Thor God: The God of Lightning and Thunder in Norse Mythology

A flash of lightning, followed by a rumbling sound of thunder, dissects the looming silence of the night.

The skies divide into two as an imposing figure cuts through the voluminous clouds swinging a hammer in his hand with anger in his eyes.

But what is it actually? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it one of Elon Musk’s satellites that failed to operate in orbit and is now falling at an earth-shattering speed to the ground?

The answer is; none of them.

When we think of thunder, hammers, and stormy skies, only one thing comes into our minds. Of course, it is none other than Thor god, the Norse god of lightning and thunder.

But where did this hunk of a god spring up from? What were Thor’s powers? Why is he so popular? And for Valhalla’s sake, was he actually a blondie? 

What is Thor the God Of?

thor-god
Thor’s fight with the Giants

Thor is the Norse god of thunder, lightning, and storms in Norse mythology.

As a result of him being a fan favorite amongst his worshippers, this handsome thunder god appears in many parts of the Norse religion.

Following the universal pattern of flagship deities not confined to only one area of expertise, Thor is responsible for countless aspects of northern mythology.

Thor is known for his strength, bravery, and quick temper. He is often depicted as a fierce warrior who is quick to defend the gods and the mortal world from their enemies.

But brute force isn’t his only talent.

In addition to being the god of thunder, lightning, and storms, Thor is also associated with fertility and protection.

In some traditions, he is seen as a fertility god who can bring rain and subsequently foster harvests. He is often depicted as a defender of ancient Scandinavia.

Thor is also associated with the agricultural cycle and the seasons. His worship during the Viking Age was often connected to rituals related to these themes.

READ MORE: Norse Gods and Goddesses: the Deities of Old Norse Mythology

Why is Thor a Powerful God?

Thor stands out significantly from the other Norse gods simply because he is extremely overpowered (please nerf).

Armed with a magical hammer and an endless flow of innate brawn coursing through his veins, the thunder god ranks at the top of the Nordic food chain.

Most tales featuring Thor revolve around his pure, divine strength.

Some of his most notable powers include:

  1. Physical strength: Thor is considered one of the strongest gods in Norse myths and is often depicted as able to lift and carry weighty objects.
  2. Mental strength: Thor is often vulnerable to trickery, but his mental resilience can’t be undermined. His brain is geared for battle at all times, which gives the thunder god a definite edge over other Norse gods.
  3. Mjolnir: Mjolnir is Thor’s magical, sentient hammer. The most badass thing about it is that it is said to be able to level entire mountains and summon white-hot thunderbolts. Thor’s ability to wield Mjolnir with great skill and precision makes him genuinely formidable, and he can use the hammer to defeat even the most powerful of enemies.
  4. Flight: Thor can use Mjolnir to fly through the air, which allows him to travel great distances quickly and reach his enemies in a matter of moments.
  5. Weather control: As the god of thunder, lightning, and storms, Thor can control the weather and summon thunderbolts and lightning to defeat his enemies.
thunders

Is Thor an Aesir God or Vanir? 

Though gang wars weren’t all that famous in ancient Nordic culture, two pantheons of deities reigned supreme nonetheless.

In Norse mythology, the Aesir gods and Vanir gods were two groups of deities thought to inhabit the realms of Asgard (the home of the Aesir) and Vanaheim (the home of the Vanir).

The Aesir were associated with power, war, and wisdom and were considered the more powerful of the two groups. The Aesir included warriorlike deities like Odin, Frigg, and, of course, Thor.

Given Thor’s passion for slaying giants across the nine realms and diving headfirst into lands where the battle raged, it is no surprise that he is an Aesir god.

The Vanir, on the other hand, were associated with fertility, wisdom, and the natural world. They were thought to be more connected to the earth and its environmental cycles.

They were often depicted as more peaceful and nurturing than the Aesir. Some of the more famous Vanir gods include Freya, Njord, and Frey.

The Aesir and Vanir were originally at war but eventually made peace and intermarried, resulting in a pantheon of gods that included both the Aesir and Vanir deities.

In many Norse myths, the Aesir and Vanir are depicted as working together to protect the mortal world and maintain the balance of the cosmos.

