Next after Odin, the principal deity was Thor. He it was who guarded
men and their labors from the wild forces of nature, personified as Giants.
Thus he held sway — in certain Northern regions — over air and climate,
over rain and harvest. As the god of fertility, however, he had to divide his
rule with the gods of the Vanir; but thunder and lightning always were
the special province of Thor, who according to the Norse myths was
constantly engaged in battle against the Giants. He rode in a chariot which,
as it rolled along, produced thunder. The chariot was drawn by two goats,
Tanngnjost and Tanngrisni; these goats Thor could kill and eat and bring
to life once more provided all the bones are gathered up in the hides.
Because Thor usually drove these goats, he was called Riding-Thor; he
had other names as well, such as Ving-Thor, Lorridi, Einridi.
Thor’s realm was known as Thrudvang; there stood his imposing hall,
Bilskirnir, the largest in the world, comprising 540 rooms. To Thor belonged
three objects of price: the most valuable of these was the hammer Mjollnir,
which he carried whenever he gave battle to the Giants; he could make it
as great or as small as he pleased, he could hurl it, through the air, and it
always found its mark and returned of itself to his hand. Again, he had
remarkable iron gauntlets with which to grasp the hammer; and he had a
belt of strength which, when he girdled it about him, added to his Æsir
power. Without Thor the Æsir would have found no help against the Giants;
but no sooner did they mention him by name than he gave proof of his
prowess. He was wedded to beautiful Sif, of the golden hair; their children
were Modi and a daughter named Thrud. With the Giantess Jarnsaxa he
had besides a son called Magni.
Thor was hot and hasty of temper; when he rode out to meet the
Giants, the mountains trembled and the earth burst into flame. When the
gods repaired to Yggdrasil to hold assembly there, Thor did not trouble
himself to cross by way of Bifrost but took a shorter road on which he
waded the deepest streams. Now and then he might chance to leap before
he looked; and so once or twice he came out of some enterprise or other
with harm and confusion.
The worship of Thor was very widespread throughout the North.
Numerous place names bear witness to his cult, and the sagas contain not
infrequent accounts of sanctuaries dedicated to Thor or of invocations
directed to him. To our ancestors Thor was tall and strong, handsome and
dignified; he had a red beard, and gripped Mjollnir in his hand.
Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 10-12.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906.
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