake before succumbing after nine steps to the monster's venom (see below).

Snorri's Edda is a prose narrative of Norse mythology written in the 13th century by the Icelandic diplomat and Christian Snorri Sturluson. The author was inspired by the myths told in the Eddic and Scaldic poems, from which he regularly quotes verses, as well as by the oral tradition still present despite the official conversion of Iceland a few centuries earlier in the year 1000. If some of the myths told in Snorri's Edda are known elsewhere, others are not, so his work is the only witness to these legends. The question of the veracity of these stories, of their Christian influence, of the author's inventions, or of faithful testimonies of pre-Christian beliefs, is then raised among specialists. Whatever the case, this late work remains an essential source, and the most complete we have, of Norse mythology.

The Prologue to Snorri's Edda is an evhemeristic account of Norse mythology, where the gods are in fact men from Troy. From a mythological point of view, this prologue is not to be taken seriously since it is an invention of the author.

Snorri Sturluson explains that in Troy there were twelve kingdoms ruled by kings, one of whom called Múnón married Tróán who was the daughter of the high king Priam. From their union was born Trór, whom we know as Thor. The child was brought up with the duke Lóríkus in Thrace. The child had blond hair, and at the age of 12 he had all the strength of a man. He killed his adoptive parents and took for himself the kingdom of Thrace, which is called Thrǘdheimr. He conquered many lands and defeated the greatest of the dragons. He married the prophetess Síbil whom we know as Sif, who was the most beautiful of all women, and had golden hair. With her he had a son Lóriði and then 17 generations of descendants until Vóden, who we know as Odin. Odin and his sons migrated to Europe, and are the ancestors of the Scandinavian royal dynasties.

The first part of Snorri's Edda, called the Gylfaginning, features the Swedish king Gylfi traveling to the world of the gods, disguised as Gangleri. He is greeted by three figures seated on a throne, Hár, Jafnhár and Þriði (High, Also High and Third) who willingly submit to his questions, explaining the cosmogony and adventures of the gods.

The first mention of Thor in the Gylfaginning is in chapter 9. After the creation of the Earth and the first pair of men by Odin, the text explains that Odin marries the Earth to give birth to Thor:

"The earth was his daughter, and also his wife; it was from her that he had the first of his sons, namely Asa-Thor, in whom strength and vigor were innate - that is why he triumphed over all living things."

- Gylfaginning, chapter 9

In chapter 15, we understand that the gods use the rainbow bridge Bifröst to get to the Aesir council in Ásgard. Thor has to make the journey on foot since he is too heavy to use the bridge.

From chapter 20 on, all the main gods of the Nordic pantheon are presented. Thor is the second god to be introduced after Odin, in chapter 21, which shows his importance. He is described as "the most eminent" of the Aesir and "the strongest of all gods and men". He has a hall of 640 bays, Bilskirnir, the largest known building. This chapter also explains that Thor owns a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. He also owns three precious objects, the hammer Mjöllnir with which he has killed many giants, a belt of strength that doubles his strength when he wears it, and iron gloves without which he could not grasp the handle of his hammer. Thor has accomplished so many feats that it would be impossible to list them all.

In chapter 29, we learn that the god Vidar is "almost as strong as Thor". The Earth is personified in the goddess Ase Jörd in chapter 36, when it is specified that she is the mother of Thor.

In chapter 42 of the Gylfaginning, a master builder presents himself to the gods at the beginning of time and proposes to build them a fortress in only three semesters, which will protect them from the giants. He then asks for payment from the goddess Freyja, the Sun and the Moon on condition that he succeeds in his feat. The gods accept, thinking that he will not succeed. But the stranger, with the help of his horse Svadilfari, starts the construction at an impressive speed. Worried that he will succeed in his feat, the gods hold a council and force Loki to prevent the stranger from finishing his work in time. Loki transforms into a mare in rut to distract the stranger's horse, thus preventing him from completing his task in time. The master builder is furious and reveals his true identity as a giant. The gods summon Thor who smashes his skull with his hammer.

Chapters 44 to 47 of the Gylfaginning tell the legend of Thor in the home of the giant king Útgarða-Loki. Gangleri asks Hár, Jafnhár and Þriði to tell him a story where Thor was dominated by force or magic. At first they are reluctant, but then they agree. Thor and Loki are hosted by a peasant for the night. Thor's goats are used as a meal but Thjálfi, the peasant's son, breaks a bone to get the marrow. The next morning, Thor blesses the remains of the resurrected goats, but one of them limps. Furious, he accuses the peasants of having broken a bone. Terrified, they agree to give him their two children as servants, Thjálfi and Roskva.

In chapter 45, the party goes on an expedition to Jötunheim, and they settle down in a very large house for the night. The next morning they discover a giant just outside called Skrymir, and the house they slept in is in fact his glove. Then the gods and the giant walk together until the next nightfall. Skrymir lies down under an oak tree and proposes to the others to eat provisions in his bag, but Thor does not manage to untie the ties. Furious, he strikes three times with a hammer on Skrymir's head during his sleep, but the giant wakes up each time asking respectively if a leaf, an acorn and a twig have fallen on his head. Then Skrymir leaves them, saying that Utgard's fort lies further on, where Útgarða-Loki rules, and where the giants are much bigger. He advises them not to go there, or else to behave politely.

In chapter 46 the companions arrive at the huge fort of Utgard and present themselves to King Útgarða-Loki who, mocking their small size, asks them if they have any talent superior to other men. Loki answers that he eats faster than anyone else. He then competes with a certain Logi who defeats him in a game. Thjálfi says that he is faster than all men, but he loses his race against a boy named Hugi. Thor claims that he is a good drinker, so the king gives him a horn to drink, but Thor, out of breath, barely manages to lower the level of the drink in the horn after three strokes. Laughing at his weakness, Útgarða-Loki offers Thor to try to lift his cat, but the god manages with difficulty to lift one of his legs. Furious at the king's mockery, Thor asks for someone to wrestle with him. The king then makes him fight his old nurse Elli who succeeds in putting Thor on one knee.

In chapter 47, we read that the next morning the king accompanies them out of the kingdom and asks Thor if he had ever met a more powerful opponent, to which Thor replies that he has indeed suffered a great dishonor. Then Útgarða-Loki explains to him the visual illusions he made them undergo. He confesses that he was the giant Skrymir and the bonds of his bag were of bewitched iron. Moreover, the three hammer blows actually missed him and created three deep valleys. Loki had fought against the wild fire, and Thjálfi against his spirit. The horn that Thor aimed at was connected to the ocean and the god aimed so much that he created the tides, the cat was actually the Midgard snake that Thor still managed to lift, and finally the old woman that he fought was actually a personification of old age. All the witnesses were impressed and terrified by the prowess of the three companions, which far exceeded their expectations. Furious, Thor raised his hammer to strike the giant, but the giant disappeared along with his fort.

Chapter 48 of the Gylfaginning tells of Thor's fishing trip with the giant Hymir, similar to the Eddic poem Hymiskviða (see above) but with notable differences. Thor, in the guise of a young boy, goes to the home of the giant Hymir who takes him in for the night. The next day, Thor goes with the giant to fish, although the giant doubts a boy's ability to fish in the open sea. Thor insists, and takes as bait the head of an ox that he has torn off with his own hands. The two protagonists row on the high seas at a prodigious speed. Then Hymir worries that the boat is being taken too far out to sea, which is dangerous because of the Midgard serpent, Jörmungand. But Thor insists despite the giant's fear. Thor throws the hook into the sea and catches Jörmungand. Pulling the line furiously, Thor's two feet go through the boat. Terrified, the giant Hymir cuts the fishing line as Thor is about to strike the monster with his hammer. Then Thor hits the giant, propelling him overboard, and walks back.

