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Thor's Battle Against the Jötnar (1872) bi Mårten Eskil Winge

In Norse meethology, Thor (/θɔr/; frae Auld Norse Þórr) is a haimer-waldin god associate wi thunner, lichtnin, storms, aik trees, strenth, the pertection o fowk, as weel as sainin, healin an growthiness. The cognate deity in wider Germanic meethologie an paganism wis kent in Auld Inglis as Þunor an in Auld Heich German as Donar (runic þonar ᚦᛟᚾᚨᚱ), stemmin frae a Common Germanic *Þunraz (meanin "thunner").

Thor is a prominently mentioned god ootthrou the recordit history o the Germanic fowks, frae the Roman occupation o regions o Germania, tae the tribal expansions o the Migration Period, tae his heich popularity in the Viking Age, whan, in the face o the process o the Christianisation o Scandinavie, emblems o his haimer, Mjölnir, war worn an Norse pagan personal names conteenin the name o the god beir witness tae his popularity.

In Norse meethologie, lairgely recordit in Iceland frae tradeetional material stemmin frae Scandinavie, numerous tales an information aboot Thor are providit. In these soorces, Thor beirs at least fifteen names, is the husband o the gowden-haired goddess Sif, is the luver o the jötunn Járnsaxa, an is generally descrived as fierce eed, reid haired an reid beardit.[1] Wi Sif, Thor faithert the goddess (an possible Valkyrie) Þrúðr; wi Járnsaxa, he faithert Magni; wi a mither that's name is nae recorded, he faithered Móði, an he is the stepfaither o the god Ullr. Bi wey o Odin, Thor haes numerous brithers, includin Baldr. Thor haes twa servants, Þjálfi an Röskva, rides in a cart or chariot pulled bi twa gaits, Tanngrisnir an Tanngnjóstr (that he eats an resurrects), an is ascribit three dwellins (Bilskirnir, Þrúðheimr, an Þrúðvangr). Thor walds the moontain-crushin haimer, Mjölnir, weirs the belt Megingjörð an the airn gluves Járngreipr, an awns the staff Gríðarvölr. Thor's exploits, includin his relentless slauchter o his foes an fierce battles wi the monstrous serpent Jörmungandr—an thair foretauld mutual daiths in the events o Ragnarök—are recordit ootthrou soorces for Norse meethologie.

Intae the modren period, Thor conteena'd tae be acknawledged in rural fowklair ootthrou Germanic regions. Thor is frequently referred tae in place names, the day o the week Fuirsday ("Thor's day" derived frae Auld Inglis Þūnresdæg - "Thunor's day"; oreeginally Þorsdagr in Auld Norse) beirs his name, an names stemmin frae the pagan period conteenin his awn conteena tae be uised the day. Thor haes inspired numerous warks o airt an references tae Thor appear in modren popular cultur. Lik ither Germanic deities, veneration o Thor is revived in the modren period in Heathenry.

Auld Norse Þórr, Auld Inglis ðunor, Auld Heich German Donar, Auld Saxon thunar, an Auld Frisie thuner are cognates within the Germanic leid brainch, descendin frae the Proto-Germanic masculine noon *þunraz 'thunder'.[2]

The name o the god is the oreegin o the weekday name Fuirsday. Bi employin a practice kent as interpretatio germanica in the Roman Empire period, the Germanic fowks adoptit the Roman weekly calendar, an replaced the names o Roman gods wi thair own. Laitin dies Iovis ('day o Jupiter') wis convertit intae Proto-Germanic *Þonares dagaz ("Thor's day"), frae which stems modren Scots "Fuirsday" an ither Germanic weekday cognates.[3]


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Post-Roman Era

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Boniface bears his crucifix efter fellin Thor's Oak in Bonifacius (1905) bi Emil Doepler

The first recordit instance o the name o the god appears in the Migration Period, whaur a piece o jewelry (a fibula), the Nordendorf fibula, datin frae the 7t century AD an foond in Bavarie, beirs an Elder Futhark inscription that conteens the name "Þonar", i.e. "Donar", the soothren Germanic form o the god's name.[4]

A 9t-century AD codex frae Mainz, Germany, kent as the Auld Saxon Bapteesmal Vou, records the name o three Auld Saxon gods, UUôden (Auld Saxon "Wodan"), Saxnôte, an Thunaer, bi wey o thair renunciation as demons in a formula tae be repeatit bi Germanic pagans formally convertin tae Christianity.[5]

Viking Age

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In the 11t century, chronicler Adam o Bremen records in his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum that a statue o Thor, that Adam descrives as "michtiest", sits in the Temple at Uppsala in the centre o a treeple throne (flanked bi Woden an "Fricco") locatit in Gamla Uppsala, Swaden. Adam details that the fowk o Uppsala haed appyntit priests tae ilk o the gods, an that the priests war tae offer up saicrifeeces. In Thor's case, he conteenas, thir saicrifeeces war duin whan plague or faimin threitent.[6] Earlier in the same wark, Adam relays that in 1030 an Inglis preacher, Wulfred, wis lynched bi assembled Germanic pagans for "profanin" a representation o Thor.[7]

Post-Viking Age

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In the 12t century, mair nor a century efter Norawa wis "offeecially" Christianised, Thor wis still bein invoked bi the population, as evidenced bi a stick beirin a runic message foond amang the Bryggen inscriptions in Bergen, Norawa. On the stick, baith Thor an Odin are cried upon for help; Thor is askit tae "receive" the reader, an Odin tae "awn" them.[8] Aroond the 12t century, iconografie o the Christianisin 11t-century King Olaf II o Norawa (Saunt Olaf) absorbed elements o the native Thor; Olaf II haed becam a familiarly reid-beardit, haimer-waldin feegur.[9]

Poetic Edda

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In the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13t yeirhundred frae tradeetional soorce material reachin intae the pagan period, Thor appears (or is mentioned) in the poems Völuspá, Grímnismál, Skírnismál, Hárbarðsljóð, Hymiskviða, Lokasenna, Þrymskviða, Alvíssmál, an Hyndluljóð.[10]

In the poem Völuspá, a deid völva recoonts the history o the universe an foretells the futur tae the disguised god Odin, includin the daith o Thor. Thor, she foretells, will dae battle wi the great serpent in the immense meethic war waged at Ragnarök, an thare he will slay the monstrous snake, yet efter he will anly be able tae tak nine steps afore neevin tae the venom o the beast. Efterwart, says the völva, the sky will turn black afore fire engulfs the warld, the starns will disappear, flams will dance afore the sky, steam will rise, the warld will be kivert in watter an then it will be raised again, green an fertile.[11]

In the poem Grímnismál, the god Odin, in guise as Grímnir, an torturt, stairvit an thirsty, impairts in the young Agnar cosmological lore, includin that Thor resides in Þrúðheimr, an that, ivery day, Thor wades throu the rivers Körmt an Örmt, an the twa Kerlaugar. Thare, Grímnir says, Thor sits as juidge at the immense cosmological warld tree, Yggdrasil.[12]

In Skírnismál, the god Freyr's messenger, Skírnir, threitens the fair Gerðr, wi that Freyr is smitten, wi numerous threits an curses, includin that Thor, Freyr, an Odin will be angry wi her, an that she risks thair "potent wraith".[13]

Thor is the main chairacter o Hárbarðsljóð, whaur, efter traivelin "frae the east", he comes tae an inlet whaur he encoonters a ferryman that gies his name as Hárbarðr (Odin, again in disguise), an attempts tae hail a ride frae him. The ferryman, shootin frae the inlet, is immediately rude an obnoxious tae Thor an refuises tae ferry him. At first, Thor hauds his tongue, but Hárbarðr anerly becomes mair aggressive, an the poem suin becomes a flytin match atween Thor an Hárbarðr, aw the while revealin lore aboot the twa, includin Thor's killin o several jötnar in "the east" an berzerk weemen on Hlesey (nou the Dens island o Læsø). In the end, Thor ends up walkin insteid.[14]

