Thor, God of Thunder. The Strongest Of The Norse

Today we show you the Norse mythology of Thor. Discover +12 legends about him and how they have influenced many of today’s stories.

thunder god

Thor, God of Thunder

Thor God of thunder, was the son of Odin and Fyorgyn, the goddess of the earth. Considered the strongest of the Norse gods. He and his golden-haired wife Sif were also fertility gods. He was huge in size, with a beard and red eyes. He liked to eat and drink without limit.

He protected both gods and humans against the forces of evil using his deadly waeapon Mjollnir, a hammer that was associated with lightning and thunder. To use this powerful weapon he wore iron gloves and Megingjard, his belt of strength. He was very fast and quick-tempered.


Thor (Old Norse: Þórr) is the Norse god of thunder, sky and agriculture. He is the son of Odin, chief of the gods, and the consort of Odin Jord (Earth) and husband of the fertility goddess Sif, who is the mother of his son Modi and daughter Thrud; his other son, Magni, may be the offspring of a union with the giantess Jarnsaxa. Thor was the defender of Asgard, the realm of the gods, and Midgard, the human realm, and is associated primarily with protection through great feats of arms in the slaying of giants.


Most tales of Thor, in fact, put him in conflict with a giant or his nemesis the Midgard Serpent (Jörmungandr, the “huge monster”), a monstrous serpent that coils and writhes around the world. Like almost all Norse gods, Thor is doomed to die in Ragnarök, the end of the world and the twilight of the gods, but only falls after slaying the great serpent with his mighty hammer Mjollnir, dying of poison; his sons Magni and Modi survive Ragnarök along with a small number of other gods and inherit his hammer, with which they restore order.

He developed from the Germanic god Donar and became the most popular deity in the Norse pantheon. Thor remains a popular god also today, and the modern English and German words for the fifth day of the week – Thursday and Donnerstag – allude to Thor/Donar (“Thor’s Day”/”Donar’s Day”). He is believed to have ruled heaven from his land of Þrúðvangr (“Field of Power” or “Plains of Strength”) where he built his great hall of Bilskírnir, a 540-room palace.

Thor’s popularity reached its peak during the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 AD), at which time he was considered Christ’s greatest rival when, from about the 10th century AD onward, Christianity was introduced to Scandinavia. More amulets and charms of Thor’s hammer date from the period when Christianity and the Norse religion were in dispute than from any other. Christianity eventually prevailed and the cult of Thor was gradually replaced by the new religion in the 12th century AD.


Thor functioned primarily as a protective god, although the stories concerning him also explained natural phenomena, thus linking him to the etiological type of myth (one that explains how some aspect of life came into being). He is said to have emerged from his great hall in his chariot, drawn by two billy goats-Tanngnjóstr and Tanngrísnir-who could be killed and devoured by the god and then resurrected the next day as long as their bones remained intact.

Thor Dios del trueno

The roar of thunder was the rumbling of Thor’s chariot wheels across the vault of the heavens and, in another story, is credited with creating the tides. For the most part, however, he was invoked for protection and problem solving. The scholar Preben Meulengracht Sørensen comments that Thor “was a master of thunder and lightning, storms and rain, good weather and harvests, and pagans sacrificed to him when threatened by famine or disease” (Sawyer, 203).

He had three magical items that helped him defend Asgard and Midgard: his hammer Mjollnir, his belt of strength Megingjörð (which doubled his strength when he wore it), and his great iron gloves that he needed to wield his hammer.

Thor God of Thunder’s battle giants

Thor was invoked to seal commercial contracts and consecrate marriages, for agricultural abundance, for protection during travel (especially at sea) and for victory in battle, but he seems to have been called upon whenever any need arose.

thor ragnarok hulk

Sørensen’s notes

  • The relationship with the pagan gods had been a kind of friendship, a contract whereby man sacrificed to the gods and was entitled to their support in return…. The Icelandic Landnamabok (The Book of Settlements) relates that Helgi inn Magri, who settled in Iceland around 900, believed in Christ but invoked Thor when in distress at sea. He also asked Thor to show him where to build his new farm, but named it after Christ.(Sawyer, 223)
  • The introduction of Christianity in Scandinavia, at first, did nothing to diminish the importance of Thor in the lives of the people. The god continued to be invoked throughout most of the Viking Age, as evidenced not only by the amulets and charms mentioned above, but also by the engravings, images, statues, and stories that continued to be told about him.

Attributes and character

In all these stories, Thor’s attributes are his three previously mentioned magical objects – the hammer Mjollnir, the belt Megingjörð, and his iron gloves, of which Mjollnir is the most characteristic – as well as this goat-drawn chariot. These objects embellish Thor’s great strength, which is his main characteristic, and Thor also has a quick temper and shows impatience to follow the rules of others.

