For a Heathen, I’m not a huge fan of Thor.* He’s always struck me a little too much like the stereotypical jock of Asgard. You know, that pretty boy who swings first and asks questions later. The one who’s defending the status quo with his big muscles and no thought about why (Jotunn bad; Thor smash!). Plus he drives a chariot pulled by goats. Seriously? That’s like the quarterback of the football team sporting a tricycle. How did any son of Odin, the master of trickery and forethought (who rides an eight-legged horse – talk about a godly ride!), turn out like that?
My contrarian views of the most beloved god of the Heathens may be why the new Thor movie spoke to me. Because Branagh and the screenwriters seem to picture Thor a lot like I do (minus the goats) – and they redeem him.
I think I’ve made a fundamental error in judgment about the Thunder God. I have a tendency to see strength as a lack of thought; fighting as a lack of restraint. But this is rarely the whole picture. The fact that I don’t like violence doesn’t mean I live in a world capable of existing without it. When I was much younger I asked my dad (a career military man) why we have a powerful military if war is bad. I’ve never forgotten his answer: “We have a powerful military so that we don’t have to fight.” Now, our government has not always used our military might to live up to my father’s ideals, but the point he makes is a valid one. Terrorists and other bullies exist in the schoolyard and in the world theater, always have and probably always will. For these people violence is the preferred means to their ends, and a good talking to is never going to deter them. Someone physically strong must stand between us and the physical threat of these overgrown (and over-violent) bullies, or they will not back down until we are all under their thumb.
In T.H. White’s The Once and Future King (great book!), Arthur makes an announcement that instead of “might is right,” the slogan of his reign will be “might for right.” Might will exist and be lauded, but only when it is in the service of good; this becomes the foundation of chivalry. T.H. White’s Arthurian slogan is the fundamental premise of Branagh’s Thor – it isn’t Thor’s strength that makes him a hero or a villain; it’s how he uses that strength. And that Thor, the might that stands between us and violent chaos, the man who will risk his life for other people (instead of the kid who likes to pick fights) that is a Thor I can revere.**
I highly recommend the movie. Fun watching! And as a Heathen, even if the mythos was hit and miss (Odin waxing poetic on the horror of war? Ah, 20th Century comics…) I had a blast seeing the futuristic designs for Asgard and reveling in viking ethics (my favorite line of the film may be Thor saying, “We drank, we fought – he made his ancestors proud.”)
And now for your viewing pleasure, my other favorite movie version of Thor – Vincent D’Onofrio in Adventures in Babysitting:
Have you seen the movie? What did you think of it? Any other movies featuring pagan gods that you want to suggest or pan for the benefit of the realm?
* This is a bigger deal than one might think. The main identifying symbol of Heathenry is Mjolir, Thor’s hammer (just like the pentacle is the main identifying symbol of Wicca). Odin may (usually) be recognized as the leader, but Thor is the popular god of the Norse pantheon!
**Also, one as completely gorgeous as Chris Hemsworth is someone I can revere. Not that looks are everything, but… wow.
+ Featured image is a publicity release from Marvel Studios, pulled from Rotten Tomatoes