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Tell me more about: Mjölnir, Thor’s Hammer

Updated: Mar 11

A replica of Mjölnir, Thor's hammer - courtesy of Joanna Hill

What’s Mjölnir when it’s at home?

Mjölnir is a mighty hammer used by Thor, the Norse (or Viking) god of thunder. The hammer is his primary weapon to protect humans and the other gods from terrifying creatures such as frost giants, sea serpents and trolls.

Okay, but how on earth do you say the word Mjölnir?

That’s a very good question! The most popular English pronunciation is “Mee-ol-neer” or even “Mee-owl-neer”. Either way, it’s a bit of a mouthful! Historians think the word Mjölnir means “lightning”.

A replica of Mjölnir, Thor's hammer - courtesy of Joanna Hill

Does Mjölnir have magical powers like the one in the Marvel films?

The Mjölnir from Norse Mythology is very similar to that used by the superhero Thor in the Marvel comic books and films. When thrown, the hammer returns to Thor’s hand like a boomerang. Though there’s no record of the Norse god using it to fly or to wield lightning, like in the films. Instead, in Norse Mythology it was said that if you heard the sound of thunder rumbling, it was the sound of Thor defeating his enemies by conking them on the head with his mighty hammer.

What was Mjölnir used for?

Mjölnir wasn’t just a weapon to be used in battle to protect or defend. Thor was often called upon to use his hammer when people needed blessings and good luck, such as at births, weddings or funerals. Many amulets in the shape of Thor’s hammer have been found by historians who believe that Vikings wore these amulets on necklaces for protection or good luck.

A replica Mjölnir amulet.

How was Mjölnir made?

Mjölnir was forged in Svartalfheim, the land of the dwarves. In Norse Mythology, dwarves were famous for being the best blacksmiths. The story goes that Loki, the Norse trickster god, placed a bet with the dwarves, encouraging them to forge some treasures that would please the gods.

Loki tried to stop the dwarves from succeeding in their task by turning into a fly and stinging one of the dwarves on the eyelid. The hammer that was forged ended up looking a little stubby in the handle department, but Thor looked past the hammer’s flaws and gladly accepted the short hammer as a gift from the dwarves.

A replica of Mjölnir, Thor's hammer - courtesy of Joanna Hill

Did Thor have any awesome battles or brave adventures with his hammer?

Oh, so many! Too many to mention! In most of these battles and adventures, Thor was using his hammer to slay giants.

One story goes that a giant called Hrungnir got a little too drunk whilst in the presence of Odin, king of the gods. Odin felt the giant had outstayed his welcome and demanded that Thor get rid of the rowdy drunken fool. In a stand-off, the giant threw a huge whetstone rock straight at Thor, who threw his hammer back. Luckily, being the most powerful weapon in the universe has its benefits; Mjölnir sliced the whetstone rock in half as it flew straight at Hrungnir’s head, killing him instantly.

Another time, a giant called Thrym stole Mjölnir from Thor and would only give it back if the goddess Freya agreed to marry him. But Thor, following the mischievous guidance of Loki, went to the wedding in Freya’s place, pretending to be Thrym’s bride. Thor probably couldn’t believe his luck when Thrym offered Mjölnir to his would-be bride as a wedding gift. Thrym was completely unaware of his mistake until his bride grabbed the hammer and revealed himself to be, not Freya, but Thor! Thor then took his anger out on everyone at the wedding, using Mjölnir to kill the groom Thrym and the entire wedding party.

Above, you can spot our replica Mjölnir alongside the other Viking Mythology replica artefacts we feature as part of our Viking Mythology: (Un)Traditional Storytelling workshop for Primary School children. Our interactive school workshops use drama activities, roleplay and storytelling to bring history to life for your students. Invite us to your school by enquiring here!

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