4

It seems like a weird choice for a draft animal.

7

Thor's "ride" fits with his role as god of the common people. While most of the gods ride horses, Thor drives a wagon, or walks. (He walks across Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, according to the Prose Edda.)

As for the goats, I'm just guessing here, but there's a verse in the poem Havamal, which is supposed to be the widsom of Odin himself:

One's own house is best, though small it may be;
each man is master at
home; though he have but two goats and a bark-thatched hut
'tis better than craving a boon.

So a goat would be the least that a subsistence farmer could get by with - but Thor's goats are special, because he can eat them and use them for draft animals time and again. Also, anyone who can yoke a goat and make it pull a wagon is clearly possessed of supernatural powers.

  • 1
    Hmm... I do not disagree with the gist of this answer, but I can think of only four gods for which we know a means of transport except walking: Thor drawn by his goats, Odin on Sleipnir, Frey on his boar or his ship, and Freya drawn by her cats or (presumably) using her falcon shape. – andejons Aug 19 '17 at 19:17
  • 1
    Heimdall and Freyr have horses, at least in the Prose Edda, but I take your point. However, Thor walks across Bifrost, and the whole point of the poem Harbardsljod is that Odin (disguised) can refuse to ferry Thor across a ford too deep to wade. But it's true that we don't know how most of them get around. – solsdottir Aug 20 '17 at 20:19
  • 2
    You might find this essay on why there's goats but no sheep in the myths interesting. I find it a little too speculative when there's only two uses of one and none for the other animal (and sheep as draft animals for Thor seems very odd), but it's interesting anyway. – andejons Aug 22 '17 at 6:15
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    I'm glad I used the term "weird" per it's association with portentousness re: "anyone who can yoke a goat and make it pull a wagon is clearly possessed of supernatural powers." – DukeZhou Aug 24 '17 at 17:45
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    @andejons: In Wagner's Ring (specifically Die Walküre 2.1, stage direction by the poet/composer) Fricka arrives in a chariot drawn by two rams. – Brian Donovan Aug 30 '17 at 15:58
7

Snorri’s tale of the goats’ being being magically reconstituted after being eaten for meat is of a common type of mythic motif, a fantasy cherished by a people who know hunger intimately. (Compare Ojibwe myths featuring a tiny kettle that proves an inexhaustible cornucopia of manoomin [that’s “wild rice” to us chimooks]; a more specific match, though, is the myth of Tantalos and Pelops.) The socio-economic class associated with Thor’s cult was lower than that associated with Odin’s, after all.

At one level, one might say that even a god might have to settle for whatever species he could get with this rare magical property, if he felt it requisite. But on a very different level, one might ask if his “choice” of goats is any weirder than, say, the choice of a castrated blue lion to be the mount or “vehicle” of the Bodhisattva Manjusri. Quite possibly these pairings between divine personages and their familiar animals are holdovers from a stage of totemism.

  • Nice perspective. Props for mentioning Pelops! – DukeZhou Aug 20 '17 at 21:01
3

It looks less weird in the context of a version of the Auriga mythology involving goats. Part of Auriga are the Haedi, the two goat kids.

  • Welcome to Mythology! I took the liberty of linking your answer to the relevant wiki. Nice connection. (PS see Solsdottir's answer and the notes for the association of weirdness with portentousness.) – DukeZhou Sep 18 '17 at 21:09

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