With two movies, a couple of Avengers appearances and a third solo movie in the works, it’s safe to say Marvel’s Mighty Thor is pretty popular. Thor stands apart from the Earthborn and bred Avengers because he, as any child with a toy Mjolnir can tell you, is an Asgardian from the realm and city of Asgard. We’ve seen glimpses of the city and some of the outlying realms, but the MCU so far has had neither the time nor the inclination to explore some of the richer veins of Asgard’s deep and storied history.
With that in mind, we present to you the 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Asgard.
12. The Bifrost and the Nine Realms are lifted straight from Norse mythology
It’s generally known that the characters Thor, Loki and Odin are all from ancient Norse mythology. However, the idea of there being nine different realms and a rainbow bridge that connects Asgard to our realm, Midgard, may seem like comic book fantasy or Hollywood make-believe. However, these are both prominent fixtures in the original myths.
The Nine Realms are central to the Norse creation myth. Whilst the names have evolved over the years in the comics, their basic layout, the creatures that live there and their purpose remain faithful to the mythology. The Bifrost (pronounced properly, no kidding, like “beef-roast”) has been depicted throughout history as a shimmering rainbow bridge, connecting the world of the gods to ours. The comics remained true to the myth and thanks to that precedent, this tradition has carried through to comics, cartoons, video games and movies ever since.
11. The World Tree, Yggdrasil, grows through all Nine Realms
Yggdrasil is an enormous ash tree that is the central point to the Nine Realms. Its branches extend into the heavens and its roots are in realms as far away as the distant land of Niffleheim. The name “Yggdrasil” has been confusingly been translated as meaning “Odin’s horse” but some have taken it to be related to gallows being called “the horse of the hanged” and it being a reference to Odin’s sacrificial hanging of himself from its branches.
Yggdrasil made its first appearance in the comics drawn by Jack Kirby. Early Thor stories focused on Earth and centered around Donald Blake, a man who finds a walking stick that turns him into Thor. The Tales of Asgard backup stories that also featured in the comic, on the other hand, remained relatively faithful to the Norse myths and depicted huge events like Odin’s defeat of the Frost Giants and his battle with the Fire Demon Surtur. Thanks to their dynamic style and epic scale, the main series started incorporating more and more Asgardian and traditional elements such as Yggdrasil in its own stories.
10. Asgardians age extremely slowly
Asgard has been around for millennia, but its number of generations can be counted on one hand. Asgardians can live for thousands of years and have many tricks to preserve their long lives. As seen in the Thor films, Odin undertakes Odinsleep, a hibernation-like state where he recharges his power.
That’s fine for omnipotent kings, but what about “normal” Asgardians? Well, they regularly eat the Golden Apples of Idunn. The magical apples grant them youth, vitality and an extended lifespan. Idunn, the Goddess of Immortality, protects the apples and is stated as the only Asgardian that can pick them from Yggdrasil’s branches. She ultimately gets to decide who can eat the apples and who can’t. The story of her being accosted by the Fenris wolf while delivering the apples to Odin is regarded as one of the main inspirations behind the Brothers Grimm Little Red Riding Hood fairytale.
9. The first Asgardian was licked into existence by a giant cow
Before the times of Odin and his father Bor, there was Buri. Buri was the first god to be brought into existence. In Norse lore, Buri is the third being to ever exist, after the giant Ymir and the cow Audumla.
Legend has it that Ymir and Audumla wandered around the Nine Realms. Ymir survived thanks to Audumla’s milk and she survived by licking the plentiful ice. Whilst in Nifflehelm, Audumla’s licking eventually thawed out a frozen Buri. In the original myth, Audumla freed him by licking the ice, but Journey into Mystery #97 had Buri free himself after being discovered. Either way, Asgard is somewhat in the debt of a gigantic, magical space cow.
8. Asgard’s gravity is similar to Earth’s but matter is much denser
As you may be able to guess, the floating realm of Asgard doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with our good pal physics. Rather than being a sphere, Asgard is relatively flat. It doesn’t rotate on an axis, nor does it revolve around any kind of sun, but still has night and day cycles. Whilst it floats above a void, there is some unseen force that keeps all of the realm’s water from escaping over the side and keeps the edges from crumbling.
Asgard’s gravity is roughly that of Earth’s. However, all Asgardian matter is much stronger and denser that any Midgardian counterparts. This extends to its inhabitants too and serves as one of the reasons why Thor can hit like an angry freight train, even without wielding Mjolnir.
7. It has a land of the dead called “Hel”
Despite their incredibly long lifespans, Asgardians still die. When the time comes, they have a number of options as to where their spirits reside for eternity, based on how they lived their lives and occasionally, how they died.
Hel is one of the Nine Realms. Ruled by Hela, the Goddess of Death, it’s the eternal realm for the majority of the dead, who were neither honored nor dishonored with their passing. In the comics, Hela is Loki’s illegitimate daughter and shares her father’s love of trickery and lust for power, trying to gain control of Valhalla on numerous occasions. Hel is home to the region of Nastrond, meaning “corpse shore,” which is populated by the dishonored dead, including murderers, adulterers, oath-breakers and people who spoil movies in comment sections. Hela is slated to make an appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, to be possibly played by Cate Blanchett, which can only spell bad things for the God of Thunder.
