If you are a comic book fan, then you might know a thing or two about the hammer-yielding Norse God called Thor, thanks to Marvel Comics. He is the God of Thunder in the Norse mythology and is known for his brawn and quick temper.
According to Norse legends, Thor was the most powerful of all the Aesir which refers to the family of all the Gods and Goddesses of the Norse mythology who lived in Asgard. He was the son of Odin, the patriarch of the Aesir and Jord, the Goddess of the Earth.
Norse Gods were worshiped by Germanic tribes which lived in the Nordic countries before and during Christian era. For them, Thor was a highly revered God. He occupied a central place in almost all their myths and stories.
Having fiery eyes, he was believed to enjoy food and drink. He carried the Mjolnir, a short-handled hammer, in one hand, considered a true manifestation of the God himself. Thor wore Megingjard, a belt that provided him strength and a pair of iron gloves that helped him wield the hammer. One strike of the hammer would throw lightning bolts at his enemies.
He rode through the heavens during thunderstorms in his famous battle chariot drawn by the two goats, Tanngnjóstr and Tanngrisnir. He cooked and ate the goats when he was hungry. However, with just one strike of his hammer, he was able to revive the animals and set out on his journey.
Thor lived in Bilskirnir, a mansion in the kingdom of Thrudheim, with his wife Sif and their daughter Thrud. His abode was hardly humble, being the largest building in the whole of Asgard with 540 rooms.
Besides Thrud, he had a son called Magni with his mistress Járnsaxa, the giantess. He had another son Modi. However, the identity of Modi's mother is not clearly known.
Tales of Thor
Just as is the case with all Gods, Thor has a number of stories and myths associated with him. Of all of them, the one about Thrym stealing his Mjolnir is the most popular.
As legend goes, Thrym, the King of the Thurse (a race of Giants) stole Thor's famous hammer. On discovering this, Thor went with the news of the loss of his hammer to Loki, a giant who had become the blood brother of Odin. Armed with the Feather-Robe given to him by Freyja, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, Loki spoke with Thrym about Thor's missing hammer.
Thrym admitted to have stolen the weapon, but agreed to return it if only Freyja marries him. On hearing this, Freyja became furious and refused to help the Aesir. The Gods suggested that Thor dress up as Freyja and meet Thrym. Thor refused to do so as that would be an antithesis of his image of a powerful God.
However, when Loki reasoned that if the Mjolnir is not retrieved, it could mean the annihilation of all the Gods; Thor reluctantly agreed to meet Thrym disguised as Freyja. Loki also agreed to accompany him as Freyja's girl servant. In Thurse's kingdom, as soon as Thrym placed the Mjolnir on Thor's lap, the Thunder God struck with it and killed all Giants.
According to another Thor legend, he traveled to Utgard, which was inhabited by the Giants. The Giants tested his strength by asking him to drink from a horn. Though Thor was famous for excessive drinking and devouring an entire ox, he was unable to finish up the drink from the horn.
Unsuccessful and angry, Thor was eager to prove his might. The Giants asked him to engage in a trifling game of lifting a cat from the ground. Thor tried his best to raise the cat but could only manage to lift its feet. Next, he was asked to wrestle an old woman but unfortunately, he failed in that too.
Tired and ashamed, when Thor was leaving the realm of Giants, the ruler of that country Utgardhaloki revealed the truth to him. The horn Thor was drinking from was connected to the oceans; the cat was the Midgard Serpent (the serpent which encircles the Earth) and the old woman Thor fought against was the personification of old age.
Even though he lost due to power magical illusions, Thor was victorious in lowering the sea levels with his deep gulps. Also, he came quite close to lifting the tail of Midgard Serpent. Thor was not amused by this deception but before he could smite Utgardhaloki with his hammer, the King of Giants vanished into thin air.
Thor met his death at the hands of Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent. During Ragnarok (a series of events when many of the Norse Gods died), he combated Jormungand, his sworn enemy. Thor killed the giant serpent in the fierce battle that ensued. However, no sooner had he taken nine steps away from the dead snake, he dropped dead from its venom.
The Norse tribes believed Thor to be the protector of the Gods as well as the whole mankind. Despite his short temper, he was the first God that the Norse people prayed to for protection. The Thunder God survives with us till today as the fifth day of the week - Thursday, which derives its name from the mighty God of the Norse.