Thor is a special kind of superhero — and not just because of that hammer. While most of the mighty crime-fighters in Marvel’s stable are creations from the minds of people like Stan Lee, Thor is an adaptation of a character from Norse mythology (adapted for comics by people like Stan Lee).
But though Thor and his family members have ancient origins, not everything about the characters as they appear in movies like Thor: The Dark World (Nov. 8) is the same as it’s always been…
In the movie: Chris Hemsworth
In mythology Like the superhero version, this Thor is the god of thunder and carries a magical hammer, which has awesome strength and flies back to after being thrown. Unlike his comic-book and movie counterpart, Thor has a big beard and travels in a cart drawn by goats. He’s also married to Sif — played in the movie by Jaimie Alexander — rather than being enamored of a human being.
In the movie: Tom Hiddleston
In mythology: Like Hiddleston’s version of the character, the mythological Loki is a complicated guy, whose allegiances are hard to pin down — but the similarities are pretty limited after that. The Norse version of Loki is not Thor’s adopted brother. Also, while in early stages of Loki’s story he’s more mischievous than straight-up bad, his transition from puckish to evil takes place over time.
In the movie: Anthony Hopkins
In mythology: As in the movie, Odin is top banana in the Norse-god homeworld of Asgard. In mythology, however, the god is a bit more complex than Marvel’s throne-sitting deity. Odin gives humans their souls and often spends time among them, wandering around disguised as a wizened old man and, though he’s also a warrior, whenever Odin speaks — after obtaining the magical mead of poetry — it’s always in verse.
In the movie: Rene Russo
In mythology: As in the movie, she’s Odin’s wife and practices magic — but in mythology she’s not Thor’s mother. (A giantess has that honor.)
In the movie: Idris Elba
In mythology: As in the movie, he is the watchman and guards Bifrost, the rainbow bridge to Asgard. This character is probably the closest match between Marvel and myth… but that’s because relatively little is known about the mythology of Heimdall.