Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Goats of Thor (An Expanded Repost)

Okay, so. Wheels on the Bus had to take a backseat this weekend (No one is sorrier than I am because I know how excited you will all be by the next episode which is vaguely plotted but not written yet), but it will return NEXT TUESDAY, same bat-time, same bat-place. Cross my heart! In the meantime, enjoy today's post: a topic resurrected from the archives while I recover from a grueling weekend. Because, apparently Tuesdays are for Norse-related fun.

Christmas throughout Christendom - Thor
Those shorts. Really?! oofda!
Today we're talking about Thor's magic goats!

Let's face it, a thunder god being pulled in a goat drawn chariot is a pretty ludicrous idea. It's laughable. There isn't anything godly or noble about it. I wanted Thor to be treated seriously, not comically, and how do you introduce magic goats in a serious manner? Believe me, it's not easy. Especially not when it made me giggle just to think about it.

But the more I wrote, and the more involved in Thor's character I got, the more I realized Thor needed to have his goats. It didn't matter how funny I thought it was, or how ridiculous it seemed, these goats are part of Thor's character. 

Tanngrisni and Tanngnost are Thor's companions, pulling his chariot, and perhaps even cooler, providing him with sustenance while he roadtrips. Tanngrisni and Tanngnost can be eaten, and as long as the bones are kept whole, they will respawn alive and well again the next day (with a little hammer waving) to continue the journey. 

The goats are one of the things that make Thor unique and understandable as a god. Thor associates, not with some more noble horse, fabulous cat, feral wolf, creepy raven, or golden boar, but with the same animals that the Vikings and Norsemen depended on for a living-- the regular livestock. The ignoble goat. The goats were one more part of what made Thor approachable, one more point to reinforce the fact that he was The Everyman's God. 

And why shouldn't Thor associate with the farmer's livestock, and the everyman, when the farmer is so dependent upon Thor, as a weather god, for rain in drought and sun in flood? Sure, Thor was big and tough in a fight, and lightning and thunder are pretty terrifying aspects, but the goats remind us that he is also something else. He is the friend who keeps the crops alive, as reliable as an animal that gave the vikings milk and cheese and meat. Of course, you don't necessarily want to make your goat mad at you, either...

If you're interested, there are quite a few animals mentioned in Norse mythology. Odin has Sleipnir the eight-legged horse (and child of Loki). Freyja has a boar named Hildisvíni, and her chariot is drawn by cats--which still strikes me as more frightening than goats. And Freyr rides another boar named Gullinbursti, with golden bristles, who is a product of dwarven craftsmanship. Oddly, Freyja's cats are not, to my knowledge, named, though most of the other companion/familiars/livestock of the gods tend to be. Odin's ravens are named, Huginn and Muninn, and even Freyja's necklace has a name.

And as for Thor and his goats-- I'll never try to keep them from him again.


  1. I remember the goats!!! And yes, it struck me as kinda funny, too. In a good way. Although the eating and reviving thing is kind of creepy...

    As for Freyja's cats... knowing cats they have no name because it was them who named the gods (and their beasts and their necklaces)...

    T.x ; P

  2. HA!
    Yes that explains everything, Tessa! lol. Those darn cats ;)

  3. Ha ha, goats ... sorry but still funny. But you're right, it does make sense because he is important to the everyman. And I love that I always learn so much about mythology when I read your blog :).

    Are the cats that pull Freyja's chariot like housecats? Because that would be funny too.

    1. her cats are typical Norwegian forest cats theres just alot of then

  4. LMAO... I'd forgotten about Thor's goats. Bet he didn't get bullied much around Valhalla and throughout Midgaard. (lol) But, seriously, I do think that goats are pretty cool. Greek mythology has some chariots pulled by wierdness as well... Aphrodite- pulled by doves...Zeus- pulled by eagles... Artemis- pulled by golden deer with silver horns.

  5. I missed the goats the first time around!! And I'm laughing because I remember a part in one of your novels (BoG3??) that explained a bit about the edible goats!!!

    I would love to see a cat-drawn chariot race-- that would be incredible cuteness. Though I'm envisioning normal cats, and not Norse mythology cats.

    Such a fun post! I'm glad you decided to bring this one out of the archives!! :D

  6. K: They are still funny! I absolutely agree. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

    And yeah, at best they're probably lynx. I feel compelled to take creative license with them when they appear in my books because otherwise it is just kind of... well. Tabby-cats? really?

    Chris: Indeed! That would make a great blogpost! Thanks for the idea!

    Di: Yes! And you can see that I had NO success with introducing them without poking fun at the ridiculousness of the situation. :P

  7. Oh wow. I did not know that. Borse myths are next on my list to learn more about. They are so interesting.

    And I agree. Cats would be more frightening than goats *shudders*

  8. Wow, a goat that pulls your chariot and regrows like a starfish? That is so lame. *points at the goat Wikipedia said was lame*

    The other one, though: very cool. I never knew about Thor and his goats. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Naomi: Definitely give them a read! They're a lot of fun and also... a little bit odd.

    Nate: Haha. Yes. Yes indeed, someone broke the rule about leaving the bones intact and made one of the goats lame. I'm still wondering if, upon being eaten again after that, with the bones left intact correctly, the goat recovered.

  10. Greetings from the future in México. This post was very helpful with my homework, ummm thanks!

  11. Thunor should be feared and not mocked. Show some respect. He is the Lord of the lightning bolt, the most powerful and ancient of the Germanic Gods. The goat represents energy and manly virility.

  12. Amazaing was just watching thor on You Tube, and landed here nice to read :)

    1. Thanks for coming! If you love Thor, definitely check out my books, too!


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