Modern depictions of Thor show him as being tall, blond, muscular, and chiseled (and one time when Thor has a beer gut) or as short, red headed, stocky, and muscular, but with a big “beer belly”.
These depictions come from the Marvel movies and the game God of War Ragnarock, respectively.
This raises some questions: was Thor ever actually depicted as fat in Norse mythology? How did Thor actually look?
The Norse mythological texts don’t actually say whether Thor was fat or not, but they do provide sufficient physical descriptions of him, alongside his dietary habits and physical activity levels, so we can form a fairly accurate image of Thor.
The short answer is that the Norse people never considered Thor to be fat. Most physical descriptions of Thor describe him as being tall, with a long, fiery red beard and a sturdy, well-built physique. This body was sustained by godly amounts of food and drink, mixed in with near-apocalyptic feats of strength.
Thus, the most likely body type for Thor would be that of a power lifter / strong man, such as Tom Stoltman pictured below.
This roughly coincides with other depictions of Thor from various painters:
As an aside, Thor once had to disguise himself as a bride for the giant Thrym so he could recover his hammer, Mjolnir. Apparently, Thor was quite a good-looking bride as well, since Thrym was not at all displeased upon seeing Thor’s figure in a wedding dress.
In any case, the long answer to whether Thor was fat or not involves learning a bit of Thor’s eating habits, combined with knowing just how mighty the Norse thunder god actually was.
Thor’s dietary habits
Based on how much Thor ate in the Norse mythological texts, the thunder god should look more like a balloon rather than simply having a pronounced pot belly:
- In the story where Thor disguised himself as a bride, Thrym only became suspicious after seeing Thor eat an ox and eight whole salmons plus sweets all by himself.
- Lacking anything to eat on a journey, Thor casually eats two entire goats in one sitting (only to ressurect them later).
- Norwegian folk tales say that Thor would drink entire caskets of ale if invited to a wedding.
- In a drinking contest with Skrymir, Thor nearly drank the entire sea in just three gulps.
- Norse rituals required sizeable animal sacrifices and feats to appease Thor and earn his favor.
That being said, Thor’s rather healthy appetite can be explained by the fact that he is by far the most athletic and physically active of all the Norse gods.
Thor’s unmatched strength
Thor was commonly perceived as being the god of warriors (although Odin was reserved the title as the god of victory) because he was capable of feats of strength no other god could match.
- Seeking vengeance, Thor nearly destroyed the world on a fishing trip, when he lifted out of the water the gigantic Jormungandr, a serpent so big it coiled around Midgard, holding it in place.
- In some tales, Thor would throw massive stone disks from the heavens, which would cause streaks of lighting as they fell.
- Thor is the only god capable of wielding Mjolnir. Other gods, giants, and even dwarves can carry it, but only Thor is mighty enough to wield the hammer as a weapon.
- Thor defeats Hrungnir, the mightiest of giants, with a single blow from Mjolnir that crushes his skull.
- The Norse gods were said to meet every day near the Well of Urd on Yggdrasil to discuss matters. Every god comes by riding an animal, except Thor, who comes on foot and traverses great dangers every day.
- During Ragnarok, Thor defeats Jormungandr with a single blow from Mjolnir, and Thor only dies because the serpent poisoned him with toxic fumes.
Because Thor was capable of such feats of strength, it’s reasonable to assume the Norse believed Thor to possess a strong body, capable of manifesting immense strength and power .
What else did Marvel and God of War get wrong about Thor’s appearance?
Unfortunately, no detailed statues, murals, or drawings of Thor have survived from the Viking era until modern times, so we don’t know for sure how Thor looked like.
However, there are a couple more aspects of Thor’s appearance that keep repeating themselves in the Norse mythological texts but are absent from God of War and Marvel’s versions of Thor:
- Thor had red hair and a medium-to-long red beard.
Marvel’s Thor is depicted as blond and with a short stubble. In a sense, this is understandable since comic book readers from the 1960s likely associated the old Norse Vikings with blond hair and blue eyes, so Marvel tried to make their version of Thor fit this stereotype of the blond northerner.
God of War Ragnarok correctly depicted Thor as having red hair and beard. The only nitpick that can be made in this regard is that Thor’s beard is a bit short.
In the Norse sagas, Thor’s beard is said to be relatively long. This was both a sign of wisdom and high rank, but was also used by Thor to cause storms by breathing into his beard.
- Besides Mjolnir, Thor carries two other magical items: Megingjörð, a magical belt that doubles Thor’s strength, and Járngreipr, a pair of iron gloves that allow him to hold Mjolnir without burning his hands.
Neither the Marvel movies nor God of War Ragnarok make any mention of these magical items, and neither version of Thor is depicted with these items.
Truth be told, Megingjörð and Járngreipr receive very little attention in the Norse texts compared to Mjolnir, so the creators likely wanted to make a simplified version of Thor that only focused on the essentials.
- In the Norse sagas, Thor is a very temperamental god who is quick to anger and an adversary of giants, but he is not genocidal.
God of War depicts Thor as being pointlessly cruel and hellbent on destroying giants simply out of spite. Humans are so terrified of him that they do not dare invoke his name and live their lives terrified of what destruction the God of Thunder might bring.
Thor in the Norse sagas, however, is much more nuanced. Thor does fight and slay giants on numerous occasions, but most of the conflicts are motivated by specific, practical reasons and not by pure cruelty.
For example, Thor kills Thrym at his own wedding because the giant dared steal Thor’s hammer. But not every giant is an enemy of Thor.
In the Norse sagas, Thor even has a giantess mistress called Jarnsaxa, who gives birth to his son, Magni (some even claim Modi, Thor’s other son, is also fathered by Jarnsaxa).
Next, the Thor from the Norse sagas is much more kind towards mankind than the Thor from God of War.
The Norse held Thor in very high regard and generally prayed to Thor whenever they felt they needed protection from something or someone.
In the Norse sagas, Thor was indeed the God of Thunder, but he represented a very specific kind of thunder. For the Norse, Thor represented the “helpful thunder”, the one that brought forth rain and water, cleansed the world of impurities, or destroyed their adversaries.
However, the thunder and lightning that burned forests and villages were thought to be caused by giants, not Thor. This is because the Norse believed that anything that was helpful was given by the gods, while everything destructive was assigned to the giants.
Thus, for the Norse, the Aesir (of which Thor was one) and Vanir gods were the forces of good, while the giants represented the forces of evil.
- The Mythology of All Races – Eddic by John Arnott MacCulloch, Louis Herbert Gray
- The Norsemen Myths and Legends by Guerber Helene Adeline
- Asgard and the Norse heroes by Katharine Boult
- Old Norse stories by Sarah Powers Bradish
- Teutonic Mythology by Viktor Rydberg & Anders Rasmus Bjorn
- Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm
- No, Thor wasn’t fat in Norse Mythology (+ 3 other mistakes) - May 25, 2023
- 24 Most Powerful Symbols of Loneliness & Isolation - May 25, 2023
- Wind Symbolism: 17 Powerful Meanings in Literature & Myth - May 25, 2023