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Thor, Norse God of Thunder


In Germanic mythology and religion, Thor is the god of thunder. He is typically portrayed as red-headed and bearded, and carrying Mjolnir, a magical hammer. Depictions of Mjolnir became popular adornment for warriors during the age of the Vikings, and it is still seen today among adherents of some forms of Norse Paganism.

A son of Odin, Thor was married to a fertility goddess named Sif, although he also had a mistress, Jarnsaxa. Thor was known for protecting both gods and mortals from the powers of evil. As keeper of thunder and lightning, he was also considered integral to the agricultural cycle. If there was a drought, it wouldn’t hurt to offer a libation to Thor in hopes that the rains would come.

During a thunderstorm, Thor rode through the heavens on his great chariot, pulled by two magical goats. Whenever he swung Mjolnir, lightning flashed across the sky. Mjolnir itself was such a powerful item (as dwarf-made items often are in Norse legend) that Thor needed a special belt and iron gloves to handle the hammer. After it was thrown, the hammer always returned home to Thor. In the Prose Edda, the death of Thor at Ragnarok is described.

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of Thor:

I am the God Thor,
I am the War God,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
my fastness and fortress,
reign I forever!

Here amid icebergs
rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Miölner the mighty;
Giants and sorcerers
cannot withstand it!

Thor's influence has carried over into modern times. A day of the week is named for him (Thor's day) and there are a number of references to him in pop culture. He appears as a Marvel comic book character, and pops up alongside Loki and Odin in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, as well as Gaiman's excellent novel, American Gods. Most recently, Thor has been featured in Joanne Harris' Runemarks, a book for juvenile readers set 500 years after Ragnarok.

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