Thor; the Odinson

Thor is the Norse God of Thunder. He is the son of Odin, the All Father and Jord, the Earth Mother. As a God, Thor is a member of the Aesir, the principal Gods that lived in Asgard from where they ruled Midgard (Earth) and controlled the lives of mortal men.

Thor was the strongest of all the Gods, though his strength was amplified further by his wearing of a magic belt called Megingjard. He also is described as having worn steel gauntlets or gloves with which to carry his magic warhammer Mjolnir.  Thor has also been depicted travelling across the heavens and along the Rainbow Bridge in a chariot pulled by two goats; Tanngrisni (“gap-tooth”) and Tanngnost (“tooth grinder”). By throwing his hammer Thor would create thunder and lightning. In this way he was able to protect his lands.

Thor had a long enmity with the Giants that fought against Asgard but his true enemy is Jormungand, The Midgard Serpent. It is said that at Ragnarok Thor and Jormungand will fight to the death, Thor will prevail but will be poisoned and die from his wounds.

Thor was a very popular God, not least because he did not require human sacrifice. Having married Sif the Golden haired Godess of Fertility, Thor was prayed to for all manner of things from harvest and crops to protection from evil. Thor’s hammer Mjolnir became a popular talisman to ward evil and many statues of its image were found side by side with Christian Crosses long after the Pagan religion had left the land.

Thor is remembered in today’s society every week. Thursday is named after Thors-day. It is also worth noting that Wednesday is so named after Wodin, an alternate version of Odin due to the Old English spelling with the Wynne rune Ƿ.

In terms of writing however it is the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda that hold most of the stories surrounding Thor and his exploits. We hear of Thor as a direct man of action and someone that solved disputes even between the Gods. We see Thor threaten his brother Loki, the Trickster God, who knows Thor is true to his word and is thus rightly afraid.

Thor is described as a large red headed and red bearded warrior who is fond of drinking and eating and will certainly have a fight quicker than talk. This rough and ready attitude made him an example for mortal men to follow and he was thus in some respects the perfect icon for the Warrior Code that we have been studying this past term.

Unlike most translations of characters that we have looked at however, Thor has not changed as much through the ages. Thor has been depicted as a saviour of humanity once again in the medium of comics and is soon to have a film released based on the same character from Marvel Comics.

Stan Lee writes: “How do you make someone stronger than the strongest person? It finally came to me: Don’t make him human — make him a god. I decided readers were already pretty familiar with the Greek and Roman gods. It might be fun to delve into the old Norse legends… Besides, I pictured Norse gods looking like Vikings of old, with the flowing beards, horned helmets, and battle clubs.  …Journey into Mystery needed a shot in the arm, so I picked Thor … to headline the book”.

Lee’s modesty in his meticulous approach to the details of Thor aside, he reintroduced the world to a Pagan God the likes of whom Beowulf himself and certainly the audience of the epic would have known as intimately as we now know Jesus.

It is Lee’s attention to detail that makes the character speak to so many of the fans who have read it and his inclusion in popular fiction has had an obvious effect on other works of Fantasy and Science Fiction since. Although obviously the character had to be brought into continuity with the existing universe, Lee ensured that the comic book character would keep all of the same powers and abilities from legend.

Thor’s inclusion in the Avengers allowed him to be placed in a position from where he could comment on life on Earth. His removal from our woes by contrasting them with those of a deity allows the reader to distance themselves from real life situations and see the problems in today’s society.

The resultant factor is a better sense of understanding and a willingness to do what is right and once more visit the Warrior Code, applying it to the world which we inhabit, with contemporary ideology.

This textual transmission of a character shows us that it is possible for this transmission to be made while keeping the original. Unlike others of the characters we have studied, Thor has changed very little. It is interesting to see that stories and exploits such as those penned by Snorri Sturluson can and do still have a place in today’s literary culture.

Some people may not appreciate the work being done by the comic book industry in keeping these stories alive in the mind of our youths who otherwise would never have heard of any of the great tales from Hercules to Circe. The change from Orality to Literature seems to have made divisions between some critics who believe that these stories should be present only in great tomes that one must delve into to appreciate the full experience. I would argue that since a picture tells a thousand words and the imagery and iconography remain the same, both mediums have their place in an ever changing society.

Several of the great philosophers believed that writing things down was a waste of time and yet we are glad that someone did for our sake so that these stories can be remembered.  History may yet show us that the invention and popularity of comic books in this last century will be the way forward when teaching our youth of our own history and allowing them to choose to explore it for themselves.

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