Marvel Comics would have us believe that Thor’s hammer was forged in a collapsed neutron star somewhere in the far reaches of space. The actual myth is a bit more terrestrial (or Asgardian…?). The Dwarves were, indeed, responsible for the creation of the mighty Mjölnir, but the job was botched. And like most mistakes in the Norse pantheon, this one can be traced back to the god of mischief, Loki.
Loki was constantly pulling pranks on the other gods (and then attempting to extricate himself from blame). Loki knew knew that Thor loved his wife, Sif, and her golden hair. On a lark, Loki waited for Sif to be asleep, took a pair of shears and snipped her golden off, every single lock.
Naturally, when Thor learned of this, he seized his brother and threatened to break every bone in his body. Loki, always quick on his feet (and wanting to save his own skin) promised he could return Sif’s golden hair.
Forging the Magical Treasures
Loki journeyed to the land of the Dwarves, Nidavellir (the dark fields, also sometimes called Svartalfheim). He pleaded with the two sons of Ivaldi (never named on their own) to fashion a new head of hair for Sif. These master craftspeople ended up creating three stunning treasures to please the gods:
- For Sif, they crafted hair spun from actual gold with the magical ability to grow upon her head.
- For Freyr (Lord of peace and fertility), they built the ship Skidbladnir (meaning assembled from thin pieces of wood). This was the best of all ships, always catching the most favorable wind. As a bonus, the ship could be folded up and put in a pocket.
- For mighty Odin, chief of all the Norse gods, they forged Gungnir, a deadly spear that always hit its mark.
The items were so wondrous, Loki declared the sons of Ivaldi the most skilled crafters in the realm. However, two brothers, Brokk and Eitri overheard the boast. Never one to miss an opportunity, Loki taunted the brothers, claiming they lacked the skill to create anything equaling the creations of the Ivaldi brothers.
What’s a wager without a prize? Loki was so sure of his victory, he bet his own head as the prize. The brothers promptly accepted.
Loki now had to make sure he won the bet or he’d lose his own head. He transformed himself into a fly and heard the brothers talking. Eitri worked the forge and reminded Brokk that the bellows must be worked without pause to ensure the required heat.
As Brokk pumped the bellows, Loki buzzed around his head, tormenting him as only a fly can. The dwarf was able to maintain focus through the first two items, Gullinbursti (a golden boar) and Draupnir (a golden arm ring).
The last item was to be Mjölnir, a war hammer for Thor. Loki, determined to keep his head on his shoulders, dived into Brokkr’s eyelid and bit so hard he drew blood. The dwarf stopped for a moment to wipe his eyes.
The hammer emerged from the forge, a weapon of unsurpassed might, able to always hit its mark and then return to the owner’s hand. But it was flawed. Most warhammers were meant to be wielded with two hands. But Mjölnir’s handle was too short and could only be held with one hand.
Despite the mistake, Brokk was certain he and his brother had won the wager. Together with Loki, they traveled to Asgard. They laid their works before Odin.
- For Freyr, they presented Gullinbursti, a living boar with golden hair. This could outrun any horse and had the strength to pull Freyr’s chariot, even through water or air.
- To Odin they gave Draupnir (the “Dripper”). This was an enchanted golden ring that created eight new golden rings every ninth night.
- To Thor when the hammer Mjölnir (meaning lighting).
Loki Escapes on a Technicality
All the gods concluded that Brokk and Eitri had won the wager and Loki owed the dwarves his head. Ever the cunning one, Loki agreed to give over his head. Except, he had never promised his neck.
Brokk decided that since Loki’s head was his, he could at least shut the god up for a while. Using Eitri’s awl, he sewed Loki’s lip shut with a leather thong. Satisfied, the brothers returned to their forge.