In chapter 49 of the Gylfaginning we learn the circumstances of the murder of the god Baldr by a trick of Loki. The corpse of the god is burned at sea on his boat. With his hammer, Thor consecrates the pyre. At this moment, the dwarf Lit runs to his feet, so the thundering god kicks him, throwing him into the flames. Loki then cunningly prevents Baldr from returning from the world of the dead. Chapter 50 explains the capture of the god Loki and the punishment that follows, the causes of which are, however, different from those of the eddic poem Lokasenna (see above). With the gods in pursuit, Loki metamorphoses into a salmon and hides in a river. The gods use a fishing net and go up and down the river to catch him, with Thor holding one end and all the other gods the other. But Loki escapes them by jumping over the net. The gods do it again but with Thor walking in the middle of the river. This time, when Loki jumps, Thor firmly grabs his tail, and from then on all the salmon have a thin body at the back. The Aesir then take Loki to a cave. They also take Loki's sons, Vali and Narfi, and metamorphose the first into a wolf who then devours the second. With Narfi's guts, they bind Loki to three stones and tie a poisonous snake on top so that its venom drips down his face. Loki's wife, Sigyn, stays by his side with a bowl to collect the drops, but as soon as she turns around to empty it, the venom drips onto Loki's face causing him so much pain that it results in earthquakes. The evil god is thus condemned to this ordeal until Ragnarök, when all chains will break.

The Ragnarök, told in chapter 51 of the Gylfaginning, is a prophetic end of the world where all the gods and men confront Loki, the giants and all the forces of chaos. Almost all the gods perish. Odin confronts the wolf Fenrir and is swallowed up, and Thor cannot come to his aid as he fights the Midgard serpent Jörmungand. The god kills the monster and takes nine steps before succumbing in turn to the snake's venom. This is also mentioned in the Völuspá (see above).

Chapter 53 explains the stages of renewal after this end of the world, and we read that Thor's sons, Modi and Magni, survive and are in possession of his hammer Mjöllnir. This is also stated in stanza 51 of the Eddic poem Vafþrúðnismál, but Thor is not mentioned there.

In the second part of Snorri's Edda entitled the Skáldskaparmál, the giant Ægir is welcomed at a feast of the Aesir. The god Bragi then tells him about the adventures of the gods. In chapter 1, we learn that Thor is among the twelve Aesir participating in the banquet.

Chapter 3 tells the story of Odin luring the giant Hrungnir to the realm of the gods, Ásgard, while Thor is in the east killing trolls. The gods invite Hrungnir to their banquet. Drunk, the giant insults and threatens the gods who summon Thor. The giant and Thor agree to meet to fight because Hrungnir was unarmed. Worried about losing the strongest of theirs, the giants create a huge clay man called Mokkurkalfi, with whom Hrungnir welcomes Thor, accompanied for his part by his servant Thjálfi. The latter warns the giant that Thor will attack him from below. Then Hrungnir places his stone shield under his feet, but Thor arrives in front and throws his hammer. In response, the giant throws his whetstone and a piece of it goes into Thor's head, while his hammer smashes the giant's head. The giant falls on Thor, imprisoning him, while Thjálfi slays the clay man. Afterwards, the Aesir try to free Thor, but only his three-night-old son Magni succeeds. The witch Groa tries to magically remove the piece of whetstone stuck in Thor's skull, but in vain. Since that day, it is forbidden to throw whetstones on the ground because they would resonate in the fragment stuck in the head of the thunder god.

In chapter 4, Loki flying in the form of a falcon is captured by the giant Geirröd. Geirrod hates Thor and demands that Loki lure him to his home. Loki agrees to take Thor into this trap in exchange for his life. Loki convinces Thor to come to Geirrod's domain without his hammer, nor his magic belt, nor his gloves. On the way to Geirröd's kingdom, Thor is welcomed by the giantess Gríðr who reveals the real purpose and gives him his iron gloves, Járngreipr, his magic belt, Megingjord and a spear. Then Thor crosses the river Vimur to the kingdom of Geirröd, but when he is halfway across, the water rises to his shoulders. He then understands that Gjálp, the giant's daughter, is causing the flood so the god throws a stone at him to prevent him from causing more harm. Loki and Thor arrive at the giant's house who puts Thor on a seat. Suddenly, his seat rises to the roof. Thor then forces against the frame and puts all his weight on it which completes to break the back of Geirröd's daughters, Gjálp and Greip, who were lifting his chair. The giant then tries to kill Thor by throwing a piece of red-hot iron at him, but Thor catches it in mid-air and throws it back across his body.