Thor is again the main chairacter in the poem Hymiskviða, whaur, efter the gods hae been huntin an hae eaten thair prey, thay hae an urge tae drink. Thay "sh[ak] the twigs" an interpret whit thay say. The gods decide that thay wad find suitable caudrons at Ægir's hame. Thor arrives at Ægir's hame an finds him tae be cheerfu, leuks intae his een, an tells him that he maun prepare feasts for the gods. Annoyed, Ægir tells Thor that the gods maun first bring tae him a suitable caudron tae brew yill in. The gods sairch but find na sic caudron onywhaur. Houiver, Týr tells Thor that he mey hae a solution; east o Élivágar lives Hymir, an he awns sich deep kettle.[15]

Efter a lacuna in the manuscript o the poem, Hymiskviða abruptly picks up again wi Thor an Hymir in a boat, oot at sea. Hymir catches a few whauls at ance, an Thor baits his line wi the heid o the ox. Thor casts his line an the monstrous serpent Jörmungandr bites. Thor pulls the serpent on buird, an veeolently slams him in the heid wi his haimer. Jörmungandr shrieks, an a noisy commotion is heard frae unnerwatter afore anither lacuna appears in the manuscript.[16]

Efter the seicont lacuna, Hymir is sittin in the boat, unhappy an totally seelent, as thay rowe back tae shore. On shore, Hymir suggests that Thor shoud help him cairy a whaul back tae his ferm. Thor picks baith the boat an the whauls up, an cairies it aw back tae Hymir's ferm. Efter Thor successfully smashes a creestal goblet bi thrawin it at Hymir's heid on Týr's mither's suggestion, Thor an Týr are gien the caudron. Týr canna lift it, but Thor manages tae row it, an so wi it they lea. Some distance frae Hymir's hame, an airmy o mony-heidit beins led bi Hymir attacks the twa, but are killt bi the haimer o Thor. Awtho ane o his gaits is lame in the leg, the twa manage tae bring the caudron back, hae plenty o yill, an sae, frae then on, return tae Ægir's for mair ivery winter.[17]

Thor raises his haimer as Loki leas Ægir's haw, bi Frølich (1895)

In the poem Lokasenna, the hauf-god Loki angrily flyts wi the gods in the sea entity Ægir's haw. Thor daes nae attend the event, houiver, as he is awey in the east for unspecifee'd purposes. Taewart the end o the poem, the flytin turns tae Sif, Thor's wife, that Loki then claims tae hae sleepit wi. The god Freyr's servant Beyla interjects, an says that, syne aw o the moontains are shakin, she thinks that Thor is on his wey hame. Beyla adds that Thor will bring peace tae the quarrel, tae that Loki responds wi insults.[18]

Thor arrives an tells Loki tae be seelent, an threitens tae rip Loki's heid frae his bouk wi his haimer. Loki asks Thor why he is sae angry, an comments that Thor will nae be so darin tae ficht "the wouf" (Fenrir) whan it eats Odin (a reference tae the foretauld events o Ragnarök). Thor again tells him tae be seelent, an threatens tae thraw him intae the sky, whaur he will niver be seen again. Loki says that Thor shoud nae brag o his time in the east, as he ance crooched in fear in the thumb o a gluve (a story involvin deception bi the magic o Útgarða-Loki, recoonted in the Prose Edda beuk Gylfaginning)—that, he comments, "wis haurdly lik Thor". Thor again tells him tae be seelent, threitenin tae brak ivery bane in Loki's bouk. Loki responds that he intends tae live a while yet, an again insults Thor wi references tae his encoonter wi Útgarða-Loki. Thor responds wi a fowert cry tae be silent, an threitens tae send Loki tae Hel. At Thor's feenal threat, Loki gies in, commentin that anly for Thor will he lea the haw, for "A ken alsne that ye dae strick", an the poem conteenas.[19]

Ah, what a lovely maid it is! (1902) bi Elmer Boyd Smith: Thor is unhappily dressed bi the goddess Freyja an her attendants as hersel

In the comedic poem Þrymskviða, Thor again plays a central role. In the poem, Thor wakes an finds that his pouerfu hammer, Mjöllnir, is missin. Thor turns tae Loki, an tells him that naebody kens that the haimer has been stolen. The twa gae tae the dwallin o the goddess Freyja, an so that he mey attempt tae find Mjöllnir, Thor asks her if he mey borrae her faither claik. Freyja grees, an says she wad lend it tae Thor even gin it war made o siller or gowd, an Loki flees aff, the faither claik whistlin.[20]

