The Weapon of the Gods: The Thor Hammer Keychain
Whether you’re a fan of Norse mythology, or of popular culture, chances are that you’re familiar with Thor. If you’re familiar with Thor, you also likely know of his famous hammer, called Mjolnir. The pronunciation is something like “mee-yol-neer”, so your street cred can no longer be ruined by you mispronouncing the name of Thor’s hammer.
The Thor hammer keychain is modelled on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s interpretation of Mjolnir, albeit much smaller and lighter. You know, because it’s a keychain. The shape is that of a short hammer shaft, designed to look as though it is wrapped with straps like we see in the films. The hammer head is a rather square shape.
It is large enough for you to handle, while not being so heavy as to weigh you down. Or maybe you’re just worthy of carrying it. Speaking of being worthy, the hammer itself is inscribed with the famous line “whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess. The power of… Thor”.
Before you level buildings and take flight with your newfound power, let’s look a little closer at this Thor hammer keychain. Appropriately, it’s made using alloy steel, which lends a measure of durability. Aside from the inscription, the hammer part of the keychain also features detailing near the ends, much like the Marvel interpretation.
Thor: The Norse God of Thunder
While this Thor keychain is modelled on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Mjolnir, we would be remiss to ignore the inspiration for the character of Thor Odinson, that is, the Norse God himself.
Thor’s father was Odin, and his mother was known as either Jord (Old Norse for “Earth”), Hlöðyn, or Fjörgyn. Interestingly, Odin was half-giant, and Thor’s mother was a full-giant, but Thor mostly fought the giants. This kind of heritage is common among Norse gods, however.
Thor was known for being brave and indefatigable, never tiring in his position as the primary defender of the cosmos. He was also physically incredibly strong, especially when wearing his belt of strength.
The Name of Thor
Unlike Marvel’s Thor Odinson, the mythological Thor simply goes by “Thor”. The name “Thor”, along with its variants, descends from the Proto-Germanic noun for thunder, “þunraz”.
This name is also related to the name of the Celtic god Taranis (a god of thunder) and the Latin Tonans (which was part of the name of the Roman god Jupiter Tonans, who was the god of sky and thunder, as well as the king of the Roman Pantheon).
In turn, we see Thor’s name being used in the weekday name of Thursday (literally means “day of Þunor”, as “Þunor” is the old English version of Thor). Locations and people are also named after Thor, examples can be found in Scandinavia, Germany, and Great Britain.
The Rise and Fall of the Norse Pantheon
Thor was primarily worshiped in Scandinavia and Germany, although it’s likely that he cropped up in English mythology as well. Thor was the god of thunder, yes, but he was also associated with storms in general, strength, fertility, sacred trees, and the protection of mankind. Thor was one of the most prominent of the Norse pantheon, as evidenced by his popularity even now.
During the Roman Empire’s expansion into the Germanic nations of Europe, Thor was conflated with other gods in the Roman pantheon. Often, he was identified as Jupiter or occasionally Hercules. These choices made sense, as Jupiter was the god of thunder and had a prominent position in the pantheon, while Hercules was known for his physical strength and his famous club.
Unlike some other ancient religions and mythologies that were swallowed up by the Romans, Thor’s influence remained. As the Romans had never reached Scandinavia, the Norse Pantheon was still worshiped by some people even as the Romans fell.
During the Viking Age, Norse pagans and the burgeoning Christianity of Europe clashed. Despite Christianity eventually winning out well before the 12th century, Thor and his compatriots were still being invoked by the average Norseman. Even in modern times, folklore surrounding Thor prevails.
Thor’s Hammer: Mjolnir
You can’t talk about Thor without talking about his signature weapon, Mjolnir. The name “Mjolnir” (or Mjöllnir, if you prefer) is thought to mean lightning, which suited its wielder well. Mjolnir was an immensely powerful weapon, often being referred to as the finest in the realm.
However, Mjolnir was more than just a weapon. As Thor had many roles beyond being a warrior and protector, so did his hammer. Thor’s hammer was used in ceremonies to bless and consecrate. One story which focuses on this aspect of Mjolnir is one where Thor killed some goats, ate them, then used his hammer to consecrate their bones. By doing this, he brought the goats back to life.
All kinds of rituals have used a facsimile of Mjolnir for blessings, from birth to burial and near enough everything in between. Actually, there is a very popular tale where Mjolnir was recognised as a tool to bless weddings.
Specifically, this was the tale where Thor’s hammer was stolen by some giants. The giant chief demanded that Freya be married to him in return for the hammer. Instead, Thor (albeit reluctantly) dressed up as Freya in full bridal dress. Loki joined him, also dressed as a woman. Loki, by the way, cared much less than Thor about the whole “wearing a dress” deal.
Anyway, Thor wasn’t very good at pretending to be a woman, beard notwithstanding. He drank far too much meat and ate far too much food. Loki managed to cover for Thor’s rather unfeminine behaviour, by claiming that the bride hadn’t eaten or slept for a week, as her longing was too much to bear.
When the ceremony began, Mjolnir was brought forth to bless the lovely union. But when the hammer was placed in Thor’s lap, the thunder god took the opportunity to kill each and every one of the giants attending the feats. At that, he happily returned to Asgard.
While this story seems a bit silly, especially when you imagine Thor having a little tantrum because he has to wear a dress, it actually demonstrates the importance of Mjolnir. Not only do we see it being used to bless a wedding and to smite giants, but we also recognise how vital the hammer is.
Thor was only willing to go along with what he saw as a humiliating plan to dress up as a wedding bride because he knew that Mjolnir had to be retrieved, no matter what. Mjolnir was what stood between the forces of the giants and Asgard, and Thor needed it to protect his home and the cosmos as a whole.
