What Hagrid and Dumbledore have in common with Thor and Odin
While there is no Thor or Odin in the Harry Potter books, the relationship of Thor and Odin to the Norse people and the relationship of Hagrid and Dumbledore to the Hogwarts students, particularly Harry, Ron, and Hermione, is strikingly similar.
Thor was the god of the people, the one they loved the most and the one who was the most popular. Many people were named after Thor with names like Thorstein and Thorald for boys or Thora for girls. Many places were named after Thor as well, like Thorshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. Archeologists have found dozens of amulets and engravings of Thor’s hammer among the remains of the average Norse person’s house. Not so with Odin. The Norse people apparently did not carry around amulets of Odin. Odin is more remote and unattainable. People feared him rather than loved him. This is much like Hagrid and Dumbledore. Hagrid is much more universally loved than Dumbledore. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione want advice or want to talk to someone about what is going on at the school or with Voldemort, they go to Hagrid not Dumbledore. Even though the Slytherin’s hated Hagrid (they hated Dumbledore too), most of the students were fond of Hagrid. The students look at Dumbledore with a bit of awe and even a little fear.
Thor is the god who drinks and eats heartily. Thor loves a good feast. Hagrid is the giant man who often drinks too much and says too much. Hagrid is easily tricked by those wishing to do him wrong (like Quirrell or Rita Skeeter or Umbridge), and by Harry, Ron, and Hermione as well. They know that with enough prodding and verbal gymnastics, they can trick Hagrid into telling them what they need to know. In this way the god Thor and Hagrid are alike. In one story Thor is tricked out of his hammer, Mjolnir, during, what else, a feast. In order to get it back he had to dress up as the goddess Freya and offer to marry a giant to get his hammer back. I’m sure he was one ugly woman!
Odin does not eat at all. He sits on his throne and feeds any food he gets to his two wolves, Geri and Freki. In the Harry Potter world, Dumbledore attends the feasts, but is not really shown eating. He does have a fondness for lemon drops and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans though, which makes him a little more down-to-earth than Odin.
Thor grapples with giants, not magic. Hagrid, although a magical person, is not allowed to use magic. He is simple and predictable.
Odin was capricious, and people did not know what he would do or when he might turn on a favorite. He is the god of wisdom and magic. He sacrificed himself on the World Tree in order to gain the knowledge of the runes. Like Odin, Dumbledore is a more remote figure, the Headmaster who is the master of incredible knowledge, but who keeps to himself. Dumbledore cannot be tricked into spilling information. Dumbledore knows more about magic than anyone else in the wizarding world. Odin is the god of magic and knows more about magic than any of the other gods. Odin knows everything that happens in Midgard, the world of humans, because his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, bring him information every day. Similarly, Dumbledore seems to know about everything that happens in Hogwarts. He also has an animal familiar—Fawkes the Phoenix.
It’s easy to imagine Hagrid carrying a giant hammer around with him and fighting giants, like Thor, while it is equally easy to imagine Dumbledore sacrificing himself for magical knowledge, like Odin.
Thor and Hagrid
As we’ve seen, Thor is very much like Hagrid. Like Hagrid, Thor’s mother is a giantess. Thor is of course big and strong like Hagrid, but he also has a ruddy complexion, red beard, loud voice, is not very subtle in how he deals with people and problems, and he eats and drinks a lot. He particularly likes to drink—just like Hagrid. Both Thor and Hagrid can get into trouble because of drinking too much. Thor once got so drunk at a feast with the giants that they were able to steal his hammer from him. He had to go to a lot of trouble to get it back. Hagrid is tricked into giving Professor Quirrell information about the Sorcerer’s Stone in trade for a dragon egg while drinking at the Hog’s Head. He is also given dangerous creatures like the Blast-Ended Screwts because he had been drinking. The Screwts eventually got him into trouble with Professor Umbridge.
Thor and the Cauldron
In one story Thor was upset because Asgard had run out of mead. Aegir, the god who prepared the mead told Thor that if he was unhappy then he needed to go find a cauldron big enough to hold all of the mead the gods needed (and that’s a big cauldron!).
Thor knew of the very cauldron he wanted. It belonged to, who else, but a giant! Thor disguised himself as a young man (a rather large young man presumably) and went to Hymir’s (HEE-meer) house to get his cauldron that was a mile deep. Surely a cauldron that big would be big enough for the gods.
During his stay Thor and Hymir ended up going fishing together. Hymir told Thor that he must find his own bait. What did Thor do? He pulled the head off Hymir’s largest ox! Hymir was not amused or pleased, but they went fishing together anyway. Thor took the oars and rowed them far out to sea, so far that Hymir became nervous because he was afraid of Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent, the serpent that is entwined around the entire world.
Thor and Hymir stopped and Thor placed his enormous bait on his fishing hook and cast off. Although Hymir did not know it Thor wanted to catch Jormungandr. And he did. Thor caught the giant serpent and as Thor brought him up the serpent thrashed around and spit poison. Thor, with his considerable god strength, stretched out to brace his legs and they went right through the bottom of the boat and onto the floor of the ocean. Jormungandr struggled and fought, but Thor had him within his reach. Then, all of a sudden, Hymir panicked and cut the line, allowing Jormungandr to break free. In a last ditch effort, Thor threw his hammer at the serpent. It struck a glancing blow but otherwise did nothing to hurt him. Jormungandr returned to the sea but held a lasting and fatal grudge against Thor.
Thor was upset with Hymir for cutting his line. Hymir was upset with Thor for trying to catch the Midgard serpent. They returned to Hymir’s hall fuming. As they feasted, Thor, still mad, tried to smash one of Hymir’s favorite cups, but it didn’t break. Hymir laughed at him. Angry, Thor threw it at Hymir’s head! It broke. Hymir was a giant so it didn’t hurt him, but he was finally impressed with Thor’s strength and gave him the cauldron.