In Jötunheimr, the jötunn Þrymr sits on a barrae, plaitin gowden collars for his female dugs, an trimmin the manes o his horse. Þrymr sees Loki, an asks whit coud be amiss amang the Æsir an the elfs; why is Loki alane in Jötunheimr? Loki responds that he haes bad news for baith the elfs an the Æsir—that Thor's hammer, Mjöllnir, is gane. Þrymr says that he has hidden Mjöllnir aicht leagues aneath the yird, frae which it will be retrieved, but anly if Freyja is brocht tae him as his wife. Loki flees aff, the faither claik whistlin, awey frae Jötunheimr an back tae the coort o the gods.[21]

Thor asks Loki if his efforts war successfu, an that Loki shoud tell him while he is still in the air as "tales eften escape a sittin man, an the man leein doun eften bairks oot lies." Loki states that it wis indeed an effort, an a success an aw, for he haes diskivert that Þrymr haes the haimer, but that it canna be retrieved unless Freyja is brocht tae Þrymr as his wife. The twa return tae Freyja an tell her tae put on a bridal heid dress, as they will drive her tae Jötunheimr. Freyja, angry, gaes intae a rage, causin aw o the haws o the Æsir tae tremmle in her anger, an her necklace, the famed Brísingamen, faws frae her. Freyja pyntitly refuises.[22]

As a result, the gods an goddesses meet an haud a thing tae discuss an debate the maiter. At the thing, the god Heimdallr puts forth the suggestion that, in place o Freyja, Thor shoud be dressed as the bride, complete wi jewels, weemen's cleidin doun tae his knees, a bridal heid-dress, an the necklace Brísingamen. Thor rejects the idea, yet Loki interjects that this will be the anly wey tae get back Mjöllnir. Loki pynts oot that, withoot Mjöllnir, the jötnar will be able tae invade an settle in Asgard. The gods dress Thor as a bride, an Loki states that he will gae wi Thor as his maid, an that the twa shall drive tae Jötunheimr thegither.[23]

Efter ridin thegither in Thor's gait-driven chariot, the twa, guised, arrive in Jötunheimr. Þrymr commands the jötnar in his haw tae spread strae on the benches, for Freyja haes arrived tae be his wife. Þrymr recoonts his treisurt ainimals an objects, statin that Freyja wis aw that he wis missin in his walth.[24]

Early in the even, the guised Loki an Thor meet wi Þrymr an the assemmled jötnar. Thor eats an drinks ferociously, consumin entire ainimals an three casks o mead. Þrymr finds the behaviour at odds wi his impression o Freyja, an Loki, sittin afore Þrymr an appearin as a "verra shrewd maid", maks the excuse that "Freyja's" behaviour is due tae her haein nae consumed onything for aicht entire days afore arrivin due tae her eagerness tae arrive. Þrymr then lifts "Freyja's" veil an wants tae kiss "her". Terrifeein een stare back at him, seeminly birnin wi fire. Loki says that this is acause "Freyja" haesnae slept for aicht nichts in her eagerness.[24]

The "wretched sister" o the jötnar appears, asks for a bridal gift frae "Freyja", an the jötnar bring oot Mjöllnir tae "sanctifee the bride", tae lay it on her lap, an mairy the twa bi "the haund" o the goddess Vár. Thor lauchs internally whan he sees the haimer, taks haud o it, strikes Þrymr, beats aw o the jötnar, kills thair "aulder sister", an sae gets his haimer back.[25]

Sun Shines in the Hall (1908) bi W.G. Collingwood: Thor clesps his dauchter's haund an chuckles at the "aw-wice" dwarf, that he haes ootwittit

In the poem Alvíssmál, Thor tricks a dwarf, Alvíss, tae his duim upon findin that he seeks tae wad his dauchter (unnamed, possibly Þrúðr). As the poem stairts, Thor meets a dwarf that talks aboot gettin mairied. Thor finds the dwarf repulsive an, apparently, realises that the bride is his dauchter. Thor comments that the waddin agreement wis made amang the gods while Thor wis gane, an that the dwarf maun seek his consent. Tae dae sae, Thor says, Alvíss maun tell him whit he wants tae ken aboot aw o the warlds that the dwarf haes veesitit. In a lang quaisten an answer session, Alvíss daes exactly that; he descrives naitural featurs as thay are kent in the leids o various races o beins in the warld, an gies an amoint o cosmological lore.[26]

