The Avengers, from Marvel Studios, is the most successful comic book movie ever, and the third most successful movie of all-time. Most members of the team are original Marvel Comics characters, but one - Thor, the god of thunder - is based on Norse mythology.
Thor also appeared in his own movie in 2011, and will undoubtedly be seen in many sequels. In both myth and movie, Thor is a heroic character who battles to defend others, but changes were made to make him a modern superhero. Just how close is the movie version to the Thor of Norse mythology?
Thor was one of the superheroes introduced by Marvel Comics in the early 1960s, just as the Marvel Age of Comics was beginning. In Norse mythology, Thor has red hair and a beard, which was in keeping with his fiery temper. As originally drawn by Jack Kirby, however, he had long blond hair and was clean-shaven (although he has sometimes worn a beard in the comics).
In the movies Thor also has blonde hair, and a stubble beard. There's no explanation for the change in hair color, but perhaps he was originally made blonde to match the popular conception of what Scandanavians look like.
Mjölnir: Thor's Hammer
In comics, movies and mythology, Thor's trademark is his magic hammer, Mjölnir, which always returns to his hand when thrown. In mythology, he also has a belt of power, Megingjörð, which doubles his strength, and iron gauntlets, Járngreipr, to help him wield his magic hammer. These were not seen in the movie, and have been seen only occasionally in the comics.
Mjölnir allows Thor to fly in the comics and movies, but not so in mythology. According to Norse mythology, Thor travels in a magic flying chariot which is pulled by 2 goats.
The Norse Gods
Many of the other Norse gods appear in Thor, some substantially different from their mythological counterparts.
- Odin: Thor's father is seen in the movies as a wise peace-maker. Odin has great knowledge in the Norse myths as well, but is a very crafty character, often using deceit and disguise to create conflict, rather than end it.
- Loki: in mythology, Loki, the trickster, is not quite so evil. He causes trouble, but often sets things right again. Unlike the movie version, the mythological Loki is not Odin's adopted son (Thor's half-brother). He is said to be Odin's "blood brother".
- Heimdall: one of my favorite characters, Heimdall, guardian of the Bifrost bridge, is similar in the movies to the mythological version. In Norse myth, Heimdall can see and hear virtually everything. In the movie, his powers of perception seem slightly more limited, though still vastly exceed those of the other gods.
More Norse Mythology
- Sif:in mythology, Sif is Thor's wife, with whom he has a son and a daughter. She is not a dark-haired warrior (that version comes from the comics), but a goddess with golden hair (the color of wheat) and is associated with fertility.
- Warrors Three: Thor's companions, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg do not exist in Norse mythology. They were created in the comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
- Baldur: one of most popular gods in both Norse myth and the comics, Baldur doesn't appear at all in the movie. Perhaps he'll be introduced in one of the sequels.
Thor and Superman
Was Thor an attempt by Marvel Comics to create their own version of Superman, the popular character from DC comics? There are many similarities beyond the colorful costumes and bright red capes.
Both are visitors from another world with godlike powers, and in each case the superhero is the true identity. Where Batman wears a mask to conceal his true identity, Superman's "secret identity", Clark Kent, is actually the disguise. The same was originally true of Thor in the comics, whose original secret identity was a mild-mannered, lame physician.
The Bifrost Bridge
In all three versions, Asgard is connected to Earth by a bridge called Bifrost, also known as the rainbow bridge. Myths often provide fanciful stories to explain real world phenomena and events that defied explanation to people of the time. The Bifrost bridge may have been an explanation for the appearance of rainbows in the sky.
The movies get a lot correct, but there are still many differences. The modernized Thor is an interesting character, and his stories are entertaining, but the movies don't give you the whole story of Thor and the other gods of Norse mythology.
India Arnold from Northern, California on September 19, 2012:
Your artwork in the opening image is stellar! I love the rich comic book feel to the Thor character you bring! This is my kind of art!
Glen Nunes (author) from Cape Cod, Massachusetts on July 17, 2012:
You're right Jbern1167. That could make for some funny scenes. Downy Jr is well-cast as Tony Stark, as are the rest of the team. I wonder if we'll be seeing any new characters in Avengers 2. I'd like to see Henry Pym in some guise - Ant Man, Giant Man/Goliath, or even Yellowjacket. He was a founding member, and a character that can change size would create some interesting visual opportunities.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Jbern117 from Dunmore, PA on July 16, 2012:
"Thor travels in a magic flying chariot which is pulled by 2 goats." - I really think they should implement that into the Avengers 2 ... I think it would look extremely comical; I could only imagine what Downy Jr. could come up with as a response to that one... "Hey there goat boy..."
PWalker281 on July 04, 2012:
He sure was!! :-)
Glen Nunes (author) from Cape Cod, Massachusetts on July 03, 2012:
I remember that controversy, Patrice. Such a stupid thing. Heimdall rocks, and Idris Elba was perfect in the role.
PWalker281 on July 02, 2012:
An interesting look at how the Thor movies diverge from mythology. I saw both of them and enjoyed them, although I thought the Avengers a little boring.
I remember there being a lot of controversy over the casting of Idris Elba, an Afro-Brit (I just made that term up) as Heimdahl in the first movie. But there was also an Asian cast in one of the roles as well, so I guess the movie makers were trying to appeal to a diverse audience.