Thor brought the cauldron back to Asgard and gave it to Aegir. The cauldron was worth the effort. It was definitely big enough for all of the gods’ mead. They could drink all they want and the mead never ran out.
Thor and his Feats of Strength
Like Hagrid, Thor also traveled to the realm of the giants and also learned that giants are not to be taken lightly. Thor, Loki, and two servants traveled to Jotunheim because Thor was convinced the giants were going to attack Asgard. When they arrived at Utgard, the palace of a powerful giant Utgard-Loki, they discovered that the giants require their guests to prove themselves.
Thor, Loki, and the servants had to prove themselves through feats of strength.
First up: Loki. He claimed he could eat more than anyone. He and a giant sat across from each other at a table and started eating. But Loki had barely touched his food before the giant had eaten the meat, the bones, and even the dishes! Loki lost the contest.
Next up: Tialfi, Thor’s human servant. He offered to compete in a foot race. Unfortunately for him the giant he competed against was much faster. So fast, indeed that he was able to turn around and return before Thialfi even got to the end. He lost too.
Finally Thor agreed to compete. His first task: a drinking contest. Thor was given a special drinking horn and told that most giants could drain it in one drink with three drinks considered a poor showing. Poor Thor, he drank and drank and drank, but could not drain the drinking horn. The third time he made a little dent in the horn, but still failed at emptying it. Utgard-Loki looked at Thor with disgust and told him he thought Thor could drink more than that.
Thor’s next contest was to lift up Utgard-Loki’s cat. It was a big cat, but Utgard-Loki taunted Thor by telling him that young boy giants lift it. The cat came into the room and Thor got underneath it and tried to lift it. He pushed and pushed, but could only manage to get the cat to arch its back and one paw to slightly lift off the ground. Again Thor lost his contest.
Now Thor got into an angry rage and was determined to prove himself and so offered to fight one of the giants. Utgard-Loki looked around his hall and told Thor that everyone would find it beneath him to fight with Thor. The giant appointed his old nurse to fight Thor. Thor fought the old woman, but the harder he fought the stronger she got. He could not budge her and finally fell to his knees. Utgard-Loki stopped the fight.
The next day Thor and his companions readied to leave. Utgard-Loki accompanied them away from the giant’s hall. Thor told Utgard-Loki that he was humiliated. Utgard-Loki told Thor a secret; he had been worried because Thor showed such considerable strength! He then told Thor the truth:
- Loki competed against Fire which devours everything in its path.
- Thialfi ran his running race against Thought and no one is faster than Thought.
- Thor’s drinking horn was attached to the sea and he had no chance of draining it. However, on the third drink Thor did manage to make a dent and that worried the giant.
- The giant cat was actually part of the Midgard serpent’s body and since it encircles the entire world it is impossible to lift it off its feet. Thor almost managed to lift his paw off the ground.
- The old giant woman was Old Age and she defeats everyone no matter how strong they are.
Utgard-Loki told Thor to leave and never come back. Angry at the giant for tricking him, Thor reached for his hammer. Just as he was about to bring it down on the giant’s head, Utgard-Loki disappeared. Thor returned home to Asgard disappointed and angry at the giant’s trickery.
Like Hagrid, Thor had to return home without having accomplished what he set out to do.
In one story Thor fought the giant, Hrungnir, and during this fight Thor received a wound to his forehead. Thor threw his hammer, Mjolnir, at Hrungnir and the giant threw a whetstone at the god. The hammer and the whetstone met in mid-air. Thor’s hammer ended up finding the giant, because, as we know, Mjolnir always hits its mark, killing the giant, but not before a piece of whetstone lodged in Thor’s forehead. He went to a sorceress to remove it, but while she performed her magic Thor told her that her long lost husband would return home soon. She grew so excited that she couldn’t remember the magic and the piece of whetstone remained lodged in Thor’s forehead forever.
Odin and Dumbledore
One way in which Dumbledore is like Odin is that he is willing to make a great sacrifice. In The Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore was willing to sacrifice himself to gain the locket Horcrux that had been hidden in the cave. In order to obtain the locket Horcrux, Dumbledore had to drink the poison which covered it. He nearly died. Only Harry helping him into the boat saved him. Not only did Dumbledore make that sacrifice, he also sacrificed his right hand when he touched the cursed Gaunt family ring. Sacrifices play a big role in many mythologies, Norse included.
In Norse mythology, Odin made a huge sacrifice. Odin sacrificed his EYE.
Odin wanted knowledge and not just any knowledge—he wanted the knowledge of the Universe. He traveled to the Well of Urd, also known as the Well of Wisdom, to visit the god Mimir (Mee-meer), who was the guardian of the well. The Well of Urd is the well that nourishes the World Tree, Yggdrasil, the tree in which all of the nine worlds of humans, gods, giants, dwarves, and elves live. Because the World Tree grows in its water, the Well of Urd houses all the knowledge of the universe.
When Odin approached the god Mimir, he asked if he could drink from the Well. Being a good guardian, Mimir told Odin he’d have to make a sacrifice if he wanted to drink from the Well. The Well contained too much deep wisdom to offer to just anyone. A great sacrifice was required.
Odin gave Mimir his eye. Mimir then gave Odin a drink from the Well of Wisdom. From that moment on, Odin gained extensive knowledge. Odin is the Norse god with the most wisdom and is the most far-seeing.
There is symbolism in Odin giving up his eye in order to gain wisdom. After all, the eye is the vehicle through which we see, and being able to “see” clearly is usually considered a sign of wisdom.
Both Odin and Dumbledore are willing to do just about anything for wisdom and knowledge.