3 Types of Thor Hammers
Mjolnir (/ˈmoʊlnᵻr/ mohl-n(ee)r) is a fictional weapon appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. It is depicted as the favored weapon of the superheroThor. Mjolnir, which first appears in Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962), was created by writer Stan Lee and designed by artists Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott.
Mjolnir was typically depicted as a large, square-headed gray lump hammer. It has a short, round handle wrapped in brown leather, culminating in a looped lanyard. The object is based on Mjölnir, the weapon of the mythological Thor.
In Norse mythology, Mjölnir (Old Norse: Mjǫllnir, IPA: [ˈmjɔlːnir]) is the hammer of Thor, a major Norse god associated with thunder. Mjölnir is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most fearsome weapons, capable of leveling mountains.In his account of Norse mythology, Snorri Sturluson relates how the hammer was made by the dwarven brothers Sindri and Brokkr, and how its characteristically short handle was due to a mishap during its manufacture. Similar hammers (Ukonvasara) were a common symbol of the god of thunder in other North European mythologies.
In Marvel continuity, Mjolnir is forged by Dwarven blacksmiths, and is composed of the fictional Asgardian metal uru. The side of the hammer carries the inscription “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
The hammer is created when Thor’s adopted brother Loki cuts off the hair of the goddess Sif as part of a cruel jest, and, when threatened with violence by Thor, promises to fetch replacement hair from the dwarf smiths. Loki commissions the hair from the Sons of Ivaldi and the obliging dwarves also make a magic ship and spear as gifts for the gods. Loki is convinced that no one can match their workmanship, and challenges a dwarf named Eitri to make finer treasures. Eitri creates a golden ring and golden boar spear with magical properties, and finally begins work on a hammer. Loki panics at the sight of the treasures, and, afraid he will lose the wager, transforms himself into a mayfly and stings Eitri’s assistant on the brow as he is working the bellows for the forge. The assistant stops for a moment to wipe away the blood, and the bellows fall flat. As a result, the hammer’s handle is shorter in length than Eitri had originally intended, meaning that the hammer could only be wielded one-handed.
Despite the error, the Norse gods consider Eitri to have forged the greater treasures, and in retaliation Loki loses the bet and the Sons of Ivaldi sew Loki’s lips shut. The ruler of the Norse gods, Odin, uses the hammer—called Mjolnir (“Grinder”) by Eitri—and eventually passes it to his son Thor, who must first prove he is worthy to wield the weapon.
Another version of the hammer’s origin is presented in the second volume of the title Thor, in which Odin orders the dwarven blacksmiths Eitri, Brok and Buri to forge Mjolnir using the core of a star (the movie uses this origin as well, and Odin says that Mjolnir was “forged in the heart of a dying star”) and an enchanted forge. The forging of the hammer is apparently so intense it destroys the star and nearly the Earth itself.
Mjolnir itself has several enchantments: no living being may lift the hammer unless they are worthy; it returns to the exact spot from which it is thrown and returns to Thor when summoned; it may summon the elements of storm (lightning, wind, and rain) by stamping its handle twice on the ground; manipulate the weather on an almost global scale; open interdimensional portals, allowing its wielder to travel to other dimensions (such as from Earth to Asgard); and transform Thor into the guise of a mortal, the physician Donald Blake, by stamping the hammer’s head on the ground once and willing the change. When Thor transforms into Blake, his hammer takes the appearance of a wooden walking stick. When disguised, the hammer’s enchantments limiting those who may lift it are not in effect. The hammer itself has also shown to be unaffected by external enchantments. Thor has several times used Mjolnir to pin down opponents, since they cannot lift the hammer.
A previous provision of this enchantment required that the hammer could not be “gone from Thor’s grasp,” or out of physical contact with Thor for more than “sixty seconds full” without his spontaneous reversion to his mortal self; fortunately, Mjolnir is small enough for the god to tuck it into his belt for times when he prefers to have both his hands free. There are times when Thor had both hands free but produced Mjolnir by reaching behind his shoulder; the suggestion was that he placed Mjolnir in some kind of sheath or sling on his back, with handle pointing up so he could grasp it quickly.
