Thor has been a mainstay at Marvel for over 50 years now, debuting in Journey Into Mystery #83 and eventually gaining such popularity that the title would be renamed for him. He was a founding member of every incarnation of the Avengers, has played key roles in many of the Marvel comic events, and has two solo films, with a third on the way, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor is, in short, a pretty popular guy.
The unsung hero, though, of many of his stories and adventures, is his hammer. It's a magical weapon from another dimension that gives its wielder great power, but most fans think of it as little more than just a distinctive piece of weaponry. How wrong they are. To give you a little more perspective on just how special Thor's hammer really is, here's 12 Things You Need To Know About Thor's Hammer.
Thor’s hammer in the comics also was inspired by and shares its name with the hammer that the mythological Thor used in the Norse legends — Mjolnir. That name, Mjolnir, literally means “grinder” or “crusher,” which is a pretty fitting name for a hammer that has leveled mountains, cracked open the earth, and smashed a Hulk or two in its time.
For those not familiar with how Scandinavian languages and pronunciations work, that name can be a little tricky, as Kat Denning’s Marcy showed us to comedic effect in the first Thor movie when she kept calling the Asgardian weapon “Meuh Meuh.” It's proper pronunciation: myawl-nir.
With over 50 years of stories featuring Thor and his weapon of choice, Mjolnir has become a symbol all its own in representing the hero. The weapon has become so iconic and was familiar enough to Marvel fans that it stood in for Thor himself in the theaters at one point.
The post-credits scene for Iron Man 2 simply featured the hammer lying in the sand and a few S.H.I.E.L.D. agents reporting "We've found it." Even with those few seconds of film, most fans knew what was in store and got ready to see Thor and Mjolnir on the big screen.
Often considered the weakest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 2 inarguably did a bit too much world-building for its own good. That being said, there wasn't a comic fan alive that wasn't ecstatic over the reveal of this easter egg.
Quite a few comic book weapons have interesting stories behind them, but few are on par with this one.
The hammer has had a couple of different origins in the comics in the half century of its existence. The most recent origins, and the origin also referenced in the Thor films, is that Mjolnir was forged in the heart of a dying star by the dwarven blacksmiths Eitri, Brok, and Buri.
Odin ordered the dwarven blacksmiths to make another weapon for Asgard. In order to accomplish this, they used a magical forge located in the heart of a star and forged Mjolnir out of Asgardian uru metal, making it nearly indestructible and on par with adamantium in terms of its toughness.
The forging process for Mjolnir proved incredibly intense. The forces required to create the hammer in the heart of a dying star would cause the already dying star to explode completely, which nearly destroyed the Earth in the process.
Though it is never actually stated, some fans have inferred that the explosion caused by Mjolnir’s creation and the near destruction of Earth is what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs in the Marvel Universe. It sort of makes sense that the creation of a weapon capable of calling down thunder from the skies and splitting worlds apart would shatter a star and nearly destroy a planet, though if Marvel did ever come out and name this as the reason behind the planetary-wide extinction of the dinosaurs...well, it'd be an odd editorial choice to say the least.
Most of what makes Mjolnir more than just a really cool hammer are all the enchantments that have been placed on it. These enchantments are primarily what provide Thor with what we think of as his power set. He may be a really strong, god-like being, but Mjolnir does most of the heavy lifting.
One of the more well-known enchantments that Mjolnir possesses is the “worthiness clause,” which ensures that Mjolnir can only be wielded by a truly worthy being. Along with that, the hammer will return to Thor when summoned (as we glimpsed to comedic effect in the climactic battle of Thor: The Dark World), is given power to summon elements of the storm, open portals to other dimensions, and a host of other, lesser known abilities. Thor even uses the hammer to fly — by throwing Mjolnir where he wants to go and holding on to the handle.
Thor and Mjolnir would show up at Marvel starting in Journey into Mystery #83 in 1962, with his adventures acting as part of the anthology series before his popularity led the title to renamed after the God of Thunder. Thor and his trusty hammer would find lasting popularity at Marvel, but interestingly enough, another version of them had previously been at DC Comics.
Two decades earlier, Thor and Mjolnir popped up in the 1942 comic Adventure Comics #75. This version was a bit different, as Thor was a villain fighting against the hero Sandman and Mjolnir went by the name “Mjolnar,” but the Norse god and his fearsome hammer were in comics long before Marvel got to them.
