This is a question regarding the accuracy of Marvel comics' portrayal of the Norse mythological character of Thor as compares to the actual character from Norse mythology. In the Marvel universe, the character of Thor is able to pass his abilities from one person to another via the Mjollnir; whoever can wield the Mjollnir can use the powers of Thor. Furthermore, the name Thor is treated as a title in the Marvel universe; whoever wields the Mjollnir is named "Thor".

To what degree is this portrayal accurate to the Norse mythological source? Are there any indications in the source material that Thor could pass his abilities (via transfer of the Mjollnir or in any other way), and that if he could, is the name "Thor" a title that would pass to that person as the abilities are transferred?

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In Norse mythology, Thor is that person's actual name. Mjolnir is a very heavy, powerful hammer, but there is no worthiness enchantment on it. In fact, there's an entire story, the Þrymskviða, about how the chief of the Frost Giants stole Mjolnir from under Thor's bed while he was sleeping, so Thor and Loki have to go get it back, with Thor disguised as Freya to be the bride of Thrym.

Thrym is easily able to handle Mjolnir in the myth, and Loki convinces him to give the hammer to "Freya," which wouldn't be possible if there was some kind of worthiness standard involved.

Now, in mythology, Thor does need special iron gloves called Járngreipr to handle Mjolnir, but there's nothing to indicate a test of worthiness, and I don't think there are any stories about the gloves being lost and rendering Thor hammerless — like his belt which doubles his strength, I think they are just hyperbolically cool attributes.

So far as I recall, the Norse deities have names, not titles, and their powers and titles cannot be handed around. I'm pretty sure it was an invention of Marvel.

No.

Like most pop culture representations of anything, significant liberties have been taken in the Marvel depiction of Thor. In the original Norse mythology, There is no hint that Thor's name or powers could be transferred to another.


Firstly, the myths do not depict Thor as being powered by his hammer the way you have described. To the contrary, he is stated to be an innately powerful divine entity. For example, according to the description given of megingjörð:

He has a second costly thing, best of all: the girdle of might; and when he clasps it about him, then the godlike strength within him is increased by half.

Gylfaginning, XXI. Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, 1916

Likewise, the edda shows Thor to be mighty before his hammer was even made. In fact, the myths explains that Mjölnir was created partially because Thor could beat Loki into a pulp:

Loki Laufeyarson, for mischief's sake, cut off all Sif's hair. But when Thor learned of this, he seized Loki, and would have broken every bone in him, had he not sworn to get the Black Elves to make Sif hair of gold, such that it would grow like other hair.

Skáldskaparmál, XXXV. Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, 1916

In other words, Thor's weapons and gear enhances his divine prowess - just as a human with a sword and suit of armour would be. But they are not the source of his strength.

Secondly, Thor is firmly the deity's a personal name in the texts, not a title that to be transferred. We see this from when Mjölnir changed owners in the aftermath of Ragnarök. According to the Gylfaginning, after the twilight of the gods, Thor's sons will inherit Mjölnir from their slain father.

And then the sons of Thor, Módi and Magni, shall come there, and they shall have Mjöllnir there . . . thus is it said:

In the deities' shrines | shall dwell Vídarr and Váli,
When the Fire of Surtr is slackened;
Módi and Magni | shall have Mjöllnir
At the ceasing of Thor's strife.

There is no hint here that either were to assume the name Thor - i.e., it's not treated as a title to be inherited or transferred.

  • This answer is also very good, I just accepted Lauren's answer above because it had the earlier timestamp. Thanks to both of you! – Ertai87 Nov 30 at 15:14

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