Meet the Family

Thor’s legendary status among all the gods isn’t only due to his sheer strength.

Thor boasts a family tree so mighty that it could almost compare to Zeus, the Greek god of thunder, and his genealogy.

Thor is the son of Odin, the king of the gods, and Odin’s mistress, Jord, who is said to be the personification of the earth.

He has also grown up with Loki, the son of Fárbauti and the half-giant Laufey. There is a misconception that Loki is actually Thor’s brother by blood, whereas the truth is they were just brought up together.

Thor has several children, including Magni, Modi, and Thrud, all of them the bouncy offspring of Sif, the Norse goddess of wheat and grains.

Thor is also related to the other gods and goddesses in Norse tales, as they are all descended from the first god, Borr, who was the son of the primordial being, Buri.

Thor’s half-siblings include Baldr, Vidar, Hodr, and Vali.

It does get complicated sometimes, but it’s nothing when we compare it to the chaos that is Greek mythology.

To make things easier for you, here is a more concise list of Thor’s family members in Norse mythology:

  • Odin: Thor’s father and the king of the gods.
  • Jord: Thor’s mother and the mistress of Odin.
  • Loki: Thor’s half-brother and the son of Odin and the giantess Angrboda.
  • Sif: Thor’s wife and the mother of his children.
  • Magni, Modi, and Thrud: Thor’s children.
Thor God: The God of Lightning and Thunder in Norse Mythology 2
The Norse god Odin, the father of Thor, accompanied by his two wolfs, Geri and Freki, and ravens, Huginn and Muninn

Is Thor a God or a Demigod?

Often, people mix up the definitions of a god and a demigod.

Gods are seen as divine beings that are considered all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal in many mythologies. They are often depicted with superhuman abilities and are revered as the most powerful deities.

In contrast, demigods are seen as half human and half god and are sometimes called heroes with divine ancestry. They have human and divine qualities but are not as powerful as gods.

Despite this, they are still considered superior to humans and often have special abilities, just like our friendly neighborhood Norse thunder god.

After looking at his family tree and rigorous strength, it is safe to say Thor is no demigod and is a pure god, through and through.

In the Name

Thor’s name actually emanates some authentic masculine energy. The simplicity of his name is what’s so scary.

The name “Thor” is derived from the Old Norse word “Þórr,” which means “thunder.” Thor is the god of thunder, lightning, and storms in Norse mythology. His name is closely associated with these natural elements.

Thor’s name” is also related to the Old Norse word “Þunraz,” which means “thunder.” In Old Norse, the letter “Þ” is pronounced like the English “th,” which is why the name “Thor” is pronounced with a hard “th” sound in English rather than a soft “th” sounds like the English word “the.”

His name could also be connected to the onomatopoeia of thunder.

Thor Appearance

Of course, a god of Thor’s caliber is sure to have a superimposing appearance.

But is this thunderous Norse god actually fat and morbidly obese in Norse mythology?

Does he have golden hair like Chris Hemsworth?

Though Thor might have had the most chaotic appetite ever, he is typically depicted as a strong and muscular man with red hair and a red beard. Often, Thor bears a helmet and wields Mjolnir in his right hand.

Thor is also often shown wearing a belt called Megingjörð, which gives him a sort of overpowered buff when he engages in bar fights. He also wears a pair of iron gloves called Járngreipr, which he uses to wield Mjolnir. In some folk traditions, Thor is also seen riding a chariot pulled by goats or stags.

Thor is typically depicted as being very tall and imposing, with a commanding presence. His eyes are often described as fierce and piercing, and he is often shown with a determined or aggressive expression on his face.

So, yes, definitely; you should hide your girlfriend from him.

god-thor-with-his-hammer
An illustration of the god Thor with his hammer Mjöllnir, from an Icelandic 18th-century manuscript

How Was Thor’s Hammer Created?

According to a myth, the dwarves Sindri and Brokkr created Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.

It all started when Loki, the mischievous god, bet that the dwarves couldn’t make a gift as valuable as Freyja’s necklace.

To win the bet, the dwarves created Mjolnir from a divine metal called “Uru,” though this was one of the few times the metal was ever mentioned. The final result was so powerful that it could literally shatter mountains.