Houiver, the quaisten an answer session turns oot tae be a ploy bi Thor, as, awtho Thor comments that he haes truly niver seen onyane wi mair wiceheid in thair breist, Thor haes managed tae delay the dwarf eneuch for the Sun tae turn him tae stone; "day dawns on ye nou, dwarf, nou sun shines on the haw".[27]

In the poem Hyndluljóð, Freyja offers tae the jötunn wumman Hyndla tae blót (saicrifeece) tae Thor sae that she mey be pertectit, an comments that Thor daes nae care muckle for jötunn weemen.[28]

Prose Edda, Heimskringla, an sagas

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In the prologue tae his Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson euhemerises Thor as a prince o Troy, an the son o king Memnon bi Troana, a dauchter o Priam. Thor, kent as Tror forby, is said tae hae mairied the prophetess Sibyl (identifee'd wi Sif). Thor is forder said here tae hae been raised in Thrace bi a chieftain named Lorikus, that he later slew tae assume the teetle o "King o Thrace", tae hae haed hair "fairer nor gowd", an tae hae been strang eneuch tae lift ten beirskins.

The name o the aesir is explained as "men frae Asie," Asgard bein the "Asie ceity" (i.e., Troy). Alternatively, Troy is in Tyrkland (Turkey, i.e., Asie Minor), an Asialand is Scythia, whaur Thor foondit a new ceity named Asgard. Odin is a remote descendant o Thor, remuived bi twal generations, that led an expedeetion athort Germany, Denmark an Swaden tae Noarwa.

In the Prose Edda, Thor is mentioned in aw fower beuks; Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál, an Háttatal.

In Heimskringla, componed in the 13t century bi Snorri Sturluson, Thor or statues o Thor are mentioned in Ynglinga saga, Hákonar saga góða, Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar, an Óláfs saga helga. In Ynglinga saga chaipter 5, a hivily euhemerised accoont o the gods is providit, whaur Thor is descrived as haein been a gothi—a pagan priest—that wis gien bi Odin (that himsel is explained awey as haein been an exceedinly pouerfu magic-wieldin chieftain frae the east) a dwallin in the meethical location o Þrúðvangr, in whit is nou Swaden. The saga narrative adds that numerous names—at the time o the narrative, popularly in uise—war derived frae Thor.[29]


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  1. On the reid beard an the uise o "Redbeard" as an epithet for Thor, see H.R. Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, 1964, repr. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1990, ISBN 0-14-013627-4, p. 85, citin the Saga o Olaf Tryggvason in Flateyjarbók, Saga o Erik the Reid, an Flóamanna saga. The Prologue tae the Prose Edda says ambiguously that "His hair is more beautiful than gold."
  2. Orel (2003:429).
  3. Simek (2007:333).
  4. Simek (2007:235—236).
  5. Simek (2007:276).
  6. Orchard (1997:168—169).
  7. North (1998:236).
  8. McLeod, Mees (2006:30).
  9. Dumézil (1973:125).
  10. Larrington (1999:320).
  11. Larrington (1999:11—12).
  12. Larrington (1999:57).
  13. Larrington (1999:66).
  14. Larrington (1999:69–75).
  15. Larrington (1999:78—79).
  16. Larrington (1999:81).
  17. Larrington (1999:82—83).
  18. Larrington (1999:84 an 94).
  19. Larrington (1999:94—95).
  20. Larrington (1999:97).
  21. Larrington (1999:97–98).
  22. Larrington (1999:98).
  23. Larrington (1999:99).
  24. a b Larrington (1999:100).
  25. Larrington (1999:101).
  26. Larrington (1999:109—113). For Þrúðr hypothesis, see Orchard (1997:164—165).
  27. Larrington (1999:113).
  28. Larrington (1999:254).
  29. Hollander (2007:10—11).


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