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 other Monday andEssentials every Thursday as we head toward the release of each film!
This week in Essential Thor we examine a weapon and symbol of the immortals: Thor's mighty mallet, Mjolnir. Arguably one of the strongest weapons in the Marvel Universe, the immense power of the device ironically resides in the humble guise of a hammer with a simple leather-bound handle. A hammer by itself represents strength in its potential and resilience in its composition and war-hardened form. However, Mjolnir becomes even stronger in the hands of Thor.
Join us we take a look at this modest hammer that strikes with untold power and lightning.
The Myths of Mjolnir
|Thor and Mjolnir|
As with any myth powerful enough to stand the test of time, the true origins of how the mighty mallet Mjolnir came into being lie shrouded in mystery. Legends say Mjolnir laid for millennia, disguised as a gnarled walking cane in a cave until Dr. Donald Blake discovered the tool in an attempt to escape from his inadvertent imprisonment. As Dr. Blake struck the cane against a rock, he instantly surged with power and transformed into Thor.
Another tale revealed that Odin requested Mjolnir's creation from Dwarven blacksmiths led by the dwarf Eitri. Odin tasked the dwarves to create a weapon strong enough to defeat his enemies. To create such a weapon, the dwarves used the heart of a sun to create the forge. To not break the world, the only forge capable of containing the great power was the cosmos. The forge's incredible creation nearly destroyed its craftsmen, shook all of Asgard, and rained fire down throughout the Nine Realms. The dwarves named the hammer Mjolnir, which literally means "The Crusher." Odin soon utilized the weapon to crush Laufey, king of the Frost Giants.
|The dwarves create Mjolnir's forge|
A similar myth chronicles the involvement of Thor and his brother Loki in the hammer's creation. Odin sought to entrust both his sons in summoning the dwarven blacksmiths Brokk and Eitri to create three gifts to himself, but the mischief of Loki cost him the honor. Thor set out on his journey to the dwarves' forge alone, but was secretly followed by a disguised and jealous Loki. While the blacksmiths worked, Loki camouflaged himself as a tiny moth to annoy and distract the dwarves in their work. Ultimately, Loki's distractions caused the dwarves to accidentally make the handle of Mjolnir too short. Despite its flaw, the dwarves were satisfied with the hammer and set out to present the gifts to Odin.
From the three gifts, Mjolnir impressed Odin the most and in conjunction with the properties the mystic hammer had from its composition of Uru metal, Odin added his own divine enchantments. Odin declared no one shall have the ability to lift Mjolnir unless he be worthy; made it so the hammer would return to the hand from which hurled it; and the elements of the storm will obey Mjolnir's command. Odin decreed the hammer would be the prize of his son, Thor, if he could prove himself in deeds of selfless valor. For time eternal, the hammer remains a vestige of the might of Thor as described by the inscription it bears, "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."
Dr. Donald Blake's encounter with Mjolnir is detailed in the classic JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83, collected in MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE MIGHTY THOR VOL. 1 as well as ESSENTIAL THOR VOL. 1, while Odin's direct summoning of the Dwarven blacksmiths was recounted in THOR #80, found in AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED: THOR. Thor's journey to the dwarves forge was told in THOR ANNUAL #11.If They Be Worthy...
As decreed by Odin, only individuals deemed worthy of selfless valor can lift and use Mjolnir's vast powers. Members of Thor's bloodline have held the hammer, including Odin, Thor's grandfather Bor and his great-grandfather, Tiwaz. Significant allies of Thor including Beta Ray Bill, Steve Rogers and Eric Masterson have also proven themselves worthy of Mjolnir at one point or another.
Despite is size and assumed weight, as someone tries to lift the hammer, the enchantment of Mjolnir is instantly granted or denied. The mysticism surrounding it operates objectively as the hammer looks into the heart or the individual, and is not subject to doubt one may feel about oneself. For example, following the world-ending Ragnarok of Asgard, Mjolnir broke through dimensions to reach Midgard, or Earth as we know it. The villainous Dr. Doom tried to lift Mjolnir, but found it immovable. Subsequently, the Thing of the Fantastic Four attempted the same to no avail. Both Doom and the Thing are incredibly strong, and while one is a villain and the other a hero, both possessed some flaw blocking them from lifting the hammer.
|The Thing tries to lift Mjolnir|
As heavy as the hammer is to those not chosen, Mjolnir will arguably be light as a feather to those resembling the innate characteristics of Thor. In the past, sentient constructs like the indestructible Destroyer have also held the hammer. Since the Destroyer is a creation of Odin filled with immense power, its connection and ability to wield Mjolnir operated on a different principle than the worthiness of character exhibited by beings of flesh and blood.
Bor held Mjolnir in THOR #600--collected in THOR BY J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI VOL. 3--Tiwaz in THOR #355, and Beta Ray Bill possessed the mighty weapon in THOR #337, found in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 1. Steve Rogers as the Captain lifted it in THOR #390, followed by Eric Masterson in THOR #433. Mjolnir reached Midgard in its interdimensional travels in FANTASTIC FOUR #536, after which Doom and the Thing both failed to lift the hammer in FANTASTIC FOUR #537, both of which may be found in CIVIL WAR: THE ROAD TO CIVIL WAR.
|Thor and a broken Mjolnir|
For all its power and resistance, Mjolnir is not completely indestructible. A force blast by the Destroyer armor sliced Mjolnir in two, while the atom-influencing Molecule Man disintegrated the hammer during an attack on the Avengers. The dark god, Perrikus, carved through Mjolnir with his powerful scythe, and Thor broke his hammer upon impact when he defeated his grandfather Bor in battle. Thor has consistently repaired his hammer through various means including mending it physically through a forge or from the aid of mystics like Dr. Strange.
The Destroyer lifted Mjolnir in the classic JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #119, after which Thor repaired it in a forge in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #120, both in MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE MIGHTY THOR VOL. 3 as well as ESSENTIAL THOR VOL. 2. The Molecule Man disintegrated the hammer in AVENGERS #215. Perrikus cut Mjolnir in THOR VOL. 2 #10, collected in THOR BY DAN JURGENS AND JOHN ROMITA, JR. VOL. 2, while Thor crumbled his hammer in battle with Bor in THOR #600.