2 definitions by A. C. Cooper

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Iceland is, as has been well documented, a small island in the North Atlantic. It was settled in the 9th century, mainly by Norwegians and other Scandinavians, but also by a few Celts from Scotland and Ireland. There is a theory that the Norwegians in particular left for Iceland to escape the growing tyranny and expanding power of the Scandinavian Kings, especially King Harald Fair-hair of Norway. The first settler was Ingolfur Arnarson, arriving in 870 AD, and he built a farm on the site of modern day Reykjavik, the capital. Iceland was the first republic and developed a system of proto-democracy with a national Parliament called the Althing established in 930 AD, and a very sophistocated system of law developed. This was surprisingly liberal; women had practically equal rights to men. For instance, they could take part in legal proceedings and declare themselves divorced whenever they wished, whilst retaining all property rights. Considering women only got equal property rights in Britain in the 19th century, this is impressive I feel.
The term 'Viking' as an ethnic term is wrong; to the Scandinavians it meant specifically a raider, so not all, or even most, Icelanders were Vikings. Practically all were simple farmers. No towns existed in medieval Iceland, and farms were self-sufficient units.
An Icelander was the first to land on Greenland, which was settled by Eirik the Red after he had been outlawed from Iceland, who called it this to make it more attractive to other settlers. It was his son, Leifur, nicknamed Leif the Lucky, who was the first European to set foot on the continent of North America (not Christopher Columbus) around 1000 AD, the year in which Iceland became Christian by democratic vote. Leif christened the area Vinland, after the wild grapes he found there. Nobody has been able to prove the exact location of Vinland.
Geographically, Iceland is mostly volcanic, and large areas of it are covered in lava fields. It has geysers, hot springs and sulphorous jets of steam coming from the ground, as well as active Volcanoes. The amount of geothermal energy at her disposal means that Iceland is a very environmentally green country. However, it also means that all the washing water smells slightly of egg. Iceland also has Europe's most powerful waterfall (Dettafoss) and Europe's largest glacier (Vatnajokull), which did feature in the James Bond film 'Die Another Day'.
Iceland is famous for its medieval literature, which ranks as amongst the finest in the world. These are mostly sagas, the most famous being Egil's Saga, Njal's Saga, Laxdaela Saga and Volsunga Saga, the last of which was a major inspiration for Tolkein and Wagner. However, Iceland also produced histories such as The Book of Icelanders and The Book of Settlements by Ari the Learned, and the most important source on Norse mythology, Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson.
Icelandic has changed relatively little since then, and the system of patrynomics, and sometimes matrymonics is still used. For example if a man called Njal Eiriksson had a son and a daughter, they might be called Ingolfur Njalsson and Gudrun Njalssdottir; they would not have the surname Eiriksson.
In 1262, Iceland came under the control of Norway, and Denmark in 1380, but regained Home Rule in 1874 and became fully independent in 1944. Today, Iceland is most commonly known for musicians Bjork and Sigur Ros, being the most expensive country in Europe, puffins and reindeer, the Northern Lights, and being cold. However, this does not even come close to doing justice to this beautiful, sometimes bleak, truly unique landscape and its rich and fascinating history and mythology.
Iceland is my favourite European country apart from my own. I wish I was Icelandic.
by A. C. Cooper June 15, 2006
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Thor is a member of the Aesir, the tribe of Gods worshipped by the medieval Scandinavian pagans, and some modern nutters. Thor is the defender of the Gods, and the strongest of all of them. In the myths he is mostly fighting giants; Hrungnir and Geirrod were his most famous opponents. He is described as red-haired and bearded. In the Norse myths, his character is strong, loyal and honest. He is often quick to anger, but also quick to regain his temper. However, he is not renowned for his brains, and so has to rely on brawn. One of the myths tells how this does not work for him, when he visits Utgard-Loki the giant and is tricked again and again.

Thor's main weapon is the hammer Mjolnir. This was made for him by the dwarfs Brokk and Eitri. He also has iron gloves and a girdle that doubles his strength. He drives a chariot pulled by two goats and it is the rumble of the chariot wheels in the mountains that was said to be the cause of thunder. Lightning was believed to be the sparks from Thor's hammer, or from the piece of whetstone stuck in his head after his duel with the giant Hrungnir. Once Thor's hammer was stolen by a giant, and held at ransom for the price of Freyja as the giant's wife. To get his hammer back, Thor had to dress as a woman and pretend to be Freyja.

Thor's father is Odin and his mother is the Earth. He is married to Sif, a Goddess of the harvest with golden hair, and has a daughter with her called Thrud. Once, a dwarf called Alvis wanted to marry Thrud, so Thor kept him talking all night until the sun came up and turned Alvis to stone. He also has a giantess mistress, called Jarnsaxa, and with her he has two sons, Magni and Modi, who will survive Ragnarok and become part of the new order of Gods. At Ragnarok, Thor will fight the Midgard Serpent, Jormagund. As he kills it, it will bite him, and Thor will die from the poison in Jormagund's fangs.

Thor was the patron God of freemen, whereas Odin was the patron God of noblemen and also the God of poetry. This meant that Odin was far more widely written about in the medieval poems, but that Thor was far more widely worshipped. This can be seen in the number of Norse names that include Thor. A few examples are Thorgeir (Thor-spear), Thorolf (Thor-wolf), Thorbrand (Thor-sword) and Thorbjorn (Thor-bear). I know of no examples of humans named after Odin. Some historians think that Thor actually replaced Odin as the 'top God' in the later stages of Norse paganism.

Overall, Thor is strong and formidable to his enemies, but also an endearing character because of his good nature and because he is so slow on the uptake.
Most of the definitions on this site show a stereotyped version of Thor, that does not represent his true literary and mythological character.
by A. C. Cooper June 17, 2006
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