Thor's Short-Handled Hammer
by Peter Krüger


Return to Germanic Astronomy

 Recently we have shown that by comparing the classical  constellations with eddic myths many figures of the myths can be identified. By investigating the Völundarkvida it was possible to find the sword of Völund in Nidud's possession. The sword is the brightest star of the northern starry sky, Arcturus. Nidud is depicted as the herdsman Böotes. Surely it’s possible to equate Surtur holding Frey’s sword with Böotes and Arcturus as well. We also find the maiden Bödhild as the constellation Virgo bearing the golden ear of grain that can be seen in the northern myth either as a twig called mistiltein or as a golden ring

In the same region of the sky, the region below the arch of the Milky Way, we find the pair Fenrir and Jörmungand (the Midgard Serpent) —Leo and Hydra, often depicted together as being one constellation— symbolised by the bright star Regulus, the heart of the Lion.

Regulus, Arcturus and Spica are all three located in the same region inside the arch of the Milky Way. Together they form an asterism called the Spring Triangle. Leo, the Fenriswolf is tamed by Tyr who is assigned to Gemini.

We have also seen that the guardian of the gods, Heimdallr represents a sign of the ecliptic, Capricorn the Goat-fish being located at the edge of the world at the Golden Gate of the Gods.
The wolf and the serpent are said to fight with the Gods Odin and Thor during Ragnarök. Therefore we should find these Gods also depicted as constellations in the sky. Again we will use the approach to identify the Gods by their attributes.

In the case of Thor his most famous attribute is his hammer Mjöllnir, and so we must find a constellation containing it if we are to identify Thor.

There is a very strange story about the origin of Thor's hammer, according to which the handle of the hammer is very short. Why should the handle be short? Let’s have a look at the tale:


Sif, wife of Thor, once had her hair shorn by Loki ...as a prank. Angry, Thor forced Loki to visit the realm of the dwarves and dark elves and ask the sons of Ivaldi to spin gold as fine as hair to replace Sif’s own, in exchange for favor from the Gods. They accepted and produced the fine golden hair of Sif…but it seemed a waste to use such a good fire on one gift…so the Sons of Ivaldi also crafted Odin's spear Gungnir, and Freyr's foldable boat Skíðblaðnir.
On the way back to Asgard Loki took a detour to visit the two dwarves named Eitri and his brother Brokkr. Loki bet his head that the two dwarves would never succeed in fashioning items more beautiful than those of Ivaldi's sons. The two brothers accepted the bet and began work. Eitri put a pig's skin in the forge and told his brother Brokkr not to stop blowing with the bellows until he took out of the fire that which he put in.
Disguised as a fly, Loki came and bit Brokkr on the arm but he continued to blow. Then Eitri took out Gullinbursti with its shining bristles, which would become Freyr's Boar . Then Eitri put some gold in the furnace and gave Brokkr the same command. Loki, in fly-guise came again and bit Brokkr's neck twice as hard. But he did not flinch and Eitri came and took out Draupnir, Odin's ring, that drops exact copies of itself every ninth night.
Eitri then put iron in the forge and told Brokkr again to not stop blowing. Loki, still a fly, bit Brokkr on the eyelid so hard this time that the blood made Brokkr stop blowing briefly. When Eitri came and removed Mjöllnir from the forge, its handle was a bit short. This gift, given to Thor, can strike as firmly as he wants, whatever his aim, and the hammer will never miss its mark, and if he throws it at something, and never fly so far from his hand that it would not find its way back. When he wants it to be, it can become so small that it can carry it inside his tunic. 
Thus Eitri and Brokkr won the bet. The prize was Loki's head, but the bet could not be honoured, according to Loki, since to take it they would need to cut his neck as well, and that was not part of the deal. The gods agreed and so Brokkr sewed Loki's mouth shut to teach him a lesson.
 The explanation for the short handle again may be astronomical. This obscure story gives an explanation for a fact that everybody can see, if they know where to look. In this case it must be a constellation, not a star as for the sword, Arcturus. It would be placed outside the arch of the Milky Way, roughly opposite to the Spring Triangle.

Actually exactly opposite of the sword Arcturus, there is a good candidate: the constellation called the Pleiades. The Pleiades are often seen as 7 stars, the seven sisters or in German “Siebengestirn”. They can also be seen as at least 9 stars, including their parents Pleione and Atlas. If we look at them in the sky or in pictures, it looks like if the stars Pleione and Atlas together with Alkyone form a short handle and the other six stars form the head of a hammer.

The Pleiades belong to the constellation called Taurus, the steer. Therefore it’s possible that Thor is depicted in the sky as steer Taurus. If the names Thor and Taurus go back to the same root, linguists will have have to determine. As it is, linguists have always had trouble bringing in line the different forms Thunar and Thor; the explanation could be that they have different roots.

As mentioned, the Pleiades are exactly opposite on the sky as Arcturus. This explains why Mjöllnir is so deadly to the giants. When Mjölnir (the Plieades) rise in the east, the realm of the jötuns sets on the other side of the sky. However, during Ragnarök, the hammer cannot save Thor. He leaves the sky at approximately the same time as his opponent Hydra; both constellations apparently kill each other.

Now, having found Thor and his hammer Mjöllner, we should also be able to find Odin and his spear Gungnir. It’s obvious where we have to search. Since the wolf and serpent fighting with Odin and Thor, the only candidate can be the famous constellation of Orion. Indeed he is holding something in his hand that looks like a staff, a sword, a bow etc. In his other hand, a club very often  is seen.



Between Leo and Hydra on one side and Orion and Taurus on the other side we find the belt of the Milky Way separating the two groups (and the two worlds). At Gemini the ecliptic is crossing the Milky Way. In Greek mythology this point was seen as the Silver Gate. It seems to be protected by Gemini, Tyr and Taurus, Thor. The battle with the wolf and the serpent starts when the bridge Bifröst breaks, during the events of Ragnarök

Return to Germanic Astronomy