Although Marvel takes some creative licenses to make Thor’s story coherent, some things are quite accurate from Norse mythology.
The MCU has now a wide variety of characters and stories that draw inspiration from different mythologies. We’ve seen a good amount in Eternals, some Egyptian deities having some epic battles in Moon Knight, and of course, the first one in this cinematic universe, the mighty Thor, his family, friends, and foes.
Thor: Love and Thunder, the fourth installment of the Thor films, is about to hit cinemas, and this time our favorite Avenger will face a fearsome villain called Gor, the God Butcher. So, as you can imagine, and after seeing some footage on the trailers, it seems we’re going to get a taste of various deities from mythologies including the one and only Zeus.
Now, although our Marvel’s Thor comes from outer space Asgard and the story of the films appears to have nothing to do with the actual Norse mythology, we can say that the comic book creators and then the film writers didn’t forget about the God’s inspiration, and many of the characters’ features does have an accurate link to the myths. How accurate (or not) are these MCU deities? We’ll see right away!
Thor is one of the most popular Norse gods, and even one of the main deities worshiped during the Viking era before Christianity. With some physical and creative differences, the MCU’s portrayal of Thor isn’t that inaccurate.
One of the most characteristic features of Thor in Norse mythology is his hair. Unlike the MCU, Thor has red hair that symbolizes fire, at the end of the day, he’s the god of thunder. Now, although the movie’s character has blonde hair, the films are often remarking this physical attribute as one of the pillars of his development, and even make fun of it when it is cut off. Still, we can say that Hemsworth’s Thor is way vainer than the myth one.
One thing regarding Thor that the movies did well was the representation of the Mjolnir and the attachment Thor has to it. Indeed, the hammer does come back whenever Thor throws it, and it does generate thunder when it hits something. However, one of the great differences is that the Mjolnir doesn’t give Thor the ability to fly. Instead, in Norse mythology, Thor is often seen driving a chariot pulled by two goats, something we’ll get to see in this new installment of the MCU saga. Also, the Mjolnir doesn’t respond to those worthy as we see in the films, nor it was a gift of Odin to his son, it’s simply a very heavy hammer, and Thor happens to be a very strong god capable of wielding it.
In the first movie of Thor, we learn that Loki isn’t really Odin’s son nor Thor’s brother but that he was adopted. As a matter of fact, Loki has never been related to any of them in Norse mythology, not even in a sentimental way. In the myth, Loki is the son of two giants, Farbauti and Laufey. In the movies, we see Laufey as a male villain and the biological father of Loki; however, in the myths, Laufey is a female being. This is interesting because both Lokis are called Loki Laufeyson when in Norse mythology it’s often the father’s name the one passed into their kin; for some reason, Laufey is way more important than Farbauti.
Now, Loki, the god of mischief, is the incarnation of chaos and the one that can bring the gods down. Similar to the films, Loki is one of the most complex characters from Norse mythology but not precisely because of a moral conflict between good and evil. Actually, in the myths he’s not that ambitious, nor does he wants to bring down the whole godly system, he seems just to be destined for it. Oh, also he has winged shoes that allow him to fly; something that would’ve been so cool to see in the MCU.
One of his big traits is that Loki is capable of shapeshifting. We see him do so several times in the films, however, in the myths he rarely shifts into other deities or human beings. He often transforms himself into animals, fathering endless mythological creatures like Fenrir (the giant wolf we see in Thor: Ragnarok), Sleipnir (an eight-legged horse owned by Odin), and in some versions, even Hel, goddess of the underworld.
Like in Norse mythology, Odin is portrayed in the MCU as the most powerful god in Asgard and the nine realms. He’s the main God and father of many deities, though not Loki in any form. Actually, in some versions of the myth, Loki and Odin become blood brothers after mixing their blood, but that’s as far as it goes.
In the old Norse legends, Odin gives his eye away in exchange for wisdom, whereas in the films he loses it in battle. While in the first two movies Odin is mainly used as a father figure teaching a lesson to his sons, something that differs a bit from the myths, there is very little mentioned about his backstory other than his spear Gungnir. In Thor: Ragnarok we see a more violent version of Odin that doesn’t really match his mythological inspiration.
Still, a very good representation of Odin in some versions of the myth, is that we see in Ragnarok when Loki is pretending to be him. In the myths, both Loki and Odin are a couple of tricksters with some humor, and that representation, even when it’s not Odin himself, is more accurate than the solemn one we see throughout the films.
As we mentioned, Odin fathered many gods and Heimdall is one of the many on that list. Since his role in the MCU is very short, we can say that Heimdall is one of the most accurate representations of Norse mythology. He literally does what we see in the films: protect the Bifrost, a rainbow bridge that allows entrance to Asgard (something very well depicted in the films), and he can see everything from Himinbjorg, a mountain that literally translates to Heaven’s Mountain.
MCU’s Frigga has the more creative licenses of all Norse deities. In the movies, we see her as a protective mother of Thor and Loki and Odin’s wife. In the myths, however, although Frigga (or better said Frigg) is indeed Odin’s wife, she’s not actually Thor’s mother. Thor’s mother in the myths is Jord, the personification of Earth. Frigga in the MCU is more of a combination between Frigg, who is a minor character in Norse mythology, and Freyja, goddess of love, beauty, fertility, sex, war, and gold.
Although Sif is more of a secondary character in the films as one of Thor’s best friends and one who has some sort of a crush on him, in Norse mythology she’s actually the God of Thunder’s wife. Unlike Marvel’s version, in mythology, she’s not portrayed as a warrior but as a goddess related to fertility. However, there’s one passage about Sif in the MCU that’s actually quite accurate although we don’t see it in the Thor films but in the series Loki. One of the passages where she has more focus is one where Loki cuts her hair while she’s sleeping to mess up with Thor. In the series, we see this mentioned while Loki is kept in a loop where Sif punches him constantly.
Hela is portrayed in the films as Odin’s firstborn hence Thor and Loki’s sister. As mentioned, she’s actually Loki’s daughter not his sister. Another big difference, besides the fact that her name is Hel, is that she’s not a personified character but more of a place. After her birth, Odin sends her to Niflheim, the World of Darkness (so we can say that the banishment is kind of accurate), but Hel was World of the Death and eventually evolved into a character, the goddess of Death.