Some weapons become more iconic than the fictional characters that use them. Others are a vital aspect of a character’s personality. In this column, I take a look at some of the greatest fictional weapons of all time.
Thor is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Comics Universe. Yes, he’s incredibly strong in the Cinematic Universe, he went toe-to-toe with The Hulk, but Thor is mind-blowingly powerful in comic books. He can lift thousands of tons and only the most powerful weapons can harm him. But his true power comes from his magic hammer.
Mjolnir was created from the Asgardian magic metal uru by Dwarven blacksmiths to be one of the magic realm’s most powerful weapons. While the hammer was meant to be created with a long handle, a trick by Thor’s adopted brother Loki caused it to be very short instead. While it was originally Odin’s weapon, he eventually passed it on to his son Thor when he proved himself worthy.
The hammer is made of an oblong head that is about one foot long and is mounted on a hammer about one foot long, too. The handle is wrapped in seemingly unbreakable leather with a handle loop at the end, allowing Thor to whirl it about at lightning-fast speeds.
Being worthy is a major part of what makes Mjolnir special. Odin placed a special enchantment on the weapon, with the inscription “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor,” written on the side. Thor’s noble actions and bravery have continued to prove him worthy, while most other beings throughout the universe have not been deemed as such by the enchantment.
Mjonir is the perfect match for Thor’s characteristics. He is both noble and brutal, strong yet skilled. Mjolnir is a weapon of brute force but it is wielded with great insight and skill. Thor is a bruiser and a brawler. While he’s handled axes, swords, and more throughout comics, they never seem quite natural in the hands of Thor.
The hammer is simple in design, yet it is instantly recognizable. His use of Mjolnir is a testament to his character. Thor may be brash and boisterous at times, but these aspects are tempered by a devotion to wellbeing of both loved ones and strangers. He is a born leader and a fearless hero. Thor is willing to do whatever it takes to save the world, that includes killing enemies and sacrificing himself.
Thor was introduced in Marvel Comics’ Journey into Mystery #83 after he had been deemed unworthy by Odin. He had been cast down to Earth and had his memory erased, forcing him to live as the crippled mortal Donald Blake. Eventually, after years on Earth, he found a cane in an old cave that was actually his enchanted hammer in disguise. He stamped its end on the ground, transforming it into its true form and himself back into the God of Thunder. Once again, he could do battle and prove his worth.
The God of Thunder has continued to use the hammer in battle since then and rarely uses any other weapon. Because of its construction, Mjolnir is invulnerable to almost all types of damage and can break through most any defense. Notably, Mjolnir cannot break through Captain America’s shield.
The hammer’s enchantments and Thor’s massive strength are a potent combination. Most often, he uses the weapon to smash his enemies by bringing it down on them with great force. Additionally, Mjolnir’s enchantments have it return to its user after being separated, allowing him to throw it at great distances, only for it to fling back into his hand moments later. The enchantment is so strong that Mjolnir can circle the Earth or even cross outer space to return to Thor. Its long distance capabilities more than make up for its relatively small size. Because of the hammer’s link to Thor, it is capable of understanding his thoughts and responding to his mental commands as well.
Mjolnir also grants its user the ability to conjure the powers of the storm: lightning, thunder, rain, and wind. Thor often uses these capabilities in combat, striking his foes with massive lightning bolts or pummeling them with gale-force winds. The hammer also projects blasts of energy channeled from Thor’s being. The projections can weaken Thor, but are capable of defeating enemies as strong as the all-powerful planet-eating Galactus.
What some may not know is that while Thor uses Mjolnir to fly, the hammer does not actually have flight capabilities. Rather, Thor flings the hammer so hard that the weapon propels him through the air at up to the speed of sound. Additionally, by whirling his hammer in mid-air, he can hover like a golden-haired helicopter. The hammer can also open teleportation vortexes, helping him to travel to any of the nine realms when needed.
Mjolnir’s Craziest Powers
While Mjolnir is mostly known for being smashed, thrown, and used to control storms, it has been given a seemingly endless amount of powers over the years. Especially in the early years of Thor’s stories, Mjolnir continued to be given new and increasingly strange abilities by authors.
Eventually, writers came to their senses and realized that an all-powerful God with a hammer that could do anything didn’t make for very compelling stories. Many of these powers have been taken away within stories or simply swept under the rug.
Originally, Thor could travel through time with Mjolnir! However, the Thunder God eventually sacrificed this capability to help save a planet trapped in Limbo. In reality, this was just too much power for the character.
The hammer has also been able to suck the life force out of enemies, manipulate lost souls, turn Thor invisible, absorb electromagnetism, atomize weapons, resurrect the dead (seriously???), detect energy patterns, create force fields, and produce enough power to destroy entire planets. And you thought Superman was overpowered? How could any enemy pose a legitimate threat to Thor at the height of his powers? It’s easy to see why most of these capabilities have been tossed aside and left out of the movies.
Only extreme force, either from enemies or Thor himself, has been able to break Mjolnir. While the hammer has been restored by various means, it has always proven to be a difficult challenge.
The living Asgardian weapon known as the Destroyer was able to slice it in two with a beam of energy in its first appearance, but has since been unable to do so. Additionally, The Molecule Man was able to vaporize it temporarily and the dark god Perrikus sliced it in half with a magic scythe. Thor once channeled a gigantic blast through the hammer to destroy a Celestial, a humongous intergalactic being of enormous power. The amount of power was so great that it shattered the hammer. Each time, Mjolnir was reforged for further use.
Most recently, the hammer was broken into fragments when Thor was forced to strike down his resurrected grandfather Bor. The ancient Asgardian’s sheer power was great enough that the force required to kill him broke Mjolnir. It was only restored when Dr. Strange channeled Thor’s power into it, forever linking him to Mjolnir. Should the hammer be destroyed now, Thor will die.
Who Is Worthy of Mjolnir?
No matter how powerful a character is, he or she will not be able to lift Mjolnir if not be deemed worthy due to purity of heart and deeds. Not even The Hulk has been able to lift the hammer, although recently he mistakenly believed himself to be worthy. In reality, Thor was calling the hammer back to himself.
Most notably, the alien Beta Ray Bill was able to both knock out Thor in hand-to-hand combat and lift Mjolnir, giving him a costume similar to the Thunder God and allowing him to use the full extent of its powers. While the alien was at first mistaken for a villain, he was in truth a hero whose past deeds made him worthy. He had dedicated himself to protecting the last of his alien race, submitting himself to radical experiments that gave him great power while giving him a monstrous appearance. Bill and his sentient spaceship traversed the cosmos with his people in suspended animation while on the run from demonic forces.
While Bill and Thor battled over the right to wield Mjolnir, Odin eventually decided to give the alien his own hammer, Stormbreaker. This is a golden mallet equal to Mjolnir and able to transform him back into his original appearance.
Captain America has also proven himself to be worthy. In the midst of great battle, Cap has been able to lift and use the hammer to turn the tide when Thor is incapacitated. I really hope this happens in the next Avengers movie.
Crossovers between Marvel and DC Comics have led to Superman and Wonder Woman being able to lift Mjolnir, but Superman was only able due to a temporary blessing from Odin.
No matter how many people may use it or what damage it has sustained, Mjolnir will always return to Thor. It is as inextricable from the hero as his noble nature and dedication to protecting his fellow Asgardians and the realm of Midgard.
Here’s to many more adventures with Thor and his trusted hammer leading the charge into battle!