In some stories this limitation did not apply in Asgard, although this stipulation was removed in a storyline in which this enchantment is transferred to Stormbreaker, the hammer of Beta Ray Bill. After this, the Donald Blake persona disappeared for a time, and Thor assumed a civilian identity simply by changing into modern clothing, carrying Mjolnir concealed within a duffel bag. Thor eventually adopts the mortal persona of Jake Olson as penance for accidentally causing the original Olson’s death during a fight, and simply pounds a fist to effect a change; during this time, Mjolnir would disappear when Thor became Olson, and reappear in Thor’s fist when returning to his true form.
Mjolnir was originally capable of creating chronal displacement and therefore allowing time travel, although this enchantment was removed by the entity Immortus with the Thunder god’s consent to help the planet Phantus which was trapped in Limbo. However, Thor is still able to manipulate time with Mjolnir.
When Ragnarok took place, Mjolnir was separated from Thor and fell through the dimensions, creating a tear in Hell that allowed Doctor Doom to escape (Doom having been imprisoned there after his last encounter with the Fantastic Four). Although Doom and the FF attempt to claim the hammer, none of them are able to lift it, resulting in Donald Blake—who had been returned to life when the spell negating his existence wore off with Asgard’s destruction—claiming it himself. With Blake and Thor once again co-existing, the hammer resumes its original ‘disguise’ of a walking-stick (although Blake’s original limp healed, he sustained minor spine damage during a later confrontation). The hammer is later damaged in a fight with Bor, Thor’s grandfather. Doctor Strange is able to repair the hammer using the Odinforce possessed by Thor, but warns Thor that, should the hammer be damaged in such a manner again, the new link between them could result in Thor being killed himself. The hammer was also sliced in two by the Destroyer. Thor visits the forges in Pittsburgh to mend it.
After Thor’s death in the fight against the Serpent, Loki is able to take Blake’s walking stick—the only remaining trace of Thor after he was ‘replaced’ by Tanarus—and turn it back into Mjolnir in front of the Silver Surfer, the Surfer’s energy and Loki’s belief in his brother allowing the hammer to return to Thor and restore his memory in time to face the God-Devourer that was about to consume his soul in the afterlife.
During the Original Sin storyline as Thor and the Avengers investigate Uatu The Watcher’s murder, Nick Fury whispers an undisclosed secret to Thor that causes him to lose the ability to pick up Mjolnir. The nature of Mjolnir’s enchantment also changes so that even Odin cannot lift it. The hammer is subsequently picked up by an unknown female who inherits the power of Thor, as the inscription changes to “if she be worthy”.
After the destruction and reconstruction of the multiverse, the Mjolnir of the Ultimate Thor falls to land on Asgard, but the entire area where it landed is subsequently taken into the possession of the Collector, who vows to kill his various prisoners unless Thor will tell him a means of bypassing the worthiness enchantment so that he can wield the hammer himself
Of all of the symbols in Norse mythology, Thor’s Hammer (Old Norse Mjöllnir, pronounced roughly “MIOL-neer”) is one of the most historically important, and is probably the best known today.
Thor was the indefatigable god who guarded Asgard, the celestial stronghold of the Aesir, the main tribe of gods and goddesses in Norse mythology. The giants, the forces of chaos, were often trying to destroy Asgard and kill the Aesir, and it was Thor’s task to prevent them from doing so.
The hammer was his primary weapon. Thor (whose name goes back to a Proto-Germanic root that means “Thunder”) was the animating spirit of the storm, and thunder was experienced as being the sound of his hammer crashing down on his foes. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Old Norse name for his hammer, Mjöllnir, probably meant “Lightning.”
While the etymology of Mjöllnir is uncertain, most scholars trace the name back to an Indo-European root that is attested in the Old Slavic word mlunuji, Russian molnija, and Welsh mellt, all of which mean “lightning.” It may also be related to the Icelandic words mjöll, “new snow,” and mjalli, “white,” the color of lightning and a potential symbol of purity. The significance of that symbolism will become clear shortly.
Thor’s Hammer as an Instrument of Blessing, Consecration, and Protection
Thor’s hammer was certainly a weapon – the best weapon the Aesir had, in fact – but it was more than just a weapon. It also occupied a central role in rituals of consecration and hallowing.
The hammer was used in formal ceremonies to bless marriages, births, and probably funerals as well. In one episode from medieval Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Thor once killed and ate his goats, then brought them back to life by hallowing their bones with his hammer (talk about having your cake and eating it, too). The medieval Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus records that huge hammers were kept in one of Thor’s temples in Sweden, and that periodically the people would hold a ritual there that involved beating the hammers against some kind of drum that would resound like thunder. This could have been a ceremony to bless and protect the community and ward off hostile spirits.
Historian Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson provides an excellent summary of the uses of the hammer:
It would seem indeed as though the power of the thunder god, symbolized by his hammer, extended over all that had to do with the well-being of the community. It covered birth, marriage, and death, burial, and cremation ceremonies, weapons and feasting, travelling, land-taking, and the making of oaths between men. The famous weapon of Thor was not only the symbol of the destructive power of the storm, and of fire from heaven, but also a protection against the forces of evil and violence. Without it Asgard could no longer be guarded against the giants, and men relied on it also to give security and to support the rule of law.
Of all of these consecration ceremonies, the use of the hammer to bless a marriage is especially well-established. The existence of this rite is assumed in the tale of Thor as a Transvestite, where the giants stole Thor’s hammer and he went to retrieve it by dressing as a bride to be married to one of the giants, knowing that the hammer would be presented during the ceremony. When it was presented, he seized it and promptly smashed the skulls of all of the giants in attendance. A Bronze Age rock carving from Scandinavia apparently depicts a couple being blessed by a larger figure holding a hammer, which indicates the considerable antiquity of this notion. Historian E.O.G. Turville-Petre suggests that part of this blessing consisted of imparting fertility to the couple, which would make sense in light of Thor’s connections with agriculture and the fertilization of the fields.
These roles of the hammer were inseparable from its use as a weapon to defend Asgard from the giants. As the famed historian of religion Mircea Eliade discusses in The Sacred and the Profane, one of the universal patterns in human consciousness is the concept of the cosmos, a realm defined by sacred time and space, and chaos, a realm defined by profane time and space. The cosmos is typically envisioned as a circle, an island in a sea of chaos.
In Norse mythology, cosmos and chaos were called, respectively, innangard and utangard. Asgard, the homeworld of the gods, and Midgard, the homeworld of humanity, both have the element -gard in the modern English versions of their names. This suffix (garðr in Old Norse) denoted a fortress or an enclosure, something which was circumscribed by a wall, a fence, or some other kind of boundary to separate it from the areas outside of it. It was a cosmos that was protected against the utangard chaos that surrounded it. The world of the giants was called either Jotunheim or Utgard. Jotunheim simply means “the home of the giants,” while Utgard means “outside of the gard,” just like the more general term utangard. The Aesir, humanity, and their worlds were seen as being innangard, a cosmos, while the giants and their world were seen as being utangard, chaos.
When something or someone was consecrated with Thor’s hammer, it (or he or she) was taken from the realm of chaos and absorbed into the cosmos. It was protected from the ill effects of chaos and its denizens, and sanctified and sanctioned by the social order and its divine models. The profane was banished and the sacred was established.
This pattern is borne out both in the use of the hammer as a weapon and in its use as an instrument of blessing, consecration, protection, and healing. When Thor smote giants with the hammer, he was defending the cosmos and banishing the forces of chaos. When he blessed a marriage, a birth, a field, or a dead person with it, his act had the same religious/psychological significance.