Thor has attained a level of fame not seen since ancient times, but the myth is stranger than the movie. Here are four odd anecdotes about the Germanic god that you may not have known:
He is honored every week
Thor is considered a Norse – or Viking – god, although he was revered and worshiped across northern Europe by all Germanic peoples. Most of what we know about him comes to us ancient Scandinavia; Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Although credited with various powers, he was, primarily, the god of thunder and his legendary hammer bore a name meaning “lightning”. In old Scandinavia, the sound of thunder was Thor riding the sky on his chariot and the lightning was his hammer striking his foes; mostly giants and the serpent Jormungand. In old English, Thor was called Dunor and, in old German, Donar. In the modern German language “Donner” is the word for thunder and Thursday is “Donnerstag” – Thunder Day, the Day of Thunder – or, simply, Thor’s Day. So, think of Thor every Thursday; it’s his day, after all.
His favorite snack was recycled goat
As Thor rumbled across the sky to do battle with his enemies, the myth tells us that his chariot was drawn not by horses, but by two goats. The names of these goats are translated as “teeth-grinder” and “snarler”, although the latter’s name has also been interpreted as “gap tooth” or “teeth barer.” If Thor was away on a long jaunt, he never had to worry about food as he would simply cook and eat his goats. Strangely, we don’t get to see him do this in the movie. All was not lost for the goats, however; Thor used his hammer for many things other than slaying giants and the day after consuming his goats he would use the hammer to resurrect them. Vital to this process, however, was the preservation of the bones, which Thor would gather up and wrap in the hides of the beasts in order to revive them. According to the myth, Thor once shared his meal with some peasants and a young boy broke one of the bones to suck out the marrow. When the goat was resurrected, it was lame. The boy and his sister were compelled to become the god’s servants as a consequence.
He was biracial
In Germanic and Norse mythology, the gods and the giants did not see eye to eye – and perhaps a difference in stature explained this. In truth, however, the giants were not giant as we understand the term today; they were a tribe or race of beings with mythical powers almost equaling those of the gods themselves. The two races or tribes – gods and giants – were, in fact, linked but there was constant strife between them. Thor himself was the son of Odin, the top god, played in the movie by Anthony Hopkins. Odin himself was half-giant and Thor’s mother, Jord, was full-giant. Although never mentioned in the movie, it was likely that, due to his mixed heritage, Thor was bullied at school, which led him to become an overachiever later on in life.
He was a cross-dresser
According to one myth, the giants stole Thor’s hammer and refused to return it until the goddess Freya agreed to marry Thrym, the chief of the giants. Recovering his precious hammer would not be easy, Thor knew, as the giants had buried it in an undisclosed location. After discussing the matter, the gods formulated a plan to recover the object, but Thor was none too pleased about the plan: It was proposed that Thor, himself, go to Thrym, disguised as Freya and Loki, played in the movie by Tom Hiddleston, agreed to go along as his maid. Having gotten over his school bullying days, Thor was loath to dress up as a girl; fearing that it would ruin his street cred among the earthly Germanics who worshiped him. Dress up he did, however, in an elaborate wedding gown and set off with Loki to Jotunheim, the home of the giants. During the wedding feast, the giant Thrym became a little suspicious of his lovely bride when “she” consumed a whole ox and eight salmon and washed it all down with several barrels of mead. Quick-thinking Loki explained that the goddess had been so excited about the prospect of marrying Thrym that she hadn’t eaten for a week. Eventually, the ceremony commenced and Thrym had Thor’s hammer brought forth and presented it to his “bride”, who promptly killed him with it, along with all the other wedding guests.
The newly-released movie may be a special-effects blockbuster but it barely lives up to the strangeness of myth surrounding Thor, the god of thunder. He was, in legend, a complex and powerful god and revered among the Germanic people perhaps more than any other deity – even more so than his father, Odin. There are many more than these four odd anecdotes surrounding Thor that make his myth even stranger than the movie.
By Graham J Noble