Study Guide

Thor - The Captains of the Football Teams (Jocks)

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The Captains of the Football Teams (Jocks)

Thor is more brawn than brains. But don’t get us wrong – brawn goes a LONG way in the world of mythology. Without Thor, Asgard wouldn’t be safe. He’s a big part of why the Norse gods rule and the giants drool. Imagine Thor, Zeus, and Hercules hanging out on the picnic tables of the lunch yard. They slurp their Monster Milks, flex their muscles, and strategize about how they are going to win the next “game.” Oh, and the ladies are swarming.

Zeus (a.k.a. Jupiter)

We at Shmoop can’t take all the credit for coming up with this parallel. In his prose Edda, a collection of Norse mythology, twelfth-century Icelandic court poet Snorri Sturluson (who isn't as boring as his name sounds) compares Thor to the Roman god Jupiter, since “all evil wights fear him” (source: The Prose Edda, Rasmus Anderson, ed, 17). Snorri associates Thor with Jupiter because of the their parallel roles as fear-inducing punishers. That's not the only way they're similar, though. Just like Thor, Jupiter embodied physical power and prowess.

Where Jupiter differs from Thor is in his role as the king of the gods. For the Romans, Jupiter embodied divine authority, whereas in Norse mythology the role of divine ruler belongs to Thor’s father, Odin. In other words, the Roman god Jupiter fills the roles of two Norse gods, Odin (the symbol of divine authority and rule) and Thor (its physically powerful enforcer).

Heracles (Hercules)

No god, not even Jupiter, is quite as famous for his feats of strength and skill as Hercules. Unlike his father Jupiter (Zeus), Hercules has all of the muscle and none of the ruling authority of the king of the gods, and that makes him pretty similar to Thor. Both Hercules and Thor are freakishly strong sons of divine kings.

The ancient Germanic people seem to have recognized the parallels between the two muscle men, possibly even confusing them: apple-shaped amulets associated with Hercules in ancient Greece and Rome were used by Germanic people in the 5th to 7th centuries, inscribed with the name Donar – the Old High German name for Thor. In Scandinavia in the 8th to 9th centuries, these same amulets were gradually replaced by the hammer pendants associated with Thor, suggesting that the cults of the two gods mixed and became interchangeable as the Roman and Germanic people made contact with one another.

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