“…very very frightening, Thor!”*
The ultimate disproportionate retaliation, Thor and Mjölnir not only crack Jotunn heads but they threaten to crack my plot wide open.
One issue is that the myths suggest that (some) Aesir/Vanir and (some) Jotunn can go toe-to-toe with each other. I have two such battles accounted for — but Thor is the outlier. A huge outlier since he kills every Jotunn he comes across.
In BK 1, I play right into that by making Thor break-a-mountain kinda strong. And I put Hyrrokin in his path which, I think, results in a pretty cool scene. (We’ll see what my editor thinks.)
But, there need to be limits.
Norse myth has already limited Thor’s strength in a couple ways. For example, to use Mjolnir Thor needs the Járngreipr (iron grippers) — i.e., iron gloves. He also wears Megingjörd (power belt) which doubles his strength. (As I write this, I don’t remember if the belt is needed for Mjolnir or if it’s just a bonus. To the books!)
But those limits aren’t enough, really. They do suggest that I could have Thor’s hammer stolen (as it was in the myths) or even his other implements. I’m not going that route b/c in my books, that’s already happened to Thor and now he keeps a watchful eye on his stuff.
Instead, I separate Thor from the conflicts. First by having him “away” when he needs to be in Gladsheim. Second, by having him actively choose to zig when he should have zagged. And, third, by having him manipulated.
In Norse myth, there’s a bit of friction between Thor and his father (Odin). This appears true historically, too. The temple at Uppsala (Sweden) has three central statues: Thor, Odin and Freyr. Thor occupies the central position suggesting, perhaps, that he was worshipped as the “mightiest” god (according to Adam of Bremen). The language of place names and people names further suggest that Thor was very highly revered.**
In the Poetic Edda, the Poem of Harbarth illustrates another difference/tension between Odin and Thor:
The noble who fall | in the fight hath Othin,
And Thor hath the race of the thralls.
In this context I believe that “thrall” means the common people / peasants more than “slaves,” per se. So, it’s a class / societal status difference between the father and son.
The entirety of the Poem of Harbath is pretty awesome — it’s a battle of wits/insults between a disguised Odin (Harbath) who refuses passage across a river to a weary Thor who’s just returned from fighting the Jotunn. That in itself illustrates another key difference between them — Odin’s the cunning god, a trickster, who lies to Thor and is basically just being a jerk, while Thor’s portrayed as the opposite — honest and forthright. After all, he’s not disguised and he gives his name while the disguised Odin never does.
Note that there’s an underlying, casual brutality to both Thor and Odin that’s alien to us moderns:
32. “Thy help did I need then, Thor, | to hold the white maid fast.”
33. “Gladly, had I been there, | my help to thee had been given.”
Thor is also typically depicted as simple-minded / stupid. I think that’s crap and probably more an outgrowth of “nobles” thinking they’re better than “peasants.” I’ve nothing to back that up, though. I will cite, however, the events of the Alvissmol in which Thor outwits the “dwarf” Alviss (All Wise).
So, is Thor dumb? Not in my books.
However, my Thor is susceptible to deception (just as anyone is). In BK 3, Odin deceives Thor — manipulates him into leaving so that he (Odin) is free to do something vile which Thor, had he been around, would have prevented.
And that implies that Thor is capable of countering Odin. Which, in my books, he is. Odin doesn’t scare him nor is he intimidated by his father. After all, what does the oncoming storm have to fear?
On the other hand, Odin isn’t afraid of Thor. He’s circumspect with his son. He doesn’t want a direct confrontation with Thor. And why would he, unless it served some subtle goal? (Also, he’s not sure who’d win.)
But even when Thor obeys his father, he’ll still refuse to do something he thinks is dishonorable — despite being ordered to do it by his father and despite what the Jotunn themselves did to the Aesir at the start of BK 1.
In the Lokasenna, Thor is portrayed as the only Aesir who Loki respects.
64. “I have said to the gods | and the sons of the god,
The things that whetted my thoughts;
But before thee alone | do I now go forth,
For thou fightest well, I ween.
I don’t think Loki fears Thor any more than Odin does; I read respect in those quoted lines — born, likely, of familiarity.*** And, much like Odin, Loki only does things if they suit his purposes. Loki will give ground if it makes sense and he’ll endure mockery by the Aesir since it means they’re more likely to underestimate him.
So far, I haven’t given Thor a POV in my books. That’s for several reasons:
- His huge popularity these days
- I didn’t think his POV was required, unlike Loki’s and Odin’s. I don’t need to be in Thor’s head to show him kicking ass.
- I’m more intrigued by those who I put in his path. We’re in Hyrrokin’s head for her confrontation with Thor. That’s for two reasons:
- reveal her character and
- show the reader what Thor’s capable of — which, I think, delivers a bit of what they want (cool factor) and sets up future expectations.
- His threat of overwhelming force. The Jotunn know it, they’ve lived it, so how do they plan on countering him? As the author, that’s the challenge I find interesting.
And for the Jotunn in my books, countering Thor is an ongoing concern. At least until Ragnarok.
* Courtesy Deadpool in Marvel Heroes 2016, sung to the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Note: The graphic is from here. It’s a 10th century version of Mjolnir and is an amulet worn by someone who worshipped Thor.
** There’s WAY more to Thor than my poor summary suggests. Of notable interest, imo, is the parallel to Indra and how Thor’s role among the ancient Scandinavians and Germanic peoples shifted over time.
*** Of all the Aesir besides Odin, Loki is most often seen in the company of Thor.