With the release of "Thor" on May 6, 2011 and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on July 22, 2011, Marvel.com presents the Essentials, a series of articles showcasing each character's expansive history and mythology in the Marvel comics.
From character retrospectives to a look at memorable storylines and interviews with key creators, the Essentials will act as the perfect guide for fans both old and new! Look for new Cap Essentials every Monday and Thor Essentials every Thursday as we head toward the release of each film!
|A map of Yggdrasil from Thor: Ages of Thunder|
By Marc Strom
For those less-versed in their Thor history, Yggdrasil is the “world tree” that supports the Nine Worlds, at the top of which rests Asgard, home to Thor, Odin and Loki. Yggdrasil stands at the root of all reality, and throughout the course of Thor’s career he has frequently traveled to several of the other worlds it connects, most notably Midgard—or, as we call it, Earth.
But the other worlds hold an important place in Thor’s mythology as well, such as the realms of Jotunheim, Svartalfheim, Muspelheim and Hel. So to help you out, we’ve gathered together a tour of those worlds and the roles their inhabitants have played in the almost 50 years worth of Thor comics so far!
|The Frost Giants attack Asgard|
In the world of the Thor comics, much of Jotunheim is a frozen wasteland that the troublesome Frost Giants call home. The Giants possess great strength, while some can also create illusions. The 30-foot tall creatures have frequently plagued Thor and Asgard. Long before Thor’s birth, his grandfather, Bor, perished before his son Odin’s eyes during a battle with the Frost Giants. As a young warrior, Thor made a name for himself battling Frost Giants that would regularly attack Asgard. Since then, Thor has encountered Frost Giants in Jotunheim and Midgard, always managing to trump the formidable monsters.
The story of Odin and Bor’s war with the Frost Giants was recounted in THOR Vol. 3 #7, collected in THOR BY J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI VOL. 2, and Thor’s own battles with the Frost Giants were most recently told in THOR: AGES OF THUNDER #1, collected in THOR: AGES OF THUNDER.
|Malekith the Dark Elf|
One of Thor’s greatest enemies, Malekith the Dark Elf, hails from Svartalfheim. During writer/artist Walter Simonson’s classic “Surtur Saga,” Malekith utilized his army of dark elves to procure the Cask of Ancient Winters, opening it to unleash a deadly winter upon the world in preparation for Surtur’s invasion. Malekith would later menace Thor on other occasions, and even successfully unleashed the full power of the Cask of Ancient Winters once more in an effort to conquer Midgard.
The Dark Elves are incredibly strong creatures that age at a much slower rate than humans, but despite their vaunted strength they have an incredible weakness to iron. Even touching an object made of iron can cause a dark elf great pain, and a blow from an iron weapon can cause significant damage.
For more on Malekith, check out THOR #345-348, collected in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 1, as well as THOR Vol. 2 #29-32, collected in THOR: ACROSS ALL WORLDS.
|Surtur and his army|
The fiery realm of Muspehlheim houses the evil Surtur, whose assault on Midgard would have destroyed the entire world if not for the efforts of Thor and his fellow Avengers and Asgardian warriors. A dark and deadly world, Muspehlheim acts as a sort of fiery counterpoint to Jotunheim’s frozen wastelands and houses many fire demons. These demons exist simply to make war, and can sometimes be found outside of Muspehlheim should the call of battle bring them elsewhere.
For more, read “The Surtur Saga” in THOR #337-353 and AVENGERS #249, collected in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 1 and 2
|Hela in her domain|
While those who die with honor go to Valhalla and those who die with dishonor end up in Niffleheim, the majority of dead souls find their home in Hel. Hela holds sway over the realm, and has frequently attempted to gain Thor’s soul. Yet even when she has succeeded, a sacrifice from another has saved Thor’s life and restored him to the living, as when his servant the Silent One and his beloved Sif both gave their own lives on separate occasions. Hela has also caused a great deal of trouble for other denizens of the Marvel Universe in her quest to procure the most heroic souls for her collection.