He is never depicted as a subtle or careful deity and prefers direct action rather than discussion or planning to solve any problem. Thor is completely devoid of cunning or the ability to deceive and therefore cannot recognize these qualities in others; as a result, he is often deceived by magical spells or shape-shifting entities that make things appear different than they are.

Popular God

Contrary to the popular image of Thor in modern day Marvel comics and movies, he was not Loki’s brother and has never been depicted as clean-shaven or blond, except in Chapter 3 of the Prose Edda (composed around 1220 AD), a mythography of earlier Norse myths reworked by the Icelandic Snorri Sturluson into a structured account, written from a Christian context.

Elsewhere, and in almost every image, Thor is always shown with long red hair and a large beard, often as not leaping into battle against giants or slaying dwarves without pausing to consider alternatives to violence. He is closely associated with water in many of the myths and is depicted rowing farther out to sea than others have gone and also crossing dangerous rivers – both aspects of his role as a protective god who removes boundaries or goes before a believer as a guide.


The Scandinavians of the Viking Age especially revered Thor not only as a guide across the seas and protector from storms, but as a champion in battle. The scholar H. R. Ellis Davidson writes: Of all the gods, it is Thor who seems the characteristic hero of the stormy world of the Vikings. Bearded, outspoken, indomitable, full of vigor and gusto, he puts his trust in his strong right arm and simple weapons. He walks through the northern realm of the gods, a fitting symbol for the man of action.

Thor was not only the preferred god of the Viking warrior, however, for his strength and direct response to any problem were equally appealing across the spectrum of Viking-era social classes. A housewife might ask Thor for help with domestic challenges in the same way that a farmer, a weaver, or a brewer would with their own difficulties and, as evidenced by his popularity, Thor would help them. Thor thus became the Norse god of the common man; the common-sense, no-nonsense deity that anyone could relate to and everyone could trust.

Myths involving Thor

The stories featuring the god, in addition to noting his strength and impatience with delays, all emphasize his reliability. Even when Thor is deceived, his past victories and assurance of future triumphs excuse him; he may not win a battle, but he will ultimately win the war. This concept is clearly explained in chapter 44 of Prose Edda when the narrator High answers a question about Thor’s victories:

Although some things, due to their power or strength, have prevented Thor from being victorious, there is no need to count them, especially since everyone should keep in mind that there are many instances in which Thor is the most powerful. Although High claims that the stories in which Thor does not win are not worth telling, some of them are among the most famous. One of them has to do with the giant Utgarda-Loki’s castle and the three tricks played on Thor.

Thor Dios del trueno

Thor often traveled with his human servant Thjalfi or with Loki but, on this trip, he was accompanied by both of them. They meet a giant named Skrýmir in the forest who offers to carry the bag of food, but ties it so tightly that Thor cannot open it. Three times Thor attacks Skrýmir with his hammer while the giant sleeps but to no effect; each time Skrýmir wakes up and asks if perhaps a leaf or an acorn has fallen on his head.

Giant’s fortress

After Skrýmir leaves them, the three arrive at the fortress of the giant Utgarda-Loki who mocks them for being so small and tells them that, if they want to stay, they must compete in contests that prove their worth. Loki offers to compete in eating as fast as possible and faces Logi of Utgarda-Loki’s court. Loki eats all the meat in the trough but Logi eats the meat, the bones and the trough itself; so Logi is declared the winner. Thjalfi then offers to run a race and, three times, loses to his opponent Hugi.

When it is Thor’s turn, he chooses a drinking contest and Utgarda-Loki offers him a large horn. Thor drinks three times but cannot empty the horn. Utgarda-Loki taunts him and offers him the challenge of lifting a large gray cat off the ground; Thor can only lift it high enough so that one paw is in the air. Once again, Utgarda-Loki taunts Thor and says that he may be able to win in a fight with an old woman, his nurse Elli.

Thor and Elli grapple down the hallway until Thor is finally forced to his knees. At this point, Utgarda-Loki calls a halt to the contests and allows the three to spend the night. The next morning, Utgarda-Loki leaves the castle with Thor and his companions and reveals the truth of the past few days. First he tells them that he was Skrýmir in the forest and that he tricked Thor every time Thor struck him; Thor was striking mountains whose tops were now leveled by each blow.

In the castle

Once in the castle, the deception continued, as Loki’s opponent in the eating contest was actually a forest fire that burned the meat, bones and wooden trough, while Thjalfi’s opponent in the race was believed to fly faster than anyone’s feet. In the case of Thor’s contest, Utgarda-Loki explains, the bottom of the drinking horn was in the sea, so that no matter how much Thor drank, he could never have emptied it. However, he managed to drink so much that the sea level had dropped and Thor had now created tides.

