Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
Even minor gods can find new life in comic books. Case in point is Bor, the Norse God who was the father of the all-powerful Odin. His powers are unclear and his reference in ancient Norse literature was brief. However, he’s become a part of modern myth... in the pages of Marvel Comics.
Thanks to the popularity of Marvel Comic’s superhero, Thor, many of the ancient Norse gods have been resurrected and placed into the “Marvel Universe” of superheroes. However, some of these gods were not well known in their own time nor were they major players in the mythology that they originated from.
Brief History of Bor
Bor was mentioned briefly in the in the “Gylfaginning” part of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda. “Gylfaginning (or the “Tricking of Gylfi”)” is the first part after the Prologue in Prose Edda, and is about the creation and destruction of the world of the Norse gods. One paragraph explains that he was the son of Buri and the father of Odin. Also, it suggests that he existed before there was an Earth or a universe to speak of.
Here is the translated text from a scholar:
“[Buri] begat a son called Bor, who wedded the woman named Bestla, daughter of Bolthorn the giant; and they had three sons: one was Odin, the second Vili, and the third Ve. (Brodeur, 1916).”
After this passage, Bor vanishes from the story. There are no other surviving references to a god who would appear to be so important. Also, it brings to question if there were any alters or temples dedicated to him.
Bor’s Returns in Modern Times
Bor’s name and reference seems to vanish over the years. His name, interestingly enough, found some -- although very indirect -- life in Christianity. The Bor icon of the Mother of God came to be revered in the 18th century. However, this religious icon - depicting Mother Mary with Jesus – had nothing to do with the Norse God. Even the name of Bor, came from the village and parish this icon originated from: Bor, Kaluga Gubernia (Russia).
The 20th century brought a resurgent of Bor. He was a minor, if not insignificant, character in the Middle Earth sagas of J.R.R. Tolkien. In it, he was the leader of a people of Easterlings, or Swarthy Men during the “First Age” of Middle-Earth. Again, it appears this Bor had little to do with the original Bor; however, Tolkien was an expert on medieval mythology, in particular Norse mythology. It was possible that he used this name to refer to a character that would exist in the beginning of his own Middle-Earth mythology.
Comic Book Mythos
In 1962, Marvel Comics breathed new life – and more of a story-line - into the ancient god. Bor was reintroduced into the pages of Journey into Mystery #97. He didn’t become a regular, yet he’d frequent the pages of Marvel comics for years to come.
Marvel fleshed out his origin tale. According to its website, Bor was among the gods that created the universe. Also, he taught his sons to fight, think, rule, and serve. Eventually, Bor taught his son, Odin, how to defend the dreams of his father.
Although he was not an immortal, Bor was given near limitless power including superhuman strength, endurance, durability and reflexes. Also, he could shoot energy from his eyes, guide lightning to strike a desired target, and unleash forces powerful enough to destroy Earth. (Marvel.com, 2010)
Marvel also explains Bor’s eventual demise. In the issue Thor #7 (2008), Odin tells Thor how he “killed” his father in order to become Lord of Asgard. In another issue, Thor #11 (2009)”, Loki convinces Hela to assist him in traveling to the past so he may trap Bor in the snow. And, finally there was the continuation Thor #600 (also 2009) when Bor is brought back to the land of the living by Loki in order to fight Thor in a complex rouge to have Bor killed and Thor banished ( It should be noted that there are several titles of “Thor” released by Marvel Comics).
Although an ancient god, Bor’s story has still to be written. J.R.R. Tolkien started it, and Marvel Comics is continuing his evolution. As of now, he’s a minor character. Maybe, one day, he’ll have his own story.
Update: New Details About Bor Emerges
With the popularity of the Thor and The Avengers movie franchises, new details have been added to Bor. Much of the new information comes from the website Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia.
Here are a few additional information about the cinematic and comicbook version of Bor:
- A last name: his full name is Bor Burison
- Fought in two wars. In the first he battled the dark elves led by Malekith and defeated them in the First Battle of Svartalfeim. He would die in the second battle.
- He was in movie Thor: The Dark World (played by Tony Curran) and was mentioned in the comic book story of the same name.
- Like Thor he had a special weapon. This was a magic spear known as Gungnir. This particular spear is used by all Asgardian rulers, including Odin.
- Also, one of the statues shown in the Thor movies is of Bor.He has a distinctive helmet that’s adorned with ram horns.
The website has more details about his strength and family tree.
Other Articles on Norse Mythology
- The Giants of Norse Mythology (Literally!)
Norse Mythology has many giants, big and small. Sometimes cast as villains or heroes, these deities played a pivotal role in Nordic mythology and literature. Here's a brief history of giants.
© 2016 Dean Traylor