Thor was the Norse god of thunder, not to
be confused with the god of storms. Thor is often compared to Herakles in his
function in the Norse society as well as his basic personality. Thor was
hot-tempered and unpredictable in the same way as Herakles. Thor was also known
for his incredible appetite for food and drink. He was the strongest of the gods
and served as their protector and defender. Mortal people also invoked Thor for
protection from evil and destruction. He is also seen as bringing fertility to
the fields and happiness in marriage. This happiness in marriage has to do with
his long marriage to Sif whom he seemed to love very much. He defended her on
several occasions. Thor was married twice: first to Iarnsaxa and second to Sif.
He had 3 sons and 1 daughter from these 2 marriages. He did not kill any of his
family. In this respect he is nothing like Herakles who was promiscuous and
uncaring towards his wives. Herakles did not seem to take as much interest in
his women as Thor seems to in his wives. [ To learn more about Herakles and his
relationship with women, go to Herakles and Women page.]
Thor has three important weapons at his
disposal: a girdle that increases his strength, iron gauntlets that allow him to
control his hammer better, and his hammer, Mjolnir, which creates lightning when
thrown against stone and thunder when thrown through the air. Thor is always
seen in action; he is forever on one quest or another. His greatest battle was
with the Midgard serpent. He did not defeat the serpent, but it is predicted
that at the end of the world, he will die in battle with it.
Sacrifices were also offered to Thor to prevent plagues and famine. This
can be compared to Heraklesí association with healing (Hallam 1996).
Thor is noted for his great size and
strength. As a baby, Thor demonstrated his strength to the gods by lifting and
throwing 10 loads of bear skins. He was raised and taught by foster parents.
Though Thor was generally good-tempered, he could fly into awful rages that
threatened to destroy everything in their paths. Thor is known as a patron god
of the peasants and the lower classes. He is seen as an underdog. Like Herakles,
he is not quite a god. He cannot join the gods in their land by crossing the
bridge because his great heat would burn it down. Therefore, Thor had to wade
across the river itself to take his place in the Asgard, a great judgement hall
of the gods (Guerber 1895).
Thor was also
worshipped extensively and proved to be a great challenge to Christianity.
Children were baptized in his name and the sign of Thor was placed on them (this
sign is similar to the sign of the cross). He also wore a halo of fire, his
element. Replicas of his hammer were used to bless funeral pyres, associating
him with death and cremation. The Yule-tide was Thorís biggest festival and
our modern Christmas now takes its place (Guerber 1895). Thor was Christís
biggest adversary (Davidson 1964).
Thorís biggest adversaries were the frost giants of the North. He was always
going into battle with them, much in the same way that Herakles was always after
the Centaurs or some other beasts. Thor once tried to kill a giant that had come
to the gods as a guest. This equates to Herakles throwing one of his own house
guests off the roof, only the gods prevented Thor from killing the giant
once in servitude to Queen Omphale. He is rumored to have dressed as a women
while in her court. Though the situation with Thor is not exactly the same, Thor
once dressed as a woman. One of the frost giants stole his hammer through
deceit. Thor went to retrieve it. The giant agreed to trade the hammer for
Freyaís hand in marriage. Freya was the goddess of love and beauty and refused
the idea of marriage to a giant. Thor and his companion dressed as Freya and her
lady and deceived the giant. They did retrieve the hammer and then killed the
giant and his company (Guerber 1895).
characteristic that Herakles and Thor share is the attitude in which the common
people treated them. Both characters are tinged with an element of comedy. Their
appetites alone are of comic proportions (Davidson 1964).
Thor is the characteristic hero of the Vikings. His enemies are quickly killed. More images of Thor exist than of any of the other gods. Huge statues are devoted to him. He gave guidance to the people in difficult times and was there for the well-being of the community. Thor is often compared to Indra because of several resembling characteristics. Donar, one of Thorís predecessors, was thought to resemble Herakles more than Thor himself. Germans began to praise Herakles before battle as their new hero. Thor is also equated with Zeus/Jupiter (Davidson 1964). (MAC)
R. (1964). Gods and Myths
of Northern Europe. London: Penguin Books.
Hallam, Elizabeth; general editor (1996). Gods
and Goddesses: A Treasury of Deities
Guerber, H. A.
(1895). Myths of Northern Lands.
New York: American Book Company.