6. Asgard was once overrun by zombies
For as big as their muscles are and as shiny as their armor is, it turns out that even the Asgardians can’t keep the undead at bay. In the story Into the Belly of the Beasts, appearing in Marvel Zombies Destroy! Vol. 1 #4, we are given the backstory to how the zombie outbreak that plagued the Marvel Universe made its way to Asgard.
No-one will be surprised to hear that Loki had something to do with it. Knowing that Odin had forbidden Asgardian contact with Earth as well as Thor’s fondness of us Midgardians, he started the zombie plague on Earth to both horrify his brother and to tempt him to break Odin’s rule and face punishment. Things changed when Odin himself travelled to Earth in a weakened state, needing Odinsleep, and was bitten by a zombie Namor. As all Asgardian power flows through him, all Asgardians, including Thor and the Warriors Three, became undead too. Loki only managed to survive and remained unchanged thanks to his Frost Giant heritage.
5. The Nine Realms are home to giant creatures, including dragons
Thanks to the movies so far, we’ve briefly seen Odin’s eight legged steed, Sleipnir. We’ve observed frost monsters in their Jotunheim home and in the equally icy and unforgiving London. We’ve even heard tales of repulsive Bilgesnipe. However, movie audiences have only been treated to a mere fraction of Asgard’s weird and wonderful creatures. For starters, Nastrond is home to dragons, including the Nidhogg which gnaws of the roots of Yggdrasil and chews on damned corpses. Another notable dragon is Fafnir, a former human king of Nastrond who was left with nothing after Odin destroyed the land for being too evil. Fafnir survived by drinking from a magical pool, which turned him into a gigantic dragon.
There’s also the previously mentioned 15 foot tall Fenris wolf, giant eagles and the massive Midgard Serpent that lives in the Sea of Space between Asgard and Earth. The Midgard Serpent is often pictured as an Ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail, and it is said to feed on unsuspecting and unprepared Asgardian sailors.
4. Asgard has been completely destroyed twice by Loki and Norman Osborn
In Ragnarok, Part the First, the timeline is reset. After some time searching, Loki manages to find the magical forge used to create Mjolnir. He allies with the Fire Demon Sutur and they use it to equip an army with powerful hammers. Riding in Hela’s vessel Naglfar, a mighty longboat made from the toenails and fingernails of the dead, Loki and his army lay waste to Asgard, killing everyone and completely destroying the realm.
Asgard was rebuilt on Earth, but it wasn’t long before Norman Osborn, having snatched control of S.H.I.E.L.D., started viewing the new Asgard as a threat to international security. After being denied permission to invade by President Obama. Osborn leads the Dark Avengers in an invasion. The classic Avengers managed to stop Osborn’s forces, but Asgard itself is destroyed by The Sentry, acting under Norman’s orders.
3. Asgard was once located in Oklahoma
During the Ragnarok storyline, Thor was stuck on Earth which led to Loki running riot and razing it to the ground. After Loki laid waste to all of the realms except Midgard, Thor used a huge amount of gold from the treasury to buy land outside of Broxton, Oklahoma.
In the Siege comic event, Thor went about restoring Asgard to its former glory, finding Asgardians reborn into mortal human form. Then-head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tony Stark confronted Thor about his intentions and both agreed on it being a separate nation, like a foreign embassy. When Norman Osborn took over from Stark, he saw it differently and, well, you know what happened. It didn’t last long.
2. Asgard was manipulated for aeons by all-powerful beings called Those Who Sit Above in Shadow
Yes, even the gods have gods. As befitting shadowy deities, not too much is known about them. They are the possible creators of the Asgardians, but it’s not definitively known as it’s just as possible that the Asgardians created them. Asgard existed in a cycle of death and rebirth and of prosperity and destruction. Those Who Sit Above in Shadow feed off the energy released when Ragnarok occurs, manipulating Asgard to ensure the cycle continues.
When Odin banished Thor and sent him to Earth to learn humility, it created a break in the cycle, meaning that the shadowy “Those” were the ones left in the dark as to what Thor would do. Thor eventually repeated his father’s unnerving party trick by hanging himself from the branches of Yggdrasil to gain wisdom and magic, learning not only of Those Who Sit Above in Shadow’s existence, but how to defeat them.
1. Asgard was rebuilt as Asgardia and powered by Stark technology
With Asgard totally destroyed at the end of the Siege storyline, Thor stated his intentions to build again. Tony Stark offered to help Thor. Thor, Stark and Stark’s army of genius scientists put their heads together and the result was Asgardia, a floating city that meshes cutting edge tech and old-school magic. The city is powered thanks to Stark’s repulsor technology.
The new Asgardia also marked itself out from previous incarnations being the home of all denizens of the Nine Realms, not just Asgardians. It was originally located floating above the location the previous Asgard had occupied in Oklahoma, but it was soon re-located by the All-Mother and currently floats near our own Moon.
Can you think of any other facts about Asgard that fans should know? Mention ’em in the comments!