Thor was the defender of Asgard, realm of the gods, and Midgard, the human realm, and is primarily associated with protection through great feats of arms in slaying giants.The majority of the tales featuring Thor, in fact, put him in conflict with a giant or with his nemesis the Midgard Serpent (Jörmungandr, the “huge monster”), a monstrous snake who coils and twists itself around the world.He is closely associated with water in many of the myths and is depicted rowing out further into the sea than others have gone and also crossing dangerous rivers – both aspects of his role as a protector god who removes boundaries or goes before a believer as a guide. Ellis Davidson writes: Of all the gods, it is Thor who seems the characteristic hero of the stormy world of the Vikings.
Thor’s popularity reached its height during the Viking Age (c.
790-1100 CE) at which time he was considered the greatest rival to Christ when, roughly from the 10th century CE onwards, Christianity was introduced to Scandinavia.
He strides through the northern realm of the gods, a fitting symbol for the man of action.
(74) Thor was not just the preferred god of the Viking warrior, however, as his strength and direct response to any given problem were equally appealing across the spectrum of Viking Age social classes.
The stories which feature the god, besides noting his strength and impatience with delays, all emphasize his reliability.
Even when Thor is tricked our outsmarted, his past victories and assurance of future triumphs excuse him; he may not win a battle but will eventually win the war.Thor was invoked to seal business contracts and consecrate marriages, for agricultural abundance, for protection during voyages (especially at sea) and for victory in battle, but he seems to have been called upon whenever any need arose.Sørensen notes: The relationship with the pagan gods had been a sort of friendship, a contract by which man sacrificed to the gods and was entitled to their support in return…The Icelandic Landnamabok (The Book of Settlements) relates that Helgi inn Magri, who settled Iceland in about 900, believed in Christ but invoked Thor when in distress at sea.The god continued to be invoked throughout the greater part of the Viking Age as evidenced not only by the amulets and charms mentioned above but by engravings, images, statuary and the stories which continued to be told about him.In all of these stories, Thor’s attributes are his previously mentioned three magical items – the hammer Mjollnir, the belt Megingjörð, and his iron gloves, out of which Mjollnir is the most characteristic one – as well as this goat-drawn chariot.Scholar Preben Meulengracht Sørensen comments that Thor “was master of thunder and lightning, storm and rain, fair weather and crops, and the pagans sacrificed to him when threatened by hunger or disease” (Sawyer, 203).He had three magical items which helped him defend Asgard and Midgard: his hammer Mjollnir, his belt of strength Megingjörð (which doubled his strength when he wore it), and his great iron gloves which he needed to wield his hammer.The roar of thunder was the rumble of Thor’s chariot’s wheels across the vault of the heavens and, in another story, he is credited with creating tides.For the most part, however, he was invoked for protection and problem-solving.1220 CE), a mythography of earlier Norse myths reworked by the Icelander Snorri Sturluson into one structured account, written from a Christian context.Elsewhere, and in almost every image, Thor is always shown with long red hair and a great beard, often as not leaping into battle against giants or killing dwarves without pausing to consider alternatives to violence.