The dual purposes of Mjolnir might seem to clash, but they actually work hand-in-hand. Thor used Mjolnir as a weapon to defend Mjolnir and to crush the forces of chaos (like the giants, or Jotun). Each strike with the hammer banished the profane and strengthened the sacred, as did each blessing.
As a symbol, Thor’s hammer was commonly worn as an amulet during the Viking Age. There is little evidence as to when people started doing this, but they became common at about the same time as cross pendants. Whether the Mjolnir amulet was a reaction to the cross, or if the style simply became common, we don’t know. If you’d like to know more about it, check out our Thor Hammer Pendant.
Some casting moulds have been found that cast both the hammer and the cross pendants, which suggests either that Norse blacksmiths were great entrepreneurs, or that some people worshiped both Thor and Christ.
While Odin was presumably the leader of the Norse Pantheon, and Freya was regularly worshiped, Thor was clearly the most popular god among the common people. We know this because hammer symbolism is found all over Scandinavia and is still a popular motif today.
The Famous Stories of Thor
Now, we have already looked at a couple of Thor’s more famous tales, but there are still others that help to round out the character of this Norse god.
The Creation of Thor’s Hammer.
If you were wondering why we hadn’t mentioned how Mjolnir was created in the last section, then don’t fret. Because the hammer is so important to the mythos as Thor, we had to look at how he got it. Besides, it’s a fun story.
Like so many of the Norse tales, this one revolves around Loki’s antics. He starts off by cutting off Sif’s (Thor’s wife) golden hair. Thor was, shockingly, furious. He threatened to break every bone in Loki’s body. Loki, realising that he had pushed it a bit far, promised to go to the land of the dwarves and have them fashion an even more beautiful head of hair for Sif.
And so, Thor allowed Loki to travel to Svartalfheim (the name of the dwarf lands) where the sons of the dwarf Ivaldi forged new hair for Sif, along with a magical ship (Skidbladnir, it always had a good wind and could be folded up to a tiny size), and a deadly spear (Gungnir, or “swaying”).
Because Loki liked to cause trouble, he decided to approach the brothers Brokkr and Sindri with a challenge. Loki taunted them, saying that they couldn’t forge three creations that were as good as those produced by the Sons of Ivaldi. To sweeten the pot, Loki even bet his own head that he was right.
Brokkr and Sindri accepted the bet, mainly for the chance to take Loki’s head and shut him up. They created two wonders, even while a fly (obviously, the fly was actually Loki) stung Sindri’s hand and bit his neck. These were a living boar with golden hair (Gullinbursti, he glowed in the dark and could run faster than a horse) and a magical ring (Draupnir, it produced eight golden rings every nine days).
Next, the brothers focused on an iron creation. Loki (in fly form) stung Brokkr’s eyelid and partially blinded him. They produced a hammer of incredible quality, which could boomerang back to its owner upon being thrown. However, this hammer had an overly short handle. It was named Mjolnir.
Loki and the dwarves returned to Asgard, where Loki handed out the six creations from the dwarves. He gave Mjolnir to Thor, along with Sif’s wig. Unfortunately for Loki, the Gods decreed that Brokkr and Sindri had won their bet. This meant that Loki owed them his head.
But, as ever, Loki had a way to squirm out of his problems. In this case, he claimed that, while he’d promised his head, he hadn’t said anything about his neck. Even dwarves can’t take someone’s head without damaging their neck. Instead, Brokkr and Sindri made do with merely sewing Loki’s mouth shut.
One of the other most important stories featuring Thor is undoubtedly that of Ragnarök. This is, simply put, the end of everything. It was considered a prophetical story for the Vikings, set at the very end of the Norse Mythological tales.
Ragnarök begins with a Great Winter, which lasts as long as three ordinary winters while being harsher than any previous winter. Mankind, starving and desperate, will turn on each other, with even family members slaying one another with swords and axes.
Two great wolves called Skoll and Hati, who had been hunting the sun and moon since the beginning of time, will finally catch their prey. The sun and moon will vanish, along with all the stars. The great tree (Yggdrasil) that holds the cosmos together will shudder, causing all the trees and mountains to fall to the ground.
Fenrir, a monstrous wolf, will be released from his chains and will run free. Jormungand, the mighty serpent that encircles the land and the long-time foe of Thor, will at last rise from the depths of the sea, spilling the waters all over the earth.
This tumult shall release the ship Naglfar (“Nail Ship”, it’s made from the fingernails and toenails of the dead) and allow it to sail over the flooded earth. Manning this ship will be an army of giants, led by the traitor Loki, freed from the chains that once bound him.
Fenrir and Jormungand will rend the earth, devouring it and poisoning it, respectively. The fire-giants shall emerge and march to Asgard, breaking the Bifrost (a rainbow bridge) behind them. Heimdall will sound the alarm and the gods, despite knowing their fate, will march to battle.
Odin will be devoured by Fenrir, then avenged by Vidar, one of his sons. Tyr will battle another wolf (Garm), and both will slay the other. Heimdall and Loki share a similar fate, as do Freyr and a giant (Surt). Finally, Thor will face off with Jormungand, the great serpent.
Thor shall use Mjolnir to slay the snake, but he will have been coated with deadly venom in turn. He will manage nine steps before finally succumbing to the poison.
Anything left after the great battle will sink into the sea, leaving only the void.
Love keychains and fantasy fiction? Then check out the Game of Thrones Keychain!
The technical specifications of the Thor hammer keychain are as follows:
- Material: Alloy steel.
- Weight: 19 grams.
- Colour: Metallic silver.