In Chapter 5, the prankster Loki cuts the hair of Thor's wife, Sif, while she sleeps. With Thor furious, Loki promises to retrieve from the dark elves a golden hair for Sif that would grow back like the other hair. Loki then finds the dwarves who make the golden hair as well as the ship Skidbladnir and Odin's spear, Gungnir. Then Loki bets his head to the dwarves Brokk and his brother Eitri that they could not make such precious objects. They create the golden silk boar of Freyr named Gullinbursti, the golden ring of Odin Draupnir, and the hammer of Thor Mjöllnir which has a short handle because Loki distracted the dwarves during its manufacture so that they lose the bet. The Aesir decide anyway that the brothers Brokk and Eitri have created the most precious objects since the hammer will protect the gods from the giants. Loki escapes to save his head but Thor catches up with him so that he pays his dues to the dwarves. Loki then declares that it is his head that he has pawned, and not his neck, so the dwarves just sew his lips.

The author of the Edda, Snorri Sturluson, used some of the scaldic poems in writing his work, which were texts of very elaborate and esoteric Viking poets. The stanzas from the Scaldic poems that mention Thor are preserved only in Snorri's Edda, which cites them to illustrate the myths that he transcribes into prose. The poems mentioning Thor are Haustlöng 14-20, Húsdrápa, Ragnarsdrápa 14-20, and three other poems bearing the name þórsdrápa.

The Gesta Danorum (Gesture of the Danes) is a work in Latin written at the end of the twelfth century by the historian Saxo Grammaticus at the request of the statesman Absalon, who ruled Denmark at the time and wished to provide his country with a true national epic. Saxo Grammaticus presents in his work the history of the first Danish heroes and kings, he was inspired by pre-Christian myths and proposed a strongly evhemeristic version in which the Nordic gods are in fact men of superior power who pretended to be deities. In chapter 2 of Book Two, we read of the warrior hero Regnerus that "except for the god Thor, no supernatural power frightened him.

The first chapters of Book Three tell of the rivalry between Høtherus (who corresponds to the god Höd) and Balderus (who corresponds to the god Baldr) for the hand of the princess Nanna. A battle follows in chapter 2 that seems to oppose men (on the side of Høtherus) and gods (on the side of Balderus). Odin, Thor and other deities fight for Baldr. With his club, Thor slaughters everyone in his path. We read that "against Thor, there was no point in being of good stature or great strength". Nevertheless, Høtherus manages to cut the handle of Thor's club, rendering his weapon useless, so the gods are forced to retreat, leaving the victory to men.

Chapter 5 of Book Six tells the story of the hero Starcatherus. The author explains that a "foolish" popular legend states that the hero was descended from giants, and was born with extra arms which betrayed his ancestry. So the god Thor cut off the extra limbs, giving him a normal appearance. The author goes back to the ancient times when the impostor magicians Thor and Odin pretended to be deities, taking advantage of the credulity and naivety of the men of Scandinavia to the detriment of the "true religion". Consequently, the days of the week bear the names of the false deities (see below). Saxo Grammaticus then criticizes very precisely the interpretatio romana associating Thor with Jupiter.

In chapter 2 of Book Seven, the hero Haldanus is so glorified for his exploits that the Swedes think he is the son of the god Thor.

Thor is mentioned one last time in chapter 14 of Book Eight when the hero Thorkillus explains to his companions the origin of the scene they are witnessing; a breach in a mountain and the corpses of a man and several women. Angered by the insolence of the giants, the god Thor had struck the giant Gerethus with a sword and the weapon continued its course and opened the side of the mountain, then the god struck the giant's wives.