Thor used Mjolnir to protect humans and defeat his foes, and it became a well-known symbol of Norse myths.

Symbols of Thor God

Thor appears in countless trinkets and figurines in the human realm ever since he graced us with his mythological presence.

Thor’s popularity reached far and wide, so his symbols are common in crafts dating back to the Viking age.

Some symbols that are associated with Thor in Norse mythology include:

  1. Mjolnir: Mjolnir is one of the most well-known symbols of Thor and is often depicted as a symbol of his power and strength. It is also one of the most effective weapons that solidify his place and brute force in mythology and popular culture.
  2. Lightning bolts: As the god of thunder, lightning, and storms, Thor is often associated with thunderbolts and is sometimes depicted wielding them as weapons. Though there’s a clash with the Roman god Jupiter (and his Greek equivalent Zeus) in this sector, lightning is attributed chiefly to Thor, thanks to his popularity.
  3. Goat-drawn chariot: Since Thor is depicted as riding a chariot driven by goats, these handsome herbivores are often associated with the Norse god of thunder.
  4. Swastika: Germanic peoples made sure to cement Thor’s role in their battle-ridden lives by invoking his grace through swastikas. They were primarily used as a protective sign to gain the gods’ favor and to represent Thor’s hammer and power.
  5. Oak trees: Since some specific tales featuring Thor painted a picture of him favoring oak trees, it is no wonder that the common oak tree has become one of his symbols. Moreover, oak trees can withstand extreme environmental hazards such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, and hurricanes, a true testament to Thor.
oak-tree
An old oak tree, charcoal drawing by G. B. 1852

Roles of Thor

Thor’s inclusion in Norse mythology isn’t only limited to certain things. Like Isis in Egyptian mythology and Juno in Roman tales, Thor is the god on the speed dial for countless factors across northern Europe.

Curious much? Let’s take a look at some of them.

READ MORE: 35 Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

The Warrior

Due to him being essentially a walking fortress, Thor’s battle-ready physicality is a reminder to all his enemies that he is, at his core, a warrior.

Thor is the crown jewel of the Aesir gods and the most skilled defender of Asgard itself besides Odin.

His urge of slaying giants and mortal enemies is an ode to his constant vigilance. As a result, this warrior version of Thor is also his most popular one.

Paired with Mjolnir, he is an indestructible embodiment of thunder bursting across the sky. To the Nordic people, this meant everything.

Thor as a warrior in the Norse religion was celebrated in the symbols and engravings of weapons dating back to the Viking age. His name was invoked by his worshippers when in battle and was often a staple when mentioned alongside Odin.

The Harvester

Rain is necessary for crops to grow.

Being the heavenly watchdog for weather, Thor also ensured mortals across the nine realms were well-fed.

Of course, this meant keeping a close eye on crops and yearly harvests. For the thunder god, a massive chunk of this was possible thanks to his wife, Sif.

As Sif was the personification of grain and harvests, her union with Thor establishes a direct connection between the earth and the sky.

Hence, Nordic and Germanic people also invoked Thor’s name as a graceful harvester during bountiful harvests after frigid and harsh winters.

goddess-sif
The goddess Sif holds her golden hair

The Protector

A constant promise of defense makes a good god a great one.

Since thunderstorms came in plenty across Nordic lands, Thor’s imminent presence was felt by its residents. As scary as thunders might sound, they were thought to be good luck as it meant Thor had revealed himself to them.

Of course, the rumbling sound of the skies falling also represented his anger. But it wasn’t necessarily bad, as it struck fear in the hearts of anyone wanting to invade settlements where Thor was honored.

This was seen in practice way before Christianity finally prevailed in Scandinavia during the Viking age.

When Christians poured into northern Europe with new notions, they brought with them the immediate urge to replace the traditional Norse religion with Christianity.

Of course, this surge in hostility meant Thor’s popularity reached even newer heights as a protector of the people. While Christians donned their crosses, the Nordic people openly displayed devotion to their gods by wearing Thor’s hammer as a symbol around their necks.

The Blesser 

Though Thor and his hammer are often dubbed to be the bringer of absolute destruction, he could’ve also been the local nice guy sometimes.

Beyond the tautness of his iron grippers, Thor was also a giving god. People worshipping him sought peace, solace, and, most importantly, blessings.

To the people of Midgard, gaining the favor of Thor meant completing the final level of life itself. His worshippers invoked his name in weddings, hunts, and the inauguration of settlements to augment purification.

This parallels one Norse myth where Thor and Loki were having their supper. Thor arrives in front of his goats, butchers them, cleans their hide, and cooks them. After a delectable meal, Thor blesses what remains of the goats, and they magically reanimate to life.

thor-and-his-goats
Thor in a chariot with his goats

Thor and Odin

Ah, yes, the perfect father-son relationship.

Cutting to the chase, Thor and Odin have a strong bond of love and loyalty.

But of course, like any relationship, there are moments of tension and conflict too. Odin is the king of the gods and is known for being wise and powerful, with a lot of knowledge and the ability to see into the future.

Thor, on the other hand, is known for his strength and bravery, and he’s often depicted as a fierce warrior who is ready to defend the gods and the mortal world from their enemies.

Even though they have their differences, Thor and Odin have a close relationship and often work together to protect the people of Asgard and maintain balance in the world.

However, there are moments when things get tense between them, especially when it comes to Thor’s quick temper and impulsive nature. Odin is usually more measured and thoughtful and may curb Thor’s reckless tendencies.

The Theft of Mjolnir

One of the most well-known myths about Thor and Odin involves Thor’s journey to Jotunheim (land of the giants) to retrieve Mjolnir, which was stolen by a particularly dumb giant named Thrym.

According to the myth, the giant Thrym had stolen Thor’s hammer Thrym, who demanded that the goddess Freya be given to him in marriage in exchange for the hammer’s return as her beauty enchanted him.

The big guy even dared to threaten Thor and said that he had hidden Mjolnir “eight leagues beneath the earth” and would not release it until he had Freya on his bed.

Odin immediately called an emergency meeting to gather the entire pantheon and devise a plan to teach the giant a lesson.

Of course, it was Loki who hatched the route of action. He pitched the idea of disguising Thor as a bride, dressing him in Freya’s finest clothing, and sending him to Jotunheim to retrieve Mjolnir without danger somehow.

thor-disguised-as-freya
The engraving showing the god Thor dressed up as Freyja, with artificial breasts, a necklace (Brísingamen), and a keychain. Loki is also dressed as a woman.

Thor Dresses Up 

Though Thor hesitated at first, he gave in to the plan and draped himself in Freya’s clothing. Loki joined the server, too, as he dressed himself up to be Thor’s “maid” and accompanied him to Jotunheim.

As you might have guessed, the giant Thrym was delighted to see the “love of his life” arrive in his halls, so he called a grand feast to be arranged almost immediately.

During the feast, Thor couldn’t fight his urge to stuff his stomach with food and mead. As a result, Thrym and his entourage grew a bit suspicious of this “unbridely” behavior.

The Reunion of Thor and Mjolnir

Thanks to some super quick thinking, though, Loki came in the clutch by saying that the “bridge” had starved herself for eight days in the excitement of meeting the beautiful giant, so “she” was a bit hungry,

You won’t see this one coming.

The mad giant bought it and decided to reward “Freya” with the best gift he could offer: Mjolnir.

But of course, when Thrym brought Mjolnir out, Thor activated rampage mode. He crushed everyone in the giant’s halls using his trusty hammer.

And you thought Game of Thrones had dramatic weddings.

Thor and Loki

Thor and Loki are one of the most dynamic duos in the history of mythology.

After all, they often find themselves in conflict with each other. Loki is known for causing mischief and trouble and often plays tricks on Thor and the other Norse gods.

Thor, on the other hand, is known for his strength and bravery and is often called upon to protect the gods and the mortal world from threats.

This stark contrast gives rise to a love-hate relationship between the two.

While they do have their differences, there are also instances where Thor and Loki show camaraderie and work together toward a common goal. However, despite these moments of cooperation, their relationship is ultimately marked by ongoing conflict.

