Taranis Thor

In Celtic Gaul and Britain the god of thunder was worshipped under the name of Taranis, Taranus, or Tanarus; compare Old Irish torann, Welsh taran, 'thunder'. The corresponding Germanic theonym, Old High German Donar or Thunar, Old Norse Porr, goes back to *Punaraz, from which also English 'thunder'. These all seem to be cognate variants, related to Latin tonare, tonitrus, Vedic (s)tan-, 'thunder'. It may originally have been an onomatopoeic word for thunder that could be used also for the god.39 But a connection has also been suggested with the Anatolian Tarhunna-, and so with the verbal root tarh, by way of a metathesis, ^tfaVno- > *tnh2Vro-.40

Thanks to the preservation of Old Norse literature Thor appears to us with a much clearer profile than Donar or Taranis.41 He developed into something

38 Comparisons have been drawn especially between Heracles and Indra: L. von Schroeder, Herakles und Indra (Denkschr. Wien. Ak. 58(3); 1914); Durante (1976), 58 f.; Watkins (1995), 375 f., cf. 507 f. The German thunder-god was rendered by the Romans as 'Hercules' (Tac. Germ. 9. 1, inscriptions); see de Vries (1956), ii. 107-9.

39 Similarly Perkunas' name was often avoided in favour of Dundulis or other names meaning 'rumble': Gimbutas, JIES 1 (1973), 469 f.; Biezais-Balys (1973), 433; Jakobson (1962-88), vii. 7, 23. For the Celtic god cf. de Vries (1956), ii. 111 f.; M. Green (1986), 66 f.; Puhvel (1987), 169.

40 Watkins (1995), 343 n. 1; cf. F. Bader (1989), 93 f.; ead. BSL 85 (1990), 12.

41 On him cf. Grimm (1883-8), 166-92; von Schroeder (1914-16), ii. 609-15; de Vries (1956), ii. 113-53.

much more than the simple thunderer. He was the controller of the weather and hence of the fertility of the crops. He was man's friend and protector against demonic forces in general, one of the most popular and highly regarded of the gods.

In the Eddic poems, as mentioned earlier, he is the son of Fiorgyn, who was identified with Earth. Earth (Ior5) is explicitly given as his mother in other passages (Lokasenna 58, Gylf. 9). But we have seen that Fiorgyn and her male counterpart Fiorgynn are linked by their names to Perkunas. It is conjectured that the obscure Fiorgynn was once Thor's father and himself the old Germanic storm-god. That 'Thunder' should be his son would be analogous to Brontes, Steropes, and Arges as sons of Ouranos and assistants of Zeus, and to the thundering sons of Perkons.42

Thor's connection with trees is shown by Danish and Swedish place-names such as Thorslund, Torslunde, 'Thor's grove'. An oak forest was dedicated to him at Dublin. The evidence goes back to antiquity. In 16 ce Germanicus crossed the Weser in the territory of the Cherusci and faced Arminius' army, which had gathered in a wood that was sacred to 'Hercules', i.e. *Punaraz (Tac. Ann. 2. 12).

Thor's weapon is his great hammer Miollnir, which he hurls at his victims. His targets are creatures located outside our world, typically giants, some of whom have many heads.43 He also overcame the cosmic monster known as Iormungand or the Mi5gar5 Serpent. On account of this achievement he is called orms einbani, 'the slayer of the serpent' (Hymiskvila 22. 3). The title has been compared with Indra's vrtrahän-,44 though we have seen that this probably did not at first refer to a specific victim.

Thor has several of the other features that we have seen to be characteristic of the Indo-European storm-gods.45 He rides in a car drawn by two goats, and the thunder is the rumbling of his vehicle.46 He is a mighty eater and drinker.47 He is known for his great red beard (Oläfssaga Tryggvasonar 213),

42 R. Koegel, GGA 159 (1897), 653 n. 1; von Schroeder (1914-16), i. 518, ii. 629.

43 On many-headed giants see pp. 299 f.

44 Vittoria Grazi in Poetry in the Scandinavian Middle Ages (Seventh International Saga Conference, Spoleto 1990), 561.

45 His similarities with Indra have long been the subject of comment, and sometimes Heracles too has been brought into the comparison. Cf. W. Mannhardt, Germanische Mythen (Berlin 1858), 1-242; Müller (1897), 744-9; von Schroeder (1914-16), ii. 625-8; Oldenberg (1917), 138; F. R. Schröder, Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie 76 (1957), 1-41; M. E. Huld in Dexter-Polome (1997), 179; Oberlies (1998), 248 n. 484.

46 Thiodolf, Haustlgng 15. 3; Gylf. 21, 44. He is the 'lord of goats' (Hymiskvila 20. 2, 31. 2) or 'user of goats' (Bragi, Ragnarsdräpa 18). Cf. Grimm (1883-8), 166 f.; von Schroeder (1914-16), ii. 610 f. Some classical poets represented the thunder as the noise of Zeus' chariot: Pind. Ol. 4. 1 with sch., Hor. Carm. 1. 34. 8 with Porphyrio.

47 Hymiskvla 15. 5-8, Prymskvla 24, Gylf. 46; Grimm (1883-8), 189.

which he shakes when he becomes angry (Prymskvida 1. 6). The verb employed here, dyja, corresponds to the dhu used of Indra's beard-shaking in RV 2. 11. 17 and 10. 23. 1 and 4.48

Snorri states that Asa-Thor is always victorious because honum fylgdi afl ok sterkleikr, 'power and strength followed with him' (Gylf. 9). In the same way it is said that the goddess Strength (devf Tavisi) follows (sisakti) Indra like the sun the dawn (RV 1. 56. 4). Hesiod says that Zelos, Nike, Kratos, and Bia (Aspiration, Victory, Power, and Strength) do not dwell or sit or go anywhere but where Zeus leads the way, and he provides a mythical explanation for this (Th. 386-401). It may be going too far to postulate a common archetype for these parallel theological propositions, especially as analogies can be cited from Semitic hymns.49 But they deserve notice.

There is one further feature that links Indra, Heracles, and Thor. In each case we find poetic recitals in which their famous achievements are listed. From the numerous hymns to Indra in the Rigveda one may cite, for example, 1. 33, 130; 2. 14, 15; 4. 16, 19, etc. In Greece whole epics were composed on Heracles' deeds, and Euripides in his tragedy on Heracles' killing of his children takes the opportunity to rehearse his previous accomplishments in a choral ode (359-435). Skaldic poets wrote praises of Thor with enumerations of his deeds.50 See below, pp. 314-16.

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