The Eyrbyggja saga is an Icelandic saga of unknown author preserved in two manuscripts of the 13th and 14th centuries. It traces the history of important Icelandic families from the time of colonization to the beginning of the eleventh century, and differs from other Icelandic sagas by its increased interest in folklore, pagan worship and superstitions.

In chapter III, we read that Rolf is a powerful Norwegian chieftain, the guardian of Thor's temple and a "great friend" of the god, so he is nicknamed Thorolf. In this saga, the practice of adding Thor- to the name, in honor of the god, reappears several times and many characters are named in this way. For example, in chapter VII, Thorolf has a son named Stein, and the father gives him to Thor and names him Thorstein, who himself has a son, Grim, whom he names Thorgrim. King Harald banishes Thorolf from Norway, because he has helped an outlaw. In chapter IV, Thorolf makes a sacrifice to the god Thor, and asks him if he should make peace with Harald or seek a life elsewhere. He ends up going to Iceland, and he dismantles Thor's temple to take away the wood. When he reaches Iceland, Thorolf throws the wooden pillars of Thor's high seat into the sea and says that he will settle on the land where these pillars are stranded. But the pillars drift away, and Thorolf lands in an inlet. He then finds the stranded pillars on a land that has since been named Þórsnes. This practice of settling where the pillars of a deity run aground was common, and is attested in other Scandinavian texts such as the Landnámabók and the Egils saga. Thorolf then discovers a river that he names the River of Thor, and it is there that his companions stay. He settles elsewhere and builds his temple to the gods. The temple is described, as well as the religious practices and taboos. In chapter X, we read that there is a Thing in the west and that there is a stone of Thor on which men are sacrificed.

The Heimskringla, or Saga of the Norwegian Kings, is a work written by Snorri Sturluson around the year 1230 describing the history of the Norwegian kings from prehistoric times to his own time. The first part, the Saga of the Ynglingar, tells the story of the prehistoric beginnings of the Swedish royal dynasty from which the Norwegian kings came. To do this, the author Snorri Sturluson used the mythological sources at his disposal, and tells a strongly evhemeristic version of the Nordic myths, so the gods are presented as men. According to chapter 2, Odin is a great warrior leader and magician from Asia ("Asaland") who is worshipped by his men. In chapter 5 he acquires the lands of King Gylfi and gives his priests (who correspond to the Norse gods) dwellings. Thor is then mentioned as one of the priests, he is in Thrudvang. In chapter 7 we learn that Odin and his twelve priests are venerated for their powers so that men take them for gods and will believe in them for a long time. The men give their sons names derived from Thor, such as Thorir, Thorarin, Steinthor and Hafthor.

Thor is then mentioned later in the book, without being an actor. In chapter 17 of the Saga of Haakon the Good, King Haakon is described dedicating his cup to the god Thor and making "the sign of the hammer before drinking". In chapter 69 of the saga of Olaf Tryggvason, the Christian king Olaf enters a pagan temple and sees a golden and silver statue of Thor enthroned there, then described as "the most revered of gods". The king strikes the statue with his axe and it falls off the altar, while all the king's men knock down the other god statues.

Archaeology and art

In France, it is in Normandy that two silver Thor's hammers were discovered in Saint-Pierre-de-Varengeville and Sahurs.