The gray cat had actually been the Midgard serpent surrounding the world and the fact that Thor had managed to raise it as high as he had was incredible. Finally, the old woman he had fought was old age itself, whom no one can defeat, and Utgarda-Loki says that everyone was shocked and amazed when Thor was only forced to his knees.

Thor responds to this speech by taking out his hammer to smash Utgarda-Loki’s skull, but the giant is gone and so is his strength. Thor and his companions leave the giant’s land, but Thor swears vengeance on the Midgard serpent for being able to resist him. Soon after, he goes fishing with the giant Hymir and catches the serpent, but Hymir, fearful of drowning as Thor’s fight with the beast is threatening his ship, cuts the line.

Midgard Serpent

The Midgard serpent escapes and Thor, after throwing Hymir overboard, wades ashore. Neither of these tales shows Thor at his best because he is tricked in the first and betrayed, just as he was about to take the serpent to the ship, in the second. Yet he remains a heroic figure because his flaws are not of his own making.

No one could have done better against Utgarda-Loki’s magic, and no one can predict what a companion might do in a moment of crisis. In another folktale, Thor’s hammer is stolen by the giants and he must disguise himself as the goddess Freyja and pretend to be the giant’s bride to get it back. A Norse audience would have been entertained by these stories, but would also have derived a comforting message: even Thor could have bad days.

Cult of Thor

This kind of tranquility that Thor provided gave rise to his popular cult. Very little is known of the details of Thor’s worship due to the nature of the Norse religion, which had no formal scripture or liturgy, but, as noted above, his popularity is evidenced by the number of amulets, engravings, and other allusions to him. Sørensen comments on the cult of Thor and Norse religious practices in general.

The most important difference between pagan and Christian worship was that the pagan cults did not have the regular organization of the Christian church. Religion was not a separate institution with special temples and priests. It was part of ordinary life and was maintained by individual members of society, i.e., by maids and housewives, and rituals were performed in the homes of farmers and chieftains.

Thor Dios del trueno

There seem to be exceptions to this general rule, however, as temples of Thor are mentioned by later writers. The most famous of these was the Uppsala Temple in Sweden, dedicated to the worship of Freyr, Odin and Thor. According to the account of Adam of Bremen (c.1050-1085 CE), in the Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum sacrifices were made at this temple every nine years, in which males of all species were killed and hung from trees in a sacred grove.

Although Adam’s account has been questioned as hearsay and as unreliable, it seems likely that some kind of ritual sacrifice took place at Uppsala, as well as elsewhere. Davidson comments:


The figure of the god with his hammer is said to have been in many temples at the end of the pagan period. We hear more of Thor’s images than of the other gods, and when he shared a temple with other deities, he is often said to have occupied the place of honor. Rich robes are mentioned, and it is said that sacrifices of meat and bread were made to him in his temples in Norway. His worshippers would seek the guidance of Thor’s image when the time came to make a difficult decision.

These temples were destroyed once Christianity triumphed over Norse pagan beliefs. Davidson tells the story of the infamous Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason (r. 995-1000 AD), who forcibly converted his kingdom to Christianity through violence and torture, destroying a temple after being shown how a statue of Thor worked (moved). Davidson cites a description of the statue from the Icelandic manuscript Flateyjarbók (c. 1394 CE), a compilation of earlier writings about Norse leaders, which emphasizes the greatness of the Thor statue:


Thor sat in the middle. He was the most honored. It was huge and all adorned with gold and silver. Thor was willing to sit in a chariot; it was very splendid. There were goats, two of them, harnessed in front of him, very well forged. Both the carriage and the goats ran on wheels. The rope around the horns of the goats was of twisted silver and the whole was worked with extremely fine craftsmanship.

This statue appears to have moved when one pulled the rope around the horns and, when one did so, it made a sound like thunder. Davidson continues:

Skeggi, the man who took Olaf Tryggvason to the temple to see Thor, persuaded him to pull the rope around the horns of the goats and, when he did so, the goats moved easily. Skeggi then declared that the king had served the god and Olaf, predictably, was furious and called his men to destroy the idols while he himself dragged Thor out of his chariot. The implication here is that the dragging of a well-oiled chariot was part of a ritual in honor of Thor.


Amulets depicting Thor’s hammer rivaled those of Christian crosses as the Norse religion struggled to maintain itself against the encroachment of the new faith that seemed antithetical to every value Thor embodied. The very characteristics that made Thor such a popular god were denigrated by the new religion that, at least in theory, promoted peaceful conflict resolution and deliberation before action.

Although Christian kings like Olaf Tryggvason converted more people with coal and steel than with theological arguments, the ideals of Christianity offered no place for a god like Thor and his worshippers either died resisting Christian conversion or accepted the new faith and forgot about him. By the 12th century A.D., the cult of Thor was a memory and churches stood where his temples had been.

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