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The Theft of Thor's Hammer
The Theft of Thor's Hammer

The Theft of Thor's Hammer

In a Nutshell

"The Theft of Thor's Hammer" is the story of how the toughest, manliest, most burly of the Norse gods, Thor the Thunder God, has to dress up like a woman to get his hammer back. He really doesn't want to, but it isn't just any hammer that's been stolen – it's Mjollnir, the magical hammer made by the dwarves, the one that never misses its mark and always returns to Thor's hands once it has done his business. This hammer is so important that Thor agrees to dress up like Freyja, the most beautiful goddess of all, in order to get it back from the frost giant who has stolen it.

Thor wasn't the first macho man forced to cross-dress as a woman. Nope, before Thor there was Achilles, whose mother, Thetis, forced him to dress up as a girl so he could draft-dodge the Trojan War. (Uh, good luck with that, Thetis. Can you imagine this guy passing for a girl?) Kind of like Thor, though, Achilles was too "manly" to really play the part well. When the crafty Odysseus placed some weapons in front of him, Achilles just couldn't resist. Since, in the mind of an ancient Greek, love of weapons = dude, Achilles' girlish cover was blown and he was forced to fight in the war.

Thor also wasn't the last reluctant male cross-dresser. In the 1959 classic Some Like it Hot, two male musicians join an all-female traveling band in order to hide out from the mob. Their cover is threatened by their "manliness," in this case one guy's attraction to the drop-dead gorgeous singer "Sugar Kane" (played by Marilyn Monroe). In 2000 the American Film Institute named Some Like It Hot the "greatest American comedy film of all time." Lots of other movies have taken the hint:

  • In 1993, Robin Williams lit his fake boobs on fire as he played a nanny/housekeeper in Mrs. Doubtfire.
  • In 2000, Martin Lawrence starred an FBI agent going undercover as a tough grandma in Big Mamma's House.
  • In 2004, the Wayans brothers jumped on the male cross-dressing bandwagon with White Chicks.
  • And in 2011, ABC is trying to cash in on the tried-and-true formula with a new sitcom, Work It, about men pretending to be women in order to get jobs.

So admit it: men in drag are hilarious. And men who are forced to dress in drag? That's even better, especially when the guy in question is a muscleman like Thor. There's just something about all that macho energy bundled into women's clothing that tickles our funny bones. Maybe we like it because the difficulty the manly man has in "passing" as a girl confirms what we think we know about gender and sex roles. Or maybe it's fun for women, in particular, to watch a man have to deal with the trials women go through every day.

Whatever the reason, the reluctant drag queen's universal appeal makes him a familiar cultural icon. So go ahead, add one more to the pile and watch what happens as Thor the Thunder God tries to pass for a blushing bride.

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this myth connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop

Cross-Dressing

  • In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Ulysses tells how he revealed Achilles' true gender when his mother forced him to dress as a girl.
  • In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the female lead, Viola, disguises herself as a boy.
  • Rosaline, Shakespeare's heroine in As You Like It, also cross-dresses in boy's clothes.

Orally-Composed Germanic Literature

Other

  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings universe is inspired by Norse cosmology. See The Hobbit.
  • The character of Torvald in A Doll's House is named after Thor. Interestingly, this play is very much about gender roles.
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