“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor”
— Mjolnir’s enchantment
Mjolnir (Mjölnir/Mjölner/Mjølner) is the hammer of the gods, wielded by Thor, the Norse god of thunder. The name basically means “to grind” or “grinder”. It first appears in the Marvel Comics Universe in Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962), created by writer Stan Lee, designed by artists Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott.
Journey into Mystery #83 begins with Donald Blake, a doctor from the United States visiting Norway. At the same time, a ship from Saturn lands nearby as advance scouts for a planned invasion. A local fisherman spots them and alerts the villagers, but they dismiss him. Blake overhears and goes to look for himself. When he steps on a twig, the aliens notice him. He flees into the hills, where he loses his cane. He runs into a cave, but the other entrance is blocked by a giant boulder. A secret door opens, revealing a chamber where Blake finds a walking stick. He tries to move the boulder with the stick but is unable to get leverage. Frustrated, he hits the boulder with the stick, and, in a flash of light, the stick transforms into a hammer, transforming Blake into Thor, the mythical Norse God of Thunder.
Mjolnir’s origin in Marvel’s continuity mirrors the original Norse legend. The hammer is created when Odin’s adopted son Loki cuts off the hair of the goddess Sif as part of a cruel jest, and, when threatened with violence by Thor, promises to fetch replacement hair from the dwarf smiths. Loki commissions the hair from the Sons of Ivaldi, and the obliging dwarves create the hair and a magic ship and spear as gifts for the gods. Loki is convinced that no one can match their workmanship, and challenges a dwarf named Eitri to make finer treasures. Eitri creates a golden ring and golden boar spear with magical properties and then begins work on a hammer. Loki panics at the sight of the treasures, and, afraid he will lose the wager, transforms himself into a mayfly and stings Eitri’s assistant on the brow as he is working the bellows for the forge. The assistant stops for a moment to wipe away the blood, and the bellows fall flat. As a result, the hammer’s handle is shorter in length than Eitri had originally intended, meaning that the hammer could only be wielded one-handed.
Another version of the hammer’s origin is depicted when ages ago, an unimaginably powerful cosmic storm called the God Tempest approached Asgard. Odin, chief of the Norse gods, battled the storm for many days when it threatened Asgard. Once the storm was weakened enough, Odin defeated the God Tempest by trapping it into a chunk of Uru that had been given to him by the Dwarves of Nidavellir as a gift, after Odin saved their realm from an invasion of Trolls. From the Uru, Odin ordered the Dwarves of Nidavellir to forge Mjolnir.
The series The Mighty Thor provides another version of Mjolnir’s origin: after an extended battle, Odin traps a galaxy-sized storm called “Mother Storm” in a nugget of Uru, which Odin orders the dwarves to use to create a weapon capable of using Mother Storm’s power.
Typically depicted as a large, square-headed gray sledgehammer, with a short, round handle wrapped in brown leather, culminating in a looped lanyard. The hammer is an incredibly powerful weapon in both the Marvel Comics Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Crafted from a nugget of Uru, a powerful nigh-invulnerable Asgardian metal. Additional enchantments placed upon it by Odin made it virtually indestructible. It has survived heat as extreme as the heart of suns and blasts powerful enough to destroy planets. Almost nothing is capable of withstanding a blow from Mjolnir, not even the armor of the powerful Celestials. Mjolnir was classified by the Initiative as an “Omega Class Weapon,” at the level of the Tactigon.
In the Marvel cinematic universe, the weapon has a slightly different backstory. We got to know that Hela first wielded the weapon, during Odin’s conquests of the Nine Realms. Odins eldest daughter, Hela, possessed Mjølnir and with it she helped her father in his battles. Only after Odin locked her up in Hel was Mjølnir taken from her.
Sometime before his coronation to be the king of Asgard, Mjølnir was given to Thor He showed off with it in the coronation as we see in the first Thor movie released in 2011. The ceremony was interrupted by a group of Frost Giants trying to steal the Casket of Ancient Winters from Odin’s Vault. Thor wanted to go to Jotunheim and show the Asgardians’ strength to ensure the Frost Giants would never trespass in Asgard again. Odin strips Thor of his powers only for him to regain them after finding his true source of humility.
“You are unworthy of these realms! Unworthy of your title! You’re unworthy! of the loved ones you have betrayed. I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!”
― Odin to Thor
In Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Thor used Mjølnir to recharge the Regeneration Cradle containing Ultron’s incomplete biological body, resulting in the birth of the Vision. A few moments later, as the Avengers were debating whether they could trust him, the Vision easily lifted Mjølnir and casually handed it to Thor. Since the hammer had judged him worthy, Thor accepted the android as an ally and, later, advised he be allowed to continue to be entrusted with the Mind Stone.
Following the battle, the Avengers organized a party at the Avengers Tower to celebrate the recovery of Loki’s Scepter and the defeat of Wolfgang von Strucker. Some of the Avengers played a game to see if anyone could lift Mjølnir. Only Steve Rogers managed to move the hammer slightly, which momentarily discomforted Thor.
In Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Thor was aided by Doctor Strange to find Odin. After the latter located him in Norway, Thor summoned Mjølnir to him, breaking many artifacts of the New York Sanctum in the process. In Norway, before his death, Odin revealed to his sons that they had a sister named Hela who would try to rule Asgard by force after his death. When Hela arrived at their location, Thor threw Mjølnir at her, but she managed to block the attack and hold the hammer with her bare hand. Much to Thor’s surprise, Hela shattered Mjølnir with little effort. However, the time travel nature of Avengers: Endgame allowed Mjolnir to return.
“Our sister destroyed your hammer like a piece of glass.”
― Loki to Thor
The return of Mjolnir allowed Avengers: Endgame (2019) to explore the worthiness of Captain America and Thor again. For Thor, he thought that he might no longer be worthy of picking up the hammer. But when he went back to Asgard in 2013, Thor discovered that he was still worthy as Mjolnir flew into his outreached arm. Proof of Captain America’s worthiness came much later in the film. While Thanos was busy fighting Thor, Captain America picked Mjolnir up off the ground and used it to fight the Mad Titan himself. Captain America can do just about anything Thor can with the hammer.
What follows is a stunning fight, as Steve Rogers blends his own tactical acumen with the power of the God of Thunder. From that point on, Captain America becomes one of the Avengers’ heavy hitters, much to Thor’s delight.
Thor dual-wielding Mjolnir and Stormbreaker was awesome by itself, but to have Captain America come in clutch and save Thor’s life by throwing an abandoned Mjolnir at this head… No longer is Steve Rogers the good guy who could just barely budge Thor’s hammer at Avengers tower; he is now capital-w-Worthy. This moment got even better when Thor realized Steve had passed Mjolnir’s test; the look on his face was pure joy, pride, and admiration. “That’s my friend Steve,” Thor must have thought, “isn’t he the best?”
Captain America Wielding Mjolnir in Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Marvel throws a proverbial feast for it's legions of fandom for sticking through 10 years and many divergent stories, and many different heroes - and they succeed.
- That it works this well is nothing short of a miracle. It's an imperfect movie, but perfectly satisfying conclusion to this arc of the Marvel saga.