• Imagining History

Who is Thor? A Mythological Guide for Kids


Thor as depicted in the MCU - but what would the Vikings have made of this character?

Thor really needs no introduction; the Marvel Cinematic Universe and actor Chris Hemsworth have made the character super famous! We all know that Thor is the Viking god of Thunder. He is very handsome, has massive muscles, gorgeous long blond hair, and wields the mighty hammer Mjölnir. Right.





Right?


A painting of Thor by By Mårten Eskil Winge

Well, the original mythological version of Thor is rather different. First off, Vikings described Thor as having fiery eyes, red hair, and a big red busy beard. Not much like Mr. Hemsworth then. He still has massive muscles but his super strength comes from a magical belt called Megingjörð (if you'd rather not try and pronounce that - we don't blame you. It translates as the much more easily said 'Power-Belt').


The Power-Belt doubles Thor’s already stupendous strength. In fact, Thor was so strong that on a fishing trip he inadvertently yanked the vast Midgard serpent, Jormungand, from the sea. This is a seriously impressive feat, as Jormungand is so lengthy and vast that it encircles the entire world.


Thor still has the magical hammer Mjölnir, but 'being worthy' or a ‘nice guy’ has nothing to do with him being able to lift it. Instead, he has some magical iron gloves which let him hold the short-handled hammer. These gloves in Old Norse are dubbed Járngreipr. No one quite knows why he needed those gloves to wield Mjölnir, perhaps he required the extra grip the gloves provide due to the hammer’s short handle being rather hard to grasp? Either that or it’s because metal gloves just look plain cool.


Oh, and Thor can't fly using his hammer as he does in the movies. Instead, he speeds around on a chariot pulled by two flying goats named Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. If Thor gets a little peckish (and he usually does - boy oh boy does this god loves his food) then he kills his pet goats, skins them, eats them, and then brings them back to life the following morning with a whack of his magical hammer. Those poor goats probably don't know whether they are coming or going.


Just imagine that hitting your longship, yowch!

The Vikings believed that Thor had an awful temper. There’s plenty of evidence for this. On one occasion, during the funeral of Baldur, Thor became so enraged that he drop-kicked an innocent dwarf into the funeral pyre. The poor bearded fellow was immolated in an instant. Certainly not a summer BBQ experience to relish. Thor would also often become angry with the denizens of Midgard – that’s us! Fail to worship the Thor correctly and he would delight in creating a thunderstorm to sink your longship during a voyage.


Not a good idea to upset an angry thunder god, best wear your Thor pendant with pride then!


Just like most of the Viking gods, Thor will ultimately fall during the battle of Ragnarok. He will go one-on-one with Jormungand the Midgard serpent, both of them dying at the end of an epic back-and-forth feud that would impress even the WWE. Don’t worry too much though, Ragnarok is just as much about beginnings as it is about the end of all things. As such, Thor’s children, Móði and Magni, will survive and live on in their father’s name.


So, what is Thor’s greatest mythological adventure? It is, without doubt, the story of the occasion when Thor wore a wedding dress. But you’ll have to book our ‘Viking Mythology: (Un)Traditional Storytelling’ school workshop to hear that story!