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Warrior Archetypes VIII: Thor - Defending The Needy

Most gods of the sky and storm are capricious, volatile, fickle creatures. Among this erratic crowd, the Norse thunder god Thor stands out for his constancy and steadiness. The staunchly loyal eldest son of Odin, he never failed to defend those he called home and family. Red-haired and red-bearded, burly and muscular, he was considered both rude and noble, kind and brutal, and as courageous as they come. He was the most popular god of the Norse/Germanic tribes, bringer of thunder and storms.

The Thor warrior is often dismissed as a slow, plodding individual that falls easily into mental ruts. Although this is not necessarily untrue, it is a shameful trivialization of his energy. One of Thor’s strong points is that he insists that people keep their vows; he is invoked to watch over promises for that reason. He values commitment and frowns on those who treat their oaths frivolously. A Thor-type warrior can develop a mental loyalty to a concept or idea or theory that enables them to pursue it doggedly long after everyone else has wandered off in boredom. The Thor researcher will spend months comparing sources until he finds the information that is needed. The artist will spend hour after hour glued to his work, putting in one tiny detail after another. People who see it will oooh and aaah, and say things like, “I could never do that.” For that moment, they see the value in his patience. Then they usually go back to admiring more flashy types.

Thor rarely cares, however. He doesn’t seek fame and recognition so much as he seeks comfort and security. What other people think of him is generally shrugged off. Where he does go overboard is on the smaller luxuries. The classic image is of Thor at the feast table, eating and drinking just a little too much. He doesn’t need rarefied entertainments; he’d rather have the simple pleasures, and lots of them. Thor was a god of the common people; he was renowned as a warrior but stood more behind the peasant protecting his home from brigands with a homemade spear than the knight in armor. Norse peasants often named their children after Thor in order to place them under his protection. He was a patron of farmers; his chariot was drawn by goats, the livestock animal of the poor. He was the earthiest Sky God in existence, seeing high up and down low at once. His wife Sif is an earthy figure with hair as golden as the corn. Originally, they were versions of the earth mother-rain god pair, growing out of the myth that the rain fertilized the earth like divine semen.

It was not, however, that Thor was always a peaceful god. There was a side to him that inspired terror; the thunder was said to be the wheels of his great chariot rolling across the sky, and the lightning was his hammer Mjollnir being flung at whoever had earned his displeasure. His anger followed the Taurus pattern - long periods of peace punctuated by brief, violent episodes. He could absorb many wrongs, but when he was pushed too far, the bull charged and leveled everything in its path. This is a familiar state of affairs for the Thor warrior, who will patiently plod through muck every day, dark clouds quietly gathering in the distance, until the single moment when they reach an advanced state of Had It. Then they explode with enough force to terrify everyone around them, and shrapnel rains form the heavens. Afterwards, people say things like, “Where did that come from?” or “But he’s such a quiet person.”

What he isn’t, is subtle. Thor’s weapon is not the blade but the hammer. He has only three sorts of attacks: hit something hard once, hit it several times, or throw the hammer at it from a distance. Well, all right, maybe we could throw in “punch it with your fist” or “wrestle it bodily to the ground”. This mental ability to persistently hammer something home can pay off in accomplishment, but it can also be too hard on the nerves of more sensitive types. He can also miss the fine print, and trickier types can run circles around him if he is not careful. In the myths, Loki the trickster is always getting the better of Thor, until the red-bearded god catches on and decides merely to kill him on sight rather than listen to another word. Thor was often ridiculed in the Odinic texts for his awkward oafishness, but when you wanted something disposed of, you called him in to do the job.

Thor’s hammer, the symbol of his personal force, was far more than just a weapon. It gave solemn consecration to private or public treaties, representing his Word, which as we have discussed, was unbreakable. The Thor warrior is often the person whose word people somehow just trust. When they bother to speak, it is direct and to the point. They don’t mince words or prevaricate; they will sit stubbornly silent rather than make tactful excuses. When they say that they will do something, you can usually count on it getting done - if not quickly, then with extreme thoroughness.

It is true that he does not absorb new ideas easily. In fact, the mental rearrangement that new ideas stimulate can create a cognitive earthquake. He would prefer to avoid such conflicts, and will stick to what he knows and is sure of; changing his mind is almost a painful process for him. In the areas where he is skilled and knowledgeable, however, he is stronger than most people. His victories tend to be many and small rather than singular and hugely impressive, but his tenacious efforts can add up to greatness in time.

During one of Thor’s many adventures, a sorcerer challenges him to drain his magical drinking horn and lift his strange pet cat. Thor tries his best, but after a bellyful of mead barely manages to lower the level of the horn, and the cat is so heavy that he can only get one paw off the ground. The sorcerer confesses that it was all a trick; the horn’s contents were the ocean waters and the cat was the Midgard Serpent. Although Thor himself felt that he had failed, he had actually lowered the ocean’s level by a few inches, and his shaking of the sacred Serpent had caused several earthquakes. “If I had known how strong you truly were,” the sorcerer told him, “I would never have let you in.” It is easy to underestimate slow, plodding Thor. It is also an incredibly foolish thing to do.

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