In addition, there are representations in the sculpture of some churches, including the abbey church of Saint-Georges de Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville (Seine-Maritime), the church of Rots (Calvados) and perhaps also the abbey of Graville (Seine-Maritime)

Lexicon

The West Germanic version: German Donar (> German Donner "thunder") and Old English Þunor (> English thunder "thunder") is present in the day names Donnerstag in German and Thursday in English

Onomastics

Thor was a very popular god, so toponymic examples are numerous in the Germanic countries, and testify to ancient places of worship specific to the "thunder god". However, most of the examples must be taken with caution, as they are rather personal names derived from Thor's and thus very diverse and common in Scandinavia, England and Normandy (such as Þórleif, Þórstein, Þórkel, etc.). Places that were real places of worship are more recognizable when they contain the element -ve ("sanctuary"), -hof ("temple, shrine, reliquary"), for -lundr ("grove") it is more uncertain. Thorshof is a frequent type in southern Norway. Others are still uncertain and it is not known whether they are places of worship, such as Thorsåker in Sweden (with -akr "field (cultivated)"). However, in England, the name Thurstable ("pillar of Thor") indicates a place of worship to the god. The same is true of Iceland, an island conquered by the Vikings, which still has a language that is a direct descendant of Old Norse, and on whose territory the name of the god is found in the toponymy, according to the sagas, such as Þórsnes (Saga Eyrbyggja) for example.

The old English place Thunores hlæw ("Thunder's cave, shelter") probably contains the name of the god. In Germany, the toponymy linked to Donar is even rarer, given the earlier conversion to Christianity, however the name of Donnersberg is recurrent there.

In Normandy, many place names are also based on anthroponyms which contain the name of the god, so for example the many Tourville are medieval formations in -ville "rural domain" preceded by the name of an owner who borrows his from the god Þórr or Thor. Only the island of the Seine, the island of Oissel or the island of Sainte-Catherine, could have contained the name of the god itself: indeed, it was formerly called *Thorholm, which we find for example in a title of Robert the Magnificent in 1030 under the Latinized form Torhulmus. This name comes from the Old Norse Þórholmr "island of Thor". This explanation is disputed given the presence of the place Tourville-la-Rivière (Tor villam in 996-1026), just opposite, which can hardly owe its name to the god. This should not be confused with Trouville, which contains the Anglo-Scandinavian anthroponym Torold, a variant of the Norse Þórvaldr (other form Þóraldr) "ruled by Thor" or Þórulfr (other form Þorólfr) "wolf of Thor", depending on the case. The first anthroponym is perpetuated in the old Norman first name Turold which is the origin of the surnames Touroude, Thouroude, Théroude, Throude and Troude. Other Scandinavian personal names based on the name of the god Thor- are frequent in Normandy: Þórfriðr (Þórgisl (Þórketill (Þórlakr (NL Tourlaville, ANP Tourlaque, cf. Rue Tourlaque in Paris), Þórmodr (NL Trémauville, ANP Turmod) and the most frequent anthroponym Þórsteinn "Thor's stone" at the origin of the very numerous surnames Toutain, Toustain and Tostain. On the other hand, there is nothing to link a Norman toponym to a cult of the god Thor. However, there is a curious pleonasm near Bacqueville (Eure): the place called La pierre Toutain, that is to say "the stone of Thor's stone" without it being possible to elucidate its origin and its real meaning. There is nothing to link the names in -lundr (or -lunda) which became -lon, -ron or -londe in Normandy to a "sacred wood or forest", nor to the god Thor. The case of Bois-Tortuit (Grainville-la-Teinturière) is equally doubtful, although Thor is well identified there followed by the Old Norman tuit "essart", of Norse origin Þveit.

General features

By interpretatio germanica, Thor was identified with Jupiter, hence the translation of the Roman weekday Thursday ("Jupiter's day") into a "Thor's day" in Germanic languages (see below). However, this interpretation is wrong since the etymology and function of Jupiter seem to correspond more likely to the Germanic god Týr. The functions of Thor are rather comparable to the demigod Heracles, who possesses a weapon similar to Thor's, and is the enemy of the giants and the defender of the gods.

Thor corresponds to the Gallic thunder god Taranis (or Taranus), of common etymology. Taranis is linked to the Celtic word taran which means "thunder". These divinities would come from the same original thunder god before the dispersion of the two Indo-European peoples.