For whatever reason, Jack Kirby really seemed to like Thor and Mjolnir. Jack Kirby was the writer and penciller on the 1942 Adventure Comics short that featured Thor and Mjolnir, and also a plotter and penciller on the 1962 Journey into Mystery story that introduced Thor and Mjolnir into the Marvel Universe.
Kirby saw the Marvel version of Thor as a way to take the old legends of gods and heroes that he was so enamored with and update and modernize them for a current audience, something which he thought wasn’t being done very often. Creating a heroic character with a powerful hammer was part of his way of updating the myth, but keeping it true to inspiration as well.
Of course now, comic book characters being inspired by ancient gods and myths is fairly common. Superheroes are often even considered the American myths of modern day. Keep an eye out for the likes of Artemis and Ares (named and inspired by their respective Greek gods) to make their rumored debuts in next year's Wonder Woman movie.
The handle of Mjolnir is too short, meaning that the hammer is only able to be used with one hand, rather than the intended two hands. The reason for the short handle is due to some meddling by Loki.
During the creation of the hammer by Eitri, Brok, and Buri, Loki attempted to sabotage the production of the his brother's super weapon. By turning into a fly and biting the brow of the dwarf manning the bellows, the bellows fell flat and the hammer wasn’t quite made as originally intended. Thanks to Loki’s interference, the handle is a bit on the short side. Still, even with the mishap, Odin sees the craftsmanship in the hammer and says it’s a treasure anyway.
Though one of Mjolnir’s biggest stipulations is that only a being who is deemed worthy may wield the hammer, Thor isn’t the only person to wield the hammer over the years. In last summer's Age of Ultron, we witnessed the newly created Vision pick up the hammer with no difficulty — a feat the other Avengers had failed to accomplish in a light-hearted scene earlier in the film.
In the Marvel Universe, there are a lot more who have proved worthy, with the likes of Storm, Beta Ray Bill, Captain America, Eric Masterson, Odin, and Jane Foster all having wielded the hammer at various times. Outside the Marvel Universe proper, even more heroes have been shown worthy of wielding the pride of Asgard, with Superman maybe being the most notable non-Marvel character to have wielded Mjolnir. Wonder Woman and Conan the Barbarian have also used the hammer in past crossovers.
There have been many times over the years that others, hero and villain alike, have tried to imitate the power of Mjolnir and the strength it gives Thor. The most notable examples are the imitations given to two former wielders of Mjolnir — Stormbreaker (given to Beta Ray Bill) and Thunderstrike (given to Eric Masterson). Loki even created an imitation Mjolnir called Stormcaster that he tried to control Storm with before she destroyed it with the real Mjolnir.
During the Ragnarok storyline, Loki used the forge where Mjolnir was created to craft copies of Mjolnir to help bring an end to Asgard. The cyborg version of Thor, known as Ragnarok, used a hammer that used technology to imitate the magical powers of Mjolnir.
Even though Thor has been the wielder of Mjolnir for most of its existence in comics, he was recently made unworthy by something that Nick Fury said to him. With Thor undeserving to wield Mjolnir, the person to pick up the hammer was, surprisingly, his longtime love interest, Jane Foster. This event even changed the inscription on the hammer, changing the “he” in “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor” to “she. Foster's identity as Thor would initially go unrevealed and there was much speculation about who the female Thor was, but would eventually be made known to comic readers and some comic characters.
With Chris Hemsworth's future in the Marvel Universe unclear, it's been speculated that a female character could be the one to take his place. With Natalie Portman's Jane Foster presumably out of the picture, could the recently cast Tessa Thompson be next in line to wield Mjolnir?
Thor is often associated with Donald Blake, a human doctor who Thor is tied to and exists sort of as the mortal version of the Asgardian hero, changing back and forth between the two forms with aid of the hammer. At certain times in its history, including the earliest Thor stories and the most recent ones with Jane Foster, if the hammer is out of Thor's grip and nowhere on his/her person for more than sixty seconds, Thor reverts to his/her mortal self.
This restriction also applied to Eric Masterson when he stood in for Thor for a time. The enchantment that makes Mjolnir return back to Thor comes in handy when you’re looking at losing your power if you’re not holding the hammer for a minute.
Did we leave out any of your favorite Mjolnir factoids? Would you be on board with a Tessa Thompson Thor, or is Chris Hemsworth the only man for the job? Let us know in the comments below.