Thor: Viking God of Thunder
By Graeme Davis
You know that the Thor of the movies isn’t the guy from the original legends, right? The Marvel comic book doesn’t really reflect a whole lot of the Norse myths.
Or does it?
Osprey Adventures has a line of book entitled “Myths and Legends.” The purpose of this series is to retell the legends for adults in an accessible manner. They then trace the evolution of the myths until we have what we have today.
And they have succeeded in spades with this volume about Thor.
Davis retells the legends with verve. Thor fights giants. Thor and Loki team up. Ragnarok strikes. Thor riddles with Odin (or perhaps it really is just an old man that we think is Odin?) and dresses up as a woman to get back his stolen hammer. We get a great taste of the legends and what made them so attractive to generations.
The chief artist of this volume, Miguel Coimbra, shines. A two-page image of Thor battling the Midgard Serpent is so striking – I’d love to get a print of that picture to hang on my wall. The menace of the villain and the stubborn heroism of Thor both leap off the page.
Besides retelling the legends for a modern adult audience, Davis also shows the effect Thor has had over the generations. He shows how Christianity affected Thor worship. In fact, he cites an example of a baptismal formula that went, “Do you forsake the devil and Thor and all their works and all their ways?” Kinda neat seeing how prominent Thor-worship was back then, and how Christianity adapted to fight such pagan gods. Christianity isn’t just about stating what it is, but has always also been about what it’s against.
We also find out how Thor influenced the Nazi party and modern pagans as well.
Even though we do get a good amount of how the legend of Thor and the other Aesir have changed the real world, the bulk of the book focuses on the legends. Davis shines here. He makes a large effort to reflect the style of the originals; for instance, the source material for one adventure is all dialogue. That particular chapter, after an opening statement, is only dialogue. Well done, Mr. Davis!
If you enjoyed the movie, if you read the comics, you would do well to check out this volume. It’s a quick read and well worth it. I know in previous installments of the series I’ve been a little disappointed by the balance between “history” and “retelling legends.” This volume, though, hits it out of the park. I’ll be back to check out more in the series!