The above small bronze statue (about 2.5 in, 6.4 cm), probably made about A.D. 1000, was found on a farm at Akureyri in Iceland. It portrays the bearded god Thor with his hammer.
Click on image for full size
Image reproduced by courtesy of the National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik.


In Norse mythology, Thor was the god of thunderstorms. He produces the thunder with his marvelous hammer called Mjolnir (The Destroyer). This hammer, made by skillful dwarfs, magically returned to Thor's hand whenever he needed it. Thor was depicted as a tall and muscular man with red hair and beard. He could double his strength by wearing a magic belt in his possession. His greatest enemy was the World Serpent which lived in the ocean surrounding Midgard, the Earth.

An old legend tells us how the giant, Thrym, stole and hid Thor's hammer, asking in exchange for it the hand of the beautiful goddess Freya. Instead, the gods decided to send Thor disguised as Freya, and the god Loki disguised as a maidservant. When the two gods arrived dressed as women, they were served the nuptial feast. But, the giants were surprised by the incredible appetite of the "bride" who ate several oxen and salmon. The gods explained that this singular appetite was due to the fact that the bride had fasted for nine days prior to the marriage. Finally, when Thrym took the hammer out for the ceremony, Thor grasped it and slew Thrym.

In yet another story, Thor was sent on a quest to destroy the hated World Serpent. He disguised himself as a young fisherman, and joined the giant, Hymir on his boat. Using the head of an ox as bait, Thor caught the serpent on his line. Just as he swung his hammer to kill the serpent, a scared Hymir cut the line. The World Serpent safely escaped back into the ocean.

Thor was often challenged by giants. One in particular, named Hrungnir, boasted that he could defeat the strong champion of the gods. Thor's companion, Thjalfi, tricked the giant into standing on his shield, to protect himself from an attack from below. Thor swooped down from above and shattered the giant's stone head with his hammer.

Thor was probably the most important god in Norse mythology. He represented the champion of both the gods and people. Without him, Midgard would have belonged to the evil giants, or the trickster, Loki.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Arctic Cultures

There are people of different cultures and backgrounds who live in the Arctic region. Read on to learn more about two of these cultures. Inuit The Inuit are the native cultures that continue to live on...more


Ahsonnutli was the sky father and chief deity of the Navajo Indians. He created heaven, Earth, and the sky. Each of the four cardinal directions was supported by a giant. Each direction was also associated...more


Amphitrite was one of the fifty Nereids, the attendants of the sea-god Poseidon. Poseidon (Neptune) had fallen in love with Amphitrite after seeing her dancing on the island of Naxos. Amphitrite rejected...more


Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She was known to the Romans as Venus. There were actually two different Aphrodites, one was the daughter of Uranus, the other the daughter of Zeus and...more


In Greek mythology, Apollo was the son of Jupiter(in Greek Zeus) and Leto (Letona). He was the god of the Sun, logic, and reason, and was also a fine musician and healer. Leto travelled all over Greece...more


According to an ancient Greek legend, the figure of a gigantic crab was placed in the nighttime sky by the goddess Hera to form the constellation Cancer. Hera was the jealous wife of the sky god, Zeus....more


In the Northern Hemisphere sky is the constellation Cepheus, king of Ethiopia, and that of his wife Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia claimed that she and her daughter Andromeda were more beautiful than the sea nymphs,...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA