Marvel has popularized the character of Thor, the Norse god of thunder, in comic book series and, more recently, in film. But Marvel’s Thor bears only a passing resemblance to the mythological figure once worshiped throughout northern Europe. So what was the real Thor like?
Though he is the son of Odin, Thor is very much an independent character. He is giant and bearded, with fiery red (not blonde) hair. He is by far the strongest of the Aesir, the Norse gods. In many of the legends involving Thor, his companion (not his brother) is Loki. Loki is usually a trickster, but as time goes on, he becomes evil.
One of the evil acts Loki performs is to cut of the long blonde (not black) hair of Thor’s wife (not companion) Sif. She then has a wig made of gold by the dwarves. They also make Thor’s hammer, Miolnir. The idea that only Thor is able to life his hammer is also a Marvel invention, as in the Eddas, it is stolen by the giant Thrymr, and only recovered when Loki dresses Thor up as Freya and offers him as a bride for the giant.
Many other aspects of the mythological Thor are missing in the comic book version: his cart, drawn by goats who, if eaten, will be alive again the next day; his human servants, Thialfi and Roskva, who accompany him on some of his adventures; his sons, Magni and Modi; and finally, his arch nemesis, the world serpent, one of Loki’s children, who Thor catches while fishing, and is destined to be killed by when the end of the world, Ragnarok, arrives.
For more information on Thor and Norse mythology, see my book “An Encyclopedia of Norse Mythology”, available for Kindle: