History for the Rest of Us

Sif – Thor’s Golden-Haired Wife

Sif – Thor’s Golden-Haired Wife

Apr 22, 2014

Sif, Thor’s wife, was very vain of a magnificent head of long golden hair which covered her from head to foot like a brilliant veil; and as she too was a symbol of the earth, her hair was said to represent the long grass, or the golden grain covering the Northern harvest fields. Thor was very proud of his wife’s beautiful hair; imagine his dismay, therefore, upon waking one morning, to find her shorn, and as bald and denuded of ornament as the earth when the grain has been garnered, and nothing but the stubble remains! In his anger, Thor sprang to his feet, vowing he would punish the perpetrator of this outrage, whom he immediately and rightly conjectured to be Loki, the arch-plotter, ever on the look-out for some evil deed to perform. Seizing his hammer, Thor went in search of Loki, who attempted to evade the irate god by changing his form. But it was all to no purpose; Thor soon overtook him, and without more ado caught him by the throat, and almost strangled him ere he yielded to his imploring signs and relaxed his powerful grip. When he could draw his breath, Loki begged forgiveness, but all his entreaties were vain, until he promised to procure for Sif a new head of hair, as beautiful as the first, and as luxuriant in growth. “And thence for Sif new tresses I’ll bring Of gold, ere the daylight’s gone, So that she shall liken a field in spring, With its yellow-flowered garment on.” The Dwarfs, Oehlenschläger (Pigott’s tr.). Then Thor consented to let the traitor go; so Loki rapidly crept down into the bowels of the earth, where Svart-alfa-heim was situated, to beg the dwarf Dvalin to fashion not only the precious hair, but a present for Odin and Frey, whose anger he wished to disarm. His request was favourably received and the dwarf fashioned the spear Gungnir, which never failed in its aim, and the ship Skidbladnir, which, always wafted by favourable winds, could sail through the air as well as on the water, and which had this further magic property, that although it could contain the gods and all their...

Miölnir – Thor’s Hammer

Miölnir – Thor’s Hammer

Nov 29, 2012

Thor was the proud possessor of a magic hammer called Miölnir (the crusher) which he hurled at his enemies, the frost-giants, with destructive power, and which possessed the wonderful property of always returning to his hand, however far away he might hurl it. “I am the Thunderer! Here in my Northland, My fastness and fortress, Reign I forever! “Here amid icebergs Rule I the nations; This is my hammer, Miölnir the mighty; Giants and sorcerers Cannot withstand it!” Saga of King Olaf (Longfellow). As this huge hammer, the emblem of the thunderbolts, was generally red-hot, the god had an iron gauntlet called Iarn-greiper, which enabled him to grasp it firmly. He could hurl Miölnir a great distance, and his strength, which was always remarkable, was doubled when he wore his magic belt called Megin-giörd. “This is my girdle: Whenever I brace it, Strength is redoubled!” Saga of King Olaf (Longfellow). Thor’s hammer was considered so very sacred by the ancient Northern people, that they were wont to make the sign of the hammer, as the Christians later taught them to make the sign of the cross, to ward off all evil influences, and to secure blessings. The same sign was also made over the newly born infant when water was poured over its head and a name given. The hammer was used to drive in boundary stakes, which it was considered sacrilegious to remove, to hallow the threshold of a new house, to solemnise a marriage, and, lastly, it played a part in the consecration of the funeral pyre upon which the bodies of heroes, together with their weapons and steeds, and, in some cases, with their wives and dependents, were burned. In Sweden, Thor, like Odin, was supposed to wear a broad-brimmed hat, and hence the storm-clouds in that country are known as Thor’s hat, a name also given to one of the principal mountains in Norway. The rumble and roar of the thunder were said to be the roll of his chariot, for he alone among the gods never rode on horseback, but walked, or drove in a brazen chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngniostr (tooth-cracker), and Tanngrisnr (tooth-gnasher), from whose teeth...

Thor

Thor

Nov 6, 2012

The Thunderer According to some mythologists, Thor, or Donar, is the son of Jörd (Erda) and of Odin, but others state that his mother was Frigga, queen of the gods. This child was very remarkable for his great size and strength, and very soon after his birth amazed the assembled gods by playfully lifting and throwing about ten great bales of bear skins. Although generally good-tempered, Thor would occasionally fly into a terrible rage, and as he was very dangerous at these times, his mother, unable to control him, sent him away from home and entrusted him to the care of Vingnir (the winged), and of Hlora (heat). These foster-parents, who are also considered as the personification of sheet-lightning, soon managed to control their troublesome charge, and brought him up so wisely, that the gods entertained a very grateful recollection of their kind offices. Thor himself, recognizing all he owed them, assumed the names of Vingthor and Hlorridi, by which he is also known. “Cry on, Vingi-Thor, With the dancing of the ring-mail and the smitten shields of war.” Sigurd the Volsung (William Morris). Having attained his full growth and the age of reason, Thor was admitted to Asgard among the other gods, where he occupied one of the twelve seats in the great judgment hall. He was also given the realm of Thrud-vang or Thrud-heim, where he built a wonderful palace called Bilskirnir (lightning), the most spacious in all Asgard. It contained five hundred and forty halls for the accommodation of the thralls, who after death were welcomed to his home, where they received equal treatment with their masters in Valhalla, for Thor was the patron god of the peasants and lower classes. “Five hundred halls And forty more, Methinketh, hath Bowed Bilskirnir. Of houses roofed There’s none I know My son’s surpassing.” Sæmund’s Edda (Percy’s tr.). As he was god of thunder, Thor alone was never allowed to pass over the wonderful bridge Bifröst, lest he should set it aflame by the heat of his presence; and when he wished to join his fellow gods by the Urdar fountain, under the shade of the sacred tree Yggdrasil, he was forced to make...