Talk about sibling rivalry.

loki
Loki depicted in an old manuscript

The Clash Between Thor and Loki

A tumultuous relationship such as theirs is sure to have some spicy drama.

In Norse mythology, Thor and Loki have had several confrontations with each other, including one famous battle in which Loki transformed into a fly and bit Thor on the neck, causing Thor to lose the fight.

This story can be found in the Prose Edda, a 13th-century Icelandic text that is the source of many Norse myths and legends and contains many tales featuring Thor.

This story in the Prose Edda tells us that Thor and Loki were traveling together when they encountered an ugly giant in the middle of the woods named Geirrod. Geirrod invited them into his hall and tried to kill them, but they were able to escape.

As they were leaving, Loki flipped on his mind and decided to turn into a fly and bite Thor on the neck, causing the poor thunder god to lose his strength. As he fell to his doom, Thor was then captured by Geirrod and could only escape later with the help of his servant, Thjalfi.

They often find themselves at odds with each other, and Loki’s trickster nature causes more trouble for Thor than not.

READ MORE: 11 Trickster Gods From Around The World

Thor and Sif 

If you are looking for a power couple in Norse tales, then this is it.

These two gods, namely Thor and Sif, were essentially the Romeo and Juliet of their time.

Thor and Sif are depicted as a loving couple that stands the test of time and, at times, trickery. Their relationship is founded on mutual respect, trust, and affection, and they are, most definitely, deeply connected emotionally.

Sif is known for her beauty and fertility, and Thor is deeply protective of her. He values her strength and bravery as a warrior and is deeply devoted to her.

A Hairy Affair 

Loki Steals Sif’s Hair

Here’s a nail-biting story for you.

There was once a time when Loki got on Thor’s nerves so hard that it made the thundergod shake the very foundations of Midgard.

First, let’s get it straight.

Thor loved Sif’s golden hair. After all, the sight of it made Thor’s day, and he would probably kill anyone who dared touch it. And he almost did.

Loki came across Sif lazing around in front of her house one day. Remembering how his half-brother loved Sif’s hair so much, Loki decided to chop it off her scalp because, hey, sibling rivalry sometimes do be like that.

After Thor caught wind of his trickster of a half-brother’s “trolling,” he decided it was time to break every bone in Loki’s body.

But of course, he was stopped by the Allfather Odin himself.

loki-and-sif
Loki and Sif, a drawing by A. Chase

The Return of the Hair 

Odin commanded Loki to restore Sif’s hair. Loki, stunned by the glaring eyes of the great Asgardian daddy and the looming threat of Thor’s thunderous power, decided it was game over for him.

He went back to seek the aid of the Dwarves, who were masters of the forge and craft. And yes, they were the very same Dwarves that had crafted Freyr‘s (the Norse god of fertility and peace) famed boat that could literally be folded like paper.

After some flattery, Loki convinced the Dwarves to hammer blocks of gold into threads and produce a gleaming web of gold that would soon become Sif’s hair.

Once Sif was gifted with the most divine golden hair in the cosmos, Thor decided to forgive Loki as the other gods cheered on his redemption arc.

I Bet Sif’s never going to have a dandruff problem again.

Thor Tricks Alvis

Another story that highlights Thor’s shrewd and cunning mind involves him tricking a dwarf. It is narrated in the Poetic Edda.

The thunder god came across a dwarf named Alvis in the middle of the forest, proudly boasting of his imminent marriage to a literal goddess. Curious, Thor asked him who the bride was, and to his surprise, Alvis answered that it was Thrud, Thor’s daughter.

Enraged by this, Thor decided to end this tiny man’s career by putting him to the test.

Thor responds by asking the dwarf a series of deeply cosmological questions that he is thrilled to answer. But as Thor continues to ask questions, the night passes on, and dawn edges near.

Thor revealed that it was a trick all along, and to Alvis’ surprise, the sun began to shine on his skin. Alas, dwarves were born with the curse of turning to stone at the first sense of sunlight.

It is said that Alvis still stands there, his eyes frozen with fear and ashen skin that would never feel the touch of Thrud.

Ragnarok and Thor

Every living creature must face the wrath of Ragnarok.

Ragnarok is an apocalyptic event in Norse mythology where every god in Norse mythology is fated to meet their end.

