Mjölnir the Hammer of Lightening
Updated: May 4, 2021
“Mee-yul-neer” (It’s a hard one to pronounce)
Mjölnir was the name of a very famous hammer. Thor’s hammer in fact. The weapon itself was so widely known by anyone who had any dealings with the Vikings, that a depiction of the hammer became a symbol to those who worshiped the Norse gods. Mjölnir translates to mean “lightning”. It is only fitting for the god of thunder to have a hammer of lightening.
Archeology Thor was so popular amongst Norse followers, that worshipers of the Norse gods wore a pendant around their necks, depicting Mjölnir, to show their religious views. Much like how Christians wear cross necklaces. In fact, both pendants were widely distributed dating back to the 10th century.
There is a soapstone (a mold blacksmiths used to forge amulets, pendants and other things) found in Denmark from the 10th century that held both a Christian cross pendant and a Mjölnir pendant. Whether this shows that the two religions had managed to get along at one point, or that the blacksmith was able to market himself to both, historians are unsure. For the most part the two people groups clashed, both unrelenting in beliefs and ways of life.
Because the Norse religion was so widespread across Scandinavian countries, with little to none in writing of how to perform rituals, or the stories of the gods, different shapes and images of the hammer have been found all over Scandinavian countries, none of them looking quite the same as the other.
Religious Uses Mjölnir was not only a symbol to the Norse people, identifying a believer with his pendant of the hammer. It was also used for ceremonial rituals and contracts. Statues, paintings, and actual hammers were found in temples and shrines all across Scandinavian countries. The symbolic hammer was even used in wedding ceremonies, as a way to ‘meld’ the couple together. The hammer would be placed in the couples hands, as they were blessed.
The Mythology of the Hammer Mjölnir had many magical abilities, so many in fact, that it was no wonder Thor was enraged when it was stolen. It was why the most powerful Norse god was the one to wield it. (See the article on Thor to read the story of his stolen hammer https://www.thedanishcanadianmuseum.shop/post/thor-and-sif-a-divine-couple) Mjölnir would break any object it struck, whether it was a giants head or a stone wall—same thing really. The hammer could be thrown away and come back to Thor like a boomerang, something Marvel Studios got right. It would also never harm Thor if someone tried to use it against him. Somehow it had the ability to shrink, so that Thor could stuff it in his pocket for easier carrying. Lastly, the hammer was made of lightning, so had a spark to it when it did strike an enemy.
But, despite all of the amazing abilities the hammer had. Did you know that when Mjölnir was created, it was incorrectly molded, and that it has a mistake in it? Thor’s hammer has an origin story of its own…
How Mjölnir was created The story goes, that Mjölnir, along with two other gifts, were created by two dwarven brothers, Brock and Sindri. They were said to be the best blacksmiths of the time. The reasons the gifts were made, had to do with the ever-mischievous Loki. Long story short, Loki had commissioned the black elves to create fake hair for Sif, Thor’s wife, after cutting her real hair off as a prank. Loki was forced to fix it, and so he went to the elves for help. After they had finished, and Loki was leaving with his commission, he swiftly swiped a spear that could never miss, and a ship that could shrink down to put in your pocket. On his merry way home, by coincidence, Loki happened to be passing a dwarf sitting on a stump, whose name was Brock. Loki stopped to brag about his ‘gifts’. Brock scoffed at them all, then proclaimed that his brother could create even better treasures than those. In a moment of heated pride Loki struck up a bargain. “If you can create better, you may have my head.” “Done.” Brock agreed, before Loki could take his words back. It was well known that all dwarves despised Loki, he had played tricks on them one too many times. So, Brock did not waste the opportunity at avenging his kin against Loki now.
Brock and his very skilled blacksmith brother Sindri, set to work immediately creating three gifts for Odin’s court. While they worked confidently, Loki watched and became very nervous for his own head. Now, Loki had the ability to shapeshift, and often used it to cause his mischief. Here was no exception.
Loki turned himself into a tiny, biting insect. While the brothers worked, Loki flew up, and bit the eyes of Brock, to blind him from his delicate work, it forced Brock to drop the billows all three times to protect his face. Loki repeatedly bit Brock until they all was finished. Brock had ruined all three gifts by dropping the billows each time. With no spare moment to fix them, the brothers traveled back with Loki, to present their treasures to the gods.
After explaining to Odin and those in court with him, that they would be the judge of the gifts. Loki presented his three first. The beautiful golden hair, the spear that never missed, and the tiny ship that could grow. Odin and the other gods were much impressed, wondering how anyone could top that.
Then it was the dwarven brothers turn. Sindri first presented a small ring he named Draupnir. Every nine days, the ring would drop identical golden rings from it’s surface, making the owner rich. The second treasure was a live hog made of gold! It cold run faster than any horse, and on the darkest of nights, would glow, giving light to the rider. Then thirdly, the brothers presented a short handled hammer, and gifted it to Thor. They had made it with Thor in mind, since he was their greatest protector. The dwarves apologized for the mistake Brock had made, which was shortening the handle too much. Hammers are supposed to have long handles for easier swinging.
Although chuckling at the strange shape of the tool at first. Thor did not mind, especially after learning about the added abilities of the hammer. He was very pleased with the offering, and thanked the brothers readily.
With that last brilliant gift. The dwarven brothers won the wager. They were intitled to Loki’s head! Of course, clever Loki thought up a plan to save himself. The brothers could not have his head, because they would have take his neck with it, and the neck was not apart of their bargain. The dwarves were understandably angry at yet another trick. Since they could not have his head, Sindri came up with idea of silencing Loki for good. With Thor’s help, to hold Loki down. The dwarves sewed Loki’s mouth shut, with an unbreakable thread. It prevented him from deceiving and tricking anyone else for a very long time.
While everyone else enjoyed the six gifts—no one more than Thor with his new hammer—Loki was left to sulk in silence.
A carved stone depicting Loki with his mouth sewn shut. Found in Denmark.