The above small bronze statue (about 2.5 in, 6.4 cm), probably made about A.D. 1000, was found on a farm at Akureyri in Iceland. It portrays the bearded god Thor with his hammer.
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Image reproduced by courtesy of the National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik.


In Norse mythology, Thor was the god of thunder. He produces thunder with his hammer, called Mjolnir, which means "The Destroyer". This hammer was made by dwarfs, and would magically return to Thor's hand whenever he needed it. Thor was depicted as a tall, muscular man with red hair and a beard. His magic belt could double his incredible strength, while his iron gloves protected his hands. His greatest enemy was the World Serpent, which lived in the ocean surrounding Midgard, the Earth.

There are only a few stories remaining about this mighty champion of the gods. One tells of a quest to destroy the dreaded World Serpent. Disguised as a young fisherman, Thor joins the giant Hymir in his boat. Using the head of an ox, Thor got the beast on his line. He attempted to kill the serpent with one giant swing with his sword. However, a scared Hymir cut the line, sending the serpent back into the ocean, just before Thor could finish the job.

Thor was also challenged to a duel by the giant Hrungnir, who had a stone head and heart. Thor's companion, Thjalfi, tricked the giant into standing on his shield. This allowed Thor to swoop down from above and shatter his head.

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