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Thor's battle against the giants, by Marten Eskil Winge, 1872
Thor's battle against the giants, by Marten Eskil Winge, 1872

Thor, Þór (ON), Thunor (OE), Donar or Donner (German) is the red-haired and bearded god of thunder and lightning in Germanic and Norse Mythology, the son of Odin and Jord. While Odin is the god of the powerful and aristocratic, Thor is much more the god of the common man, often siding with mortals against other gods. Thor was an outright hero for mankind, powerfully defeating his enemies, though he lost a wrestling match to an old woman named Elli (old age). During Ragnarok, Thor will kill and be killed by Jormungand. He lived in the hall of Bilskirnir in Thrudheim .

Thor features strongly in the Eddas of Snorri Sturluson, where Thor's many conflicts with the race of giants are a main source of plots. As Snorri portrays him, Thor is a straightforward god, but not necessarily the sharpest pencil in the box, and he is (for instance) thoroughly made a fool of by the mysterious Utgardaloki and his magic spells.


Thor's Family

Thor was the son of Odin and Jord (Earth). His wife was called Sif, and little is known of her except that she had golden hair, which was made for her by the dwarfs after the Loki had cut off her haddur (which means hair). With Jarnsaxa, Thor had the sons Magni and Modi but with Sif he had Thrud. He also had a stepson called Ull who was a son of Sif's.

Thor's Possessions

Thor travelled in a chariot drawn by goats (Tanngrísnir and Tanngnjóstr)(Modern Icelandic Tanngrísnir and Tanngnjóstur) and with his servant and messenger Thjálfi or Thjelvar. These were not your normal goats or your usual chariot since the Eddas note that the earth was scorched and the mountains cracked as the goats ran across them.

Thor owned a short-handled war hammer, Mjollnir, which, when thrown at a target, returned magically to the owner. To wield this formidable weapon, even a deity like Thor needed special iron gloves and a belt that doubled the wearer's strength.

The strike of the hammer caused thunderclaps, and indeed, the name of this deity has produced the word for thunder in most Germanic languages. With the hammer, Thor indulged in his favourite sport of killing giants.

Stories and Myths

Most of the surviving myths centre on Thor's exploits, and from this and inscriptions on monuments we know that Thor was very much the favourite deity of ancient Scandinavians.

Loki was flying as a hawk one day and was captured by Geirrod. Geirrod, who hated Thor, demanded that Loki bring his enemy (who did not yet have his magic belt and hammer) to Geirrod's castle. Loki agreed to lead Thor to the trap. Grid was a giantess at whose home they stopped on the way to Geirrod's. She waited until Loki left the room then told Thor what was happening and gave him her iron gloves and magical belt and staff. Thor killed Geirrod, and all other frost giants he could find (including Geirrod's daughters, Gjalp and Greip).

Thor's daughter, Thrud, was promised to Alvis, a dwarf, in exchange for which Alvis made weapons for the gods. Thor devised a plan to stop Alvis from marrying his daughter. He told Alvis that, because of his small height, he had to prove his wisdom. Alvis agreed and Thor made the tests last until after the sun had risen--all dwarves turned to stone when exposed to sunlight, so Alvis was petrified and Thrud remained unmarried.

Thunor gave his name to Thunresdaeg, the day of Thunor, better known as Thursday, and is also the source of the modern word, thunder.

Thor in Norse literature

Thor appears as a central figure in the following works of Norse literature:

Thor also appears in:

Named after Thor

  • "Tor's Day" or "Thor's Day" became Thursday in English, Donnerstag in German(meaning "Thunder's Day"), Torsdag in Swedish and Danish.

Other names


See also

Homologues in related Indo-European religions

Thor in modern popular culture

  • Marvel Comics publishes a comic book series called The Mighty Thor, in which modernized versions of the Asgardian gods inhabit the Marvel Universe.
  • Thor is the hero, along with Odin and Loki in the Valhalla comic book or graphic novel series published in Denmark by Interpresse. Originally published in Danish, translations were made into Dutch, German, French, Swedish, and Finnish. Several animated movies were also produced from the series.
  • Thor makes an appearance in DC Comics' Sandman comic series, written by Neil Gaiman. Thor is portrayed here as an overly muscular, red-bearded man, who eats his fill and hits on other godesses. "Want to play with my hammer? It's called Mjolnir, and it gets bigger when I rub it..."
  • Thor was the hero of the computer game God of Thunder by Epic Megagames, in which he battles Jormungand, Loki, and Nognir , the god of the underworld.
  • The free online game GunBound: Thor's Hammer has adaptations of Thor in it.
  • Thor makes frequent appearences in the Megami Tensei series of games. Most of the time his role is practically non-existent, but he sometimes plays very important roles. In , he is the second in command of a group called the Mantra, and later joins the Yosuga Reason, which espouses a very strong "Might makes right" philosophy. Additionally, in the original Shin Megami Tensei, he disguises himself as an American ambassador to Japan named Thorman, who launches nuclear missiles on Tokyo with the intention of creating God's Thousand Year Kingdom.
  • In K.A. Applegate's novel series Everworld, in which four American teenagers wander through a world created by mythological gods, Thor has long since been captured and frozen by Hel. In the final book, the teenagers, David, Jalil, Christopher and April release him from captivity, and he helps them fight against the evil alien god Ka Anor .
  • In Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods, Mr. Wednesday (Odin) tells the protagonist that Thor committed suicide in the 1930s.
  • In Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novel The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul, Thor finds himself wandering 20th century England and causes considerable mayhem.
  • Thor makes an appearance in the television series Hercules: the Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.
  • In the television series Stargate SG-1, Thor leads the fleet of ships for the Asgard, an alien race of beings who have been revered by various humanoid cultures as gods.
  • Thor has a role in the 1987 movie, Adventures in Babysitting. This is the Marvel Comics interpretation of the character, and is played by Vincent D'Onofrio.

Norse mythology
The Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology
People, places and things: Deities | Giants | Dwarves | Valkyries
Orthography | Numbers | Runes | Kenning
Elder Edda | Younger Edda | Skald | Sagas | Later influence

Last updated: 02-08-2005 00:16:54
Last updated: 02-22-2005 01:16:43