Of course, Thor is no exception to this gloomy prophecy. And no, Thanos doesn’t make a cameo here.

Like all the other gods, Thor’s fight for peace will end in Ragnarok at the fangs of a monstrous snake called “Jörmungandr,” otherwise known as the “World Serpent.” 

Here’s how the entire encounter will unfold.

ragnarok
Ragnarok, a drawing by Johannes Gehrts

How Will Thor Die? 

According to the mythology, Thor will face off against several powerful foes during Ragnarok, including the Midgard serpent Jörmungandr, the wolf Fenrir, and the fire giant Surt. Despite his valiant efforts, the events of Ragnarok will ultimately kill Thor in the finale of his battles.

Jörmungandr is the son of Loki and the giantess Angrboda, which explains how it was able to grow to such an enormous size.

It was so humongous that the world serpent could coil itself around Midgard and reach its tail, essentially tangling the entirety of the human realm. It is said that Ragnarok will start the moment the serpent lets go of its tail. 

Though slaying giants is Thor’s specialty, he will fall victim to the corrosive venom of this monstrous snake.

Thor’s death is foretold in the poem “Völuspá,” which describes the events of Ragnarok. The Norse myth is highlighted in the Poetic Edda and states, in simple English:

“The serpent yawns. The serpent bites.

The serpent’s venom deadly spits.

The serpent’s icy breath draws nigh.

The serpent’s death comes swiftly by.

Thor, the god of thunder, falls.

Jörmungandr’s life is ended.”

So basically, Thor’s death would not be in vain. Thor’s turn to die comes long after slaying the great serpent with his hammer.

After the monstrous snake falls to Thor’s hammer, Thor takes nine steps before succumbing to the torture of Jörmungandr’s venom coursing through his veins.

And that is going to be the end of this thundering typhoon.

But fear not; after the mythological event of Ragnarok has come to pass, the world will be reborn, and a new age of peace and prosperity will commence.

Thor, the god of thunder, will be forever remembered as a heroic and powerful deity who fought bravely with his magical hammer. All of it to defend the gods and the human realm against the most significant threats.

Worship of Thor

As one of the most respected Aesir gods, Thor was primarily worshipped daily by the Vikings and Nordic people.

Their way of worship included using his name to name their children and important places that the people held a deep connection with.

The temple at Uppsala in modern-day Sweden was one of the significant sites to worship Norse gods, and you can bet Thor was relevant there.

However, 1200-year-old pagan temples dedicated to Thor have also been found in Norway.

On top of all this, Thor’s symbols and names were a common sight in the engravings of weapons and various figurines, trinkets, and pendants, sometimes as a hammer.

Thor In Popular Culture

Thanks to his impact, Thor has made his way into the silver screen and the boulevards of the contemporary film industry.

If you weren’t living under a rock for the past couple of years, Thor is a hotshot in the world of Marvel Comics.

With four standalone films to his name and countless appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the popular interpretation of this badass Norse god, portrayed by the dashing Chris Hemsworth, is a beloved one.

Thor has also appeared in Sony’s immensely popular video game “God of War,” where a more psychologically realistic depiction of him is highlighted and narrated through a compelling storyline.

The god’s constant inclusion in media, film, literature, and art has kept him relevant through the ages.

It is expected to remain this way as long as contemporary culture doesn’t rust over time.

Conclusion

Thunder roars, lightning strikes,

As Thor, the god of storms alights.

Mjolnir in hand, he stands tall,

Defender of the gods, he will never fall.

References

“Poetic Edda 10” translation by Henry Adams Bellows:
https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe10.htm

“Poetic Edda 12” translation by Henry Adams Bellows:
https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe12.htm

“Poetic Edda 7” translation by Henry Adams Bellows:
https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe07.htm

“Poetic Edda11” translation by Henry Adams Bellows:
https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe11.htm

“Thor” by John Lindow in “A Handbook of Norse Mythology” (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2001)
https://www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A3575C

“Thor” by John McKinnell in “An Introduction to Old Norse” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)
https://global.oup.com/academic/product/an-introduction-to-old-norse-9780199270536?cc=us&lang=en&

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