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How Thor Lost His Thunder – Declan Taggart (2018)

This book has been on my wish list for a while. It was an expensive academic publication though. The hardback is still around $ 150,-. A while ago I noticed that there is a Kindle version (Amazon ebook) for $ 37,-. Still expensive and I did not have a Kindle. By the time I got myself one, Amazon also started selling a paperback for the same price as the digital version. Weird, how the book market can act!

Taggard had published articles about the subject of his PhD and the publication for this PhD is worked into this book.

Taggart’s book is both dull and fascinating. Dull, because the author meticulously investigates all ancient written sources about the God Thor. Page after page about some literary expression or another detail. On the other hand, this is fascinating too. Seldom do I see such thorough scholarship, weighing arguments, comparing interpretations. Of course the book is stuffed with references to texts that we know, but also lesser known sources. It does help if you know your sources, as Taggart does not always provide context to the details he presents.

As the title suggests, the main thesis of Taggart is showing that the often repeated connection of Thor to thunder and lightning is not entirely corroborated by the sources. Much (the book is 228 pages) is presented to investigate this. Taggart describes the sources, looks for original meanings for names and words, investigates landscape and climate of the regions where the sources were written down, takes a critical look to the interpretatio Romano and the other way around and then starts investigating different sources and elements thereof.

So where is Thor actually connected with thunder, not in translation, but in the original texts? What do words in these texts mean in another context? These are the things you will read about in Taggarts book.

There are also subject such as, what does “Thor vigi” actually mean? Is every symbol that looks like a hammer a reference to Thor and what could these symbols, pendants, etc. have been for?

Taggard is critical, but positively so. He is more positive to Snorri than some other authors for example. He explains in detail why he refutes or corroborates interpretations or when he simply cannot be entirely sure.

Indeed, How Thor Lost His Thunder is an interesting read. Perhaps too detailed for some, but it are investigations like these that really polish the way we look at the old texts.

2018 Routledge, isbn 0367889021 (of the 2019 paperback version)

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