Monday, 11 August 2014

Mjölnir - Hammer of Thor: The Mythology Series

A 4.6 cm gold-plated silver Mjölnir
pendant from Bredsättra parish, Runsten
hundred, Borgholm municipality, Öland,
Kalmar county, Sweden.
This post is late because I was busy busting my arse to get Stalking the Demon to my editor, which I managed around lunch-time yesterday.

So. Thor’s hammer. Every wonder why the handle is so short? Me neither – until I had to write this post.

Now it’s been brought to my attention, of course I realise that the typical warhammer is a long-hafted, two-handed weapon. Mjölnir, by comparison, has a haft so short it can only be wielded one-handed – more like a mallet.

It turns out there’s a reason. Loki bet his head with the two dwarf brothers, Sindri and Brokkr, that they could not make items more beautiful than the dwarves who made Odin’s spear. The brothers accepted the challenge.

Sindri placed a pig skin in the forge and instructed Brokkr to pump the bellows and not stop until he returns and removes the skin. As Brokkr pumped the bellows, Loki assumeed the shape of a fly and bit Brokkr’s arm. Nonetheless, Brokkr resolutely kept pumping the bellows. When Sindri took the pig skin from the forge it had become Freyr’s boar.

This scenario is repeated with some gold in the forge, and that time Loki bit Brokkr on the neck, but he persisted and the gold becomes Odin’s ring, Draupnir.

The third time iron is placed in the forge. As Brokkr worked the bellows, Loki bit him on the eyelid, so hard it drew blood. When the blood ran into Brokkr’s eye, he was forced to stop the bellows long enough to wipe his eye clear. When Sindri pulled the iron from the forge, it had become Mjölnir, but the handle was shorter than he planned.

So basically it was Loki’s fault.

Interestingly, when the brothers presented the hammer to Thor they put a bit of PR spin on this defect by telling him the hammer was so small he could “keep it in his sark” (shirt).

Mjölnir was a mighty weapon capable of levelling mountains and no matter how hard or far Thor threw it, it would always return to his hand.

I find the etymology of the name interesting myself. Mjölnir is usually interpreted to mean ‘that which smashes’ from the verb molva (to smash) which is similar to the Slavic molot and Latin malleus (which is where the English word mallet comes from).

An oversized replica of Mjölnir to promote the movie Thor
An alternate theory compares Mjölnir to the Russian molniya and Welsh melt, which mean lightning. This also fits, since the name Mjölnir then makes it the weapon of the storm god associated with lightning – which indeed Thor is!
In Old Norse texts, Mjölnir is also referred to as hamarr, which in Old Norse could mean stone, rock, cliff or hammer, and which comes from an Indo-European word that has the same derivation as the Sanskrit word, asman. Asman means stone, rock, stone tool, hammer and thunderbolt! 

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