The Indian god of war and weather, Indra, also has the same functions as Thor. He is a warrior god (the second Dumezilian function) son of the primordial gods, and also fights a demonic serpent, Vṛtrá. Both Indra and Thor possess powerful weapons made by a legendary smith, they also share a tremendous appetite and drinking ability, drive chariots, and regularly go on expeditions to fight demons. These similarities suggest that they are descended from the same proto-Indo-European god.

Other comparable deities are the Slavic god Perun and the Mazdean god Ahura Mazda.

Warrior function

As early as the end of the 1930s, Georges Dumézil, a French philologist and comparativist, formalized his controversial theory of the three Indo-European functions. He defends that the Indo-European peoples, and those of their area of influence, organize their societies as well as their mythologies around three main functions; the sovereign and magical function, the warrior function, and the productive (or fertility) function. This distribution is perceptible in certain peoples in their social organization, but also in the organization of their divine pantheon. The Roman divine triad Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus corresponds to the three functions. In the Scandinavian world, Georges Dumézil proposed that they are Odin, Thor, Freyr (sovereign magician, warrior, and god of fertility. However, he admits that as far as the Germanic pantheon is concerned, this division is not strict since Odin is also a warrior god, and Thor a god linked to fertility.

His influence was so strong that the Christian Norwegians had to add in the paws of the lion represented on the coat of arms of Norway the war axe of Saint Olaf to remind his Viking origin, but also to counterbalance the evocative power of the hammer of Thor.

Neopaganism

Thor is of course a main god among the current neopagans, of the religion Ásatrú or Odinism. His cult is official in some countries like Denmark, Iceland and Norway.

In modern culture

Thor being a major god of Norse mythology, he has inspired many artists and other elements of modern culture. For modern references to Thor's hammer, see the article Mjöllnir.

In season 4 of Epic Rap Battles of History, Thor faces the supreme god of Greek mythology, Zeus.

With his opera Der Ring des Nibelungen, Richard Wagner popularized Norse mythology, and Thor, under the spelling "Donner", is a character in the prologue Das Rheingold.

Other more recent genres of music are sometimes inspired by Norse mythology, notably the genres coming from heavy metal, and especially Viking metal, and in fact they regularly refer to the god Thor. We think for example of Amon Amarth, Enslaved, Falkenbach, and Manowar with the song Thor (the Powerhead), Equilibrium refers to the myth of the theft of Mjöllnir by the giant Thrym in the song Hammer.

In Twilight of the Thunder God, the introductory track of the eponymous album, Amon Amarth depicts Thor's final battle with the serpent Jörmungand, an epic Ragnarok tableau depicting the victory followed by the death of Odin's son.

Many fantasy and science fiction video games naturally refer to Thor, which can then correspond to a powerful character, a spell, a technology or a place:

Sources

  1. Thor
  2. Thor
  3. Jean Haudry, La religion cosmique des Indo-Européens, Paris et Milan, Arche Milan, 1989 (ISBN 978-88-7252-164-9)
  4. a b c Thorshof Journal. «The cult of Thor, then and now». Archivado desde el original el 4 de julio de 2008. Consultado el 9 de marzo de 2008.
  5. de Vries, Jan (1962). Altnordisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Brill Verlag, Leiden. ISBN 90-04-05436-7.
  6. Kluge, Friedrich; Seebold, Elmar (2002). Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Walter de Gruyter Verlag, Berlín. ISBN 3-11-017473-1.
  7. ^ On the red beard and the use of "Redbeard" as an epithet for Thor, see H.R. Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, 1964, repr. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1990, ISBN 0-14-013627-4, p. 85, citing the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason in Flateyjarbók, Saga of Erik the Red, and Flóamanna saga. The Prologue to the Prose Edda says ambiguously that "His hair is more beautiful than gold."
  8. ^ de Vries 1962, p. 618; Orel 2003, p. 429
  9. ^ Orel 2003, p. 429, Delamarre 2003, p. 290
  10. ^ Delamarre 2003, p. 290; Matasović 2009, p. 384; Koch 2020, pp. 142–144.
  11. Erkunde Vikinger Nordisk, Geschichte und noch mehr! In: Pinterest.