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Review: History Channel's Clash of the Gods - Thor

The History Channel, aired their latest installment to their Clash of the Gods series last night, which focused on the Norse God Thor.

Inaccuracies in the Program:

  • Freya is NOT Thor's sister. She's from an entirely different pantheon (the Vanir), brought over as a hostage-Goddess with some of the other Vanic deities like Njord and her brother Freyr.
  • Loki is NOT Thor's servant. The only time Loki appeared as a servant in connection with Thor, was when Thor was disguised as Freya, and Loki was in turn disguised as Freya-Thor's servant. The program describes Loki as Thor's servant, before they even presented the story of Thor's stolen hammer.
  • Also, in the lore it was Heimdall, NOT Loki that made the suggestion to dress Thor up in drag to get his hammer back.

Others Flaws in the Program:

  • The program may have mentioned that Thor's belt was necessary to wield his hammer, but failed to mention the equally necessary special gloves that were also needed for Thor to use mjollnir.
  • The way the program was edited, lends itself to viewers who may not know better confusing the location of Thor's Oak, and mistakeningly thinking it's located at the Temple of Uppsala. The program didn't come out and say this was so, but just in terms of the way it was edited they didn't make a clear distinction. There was enough similarities in what they were describing at both sites to give the false impression that they were physically connected in place. Thor's Oak was in Germania, Uppsala is in Sweden.
  • As the program talked about the sacrifices at the Temple of Uppsala, they made it seem like only Thor received such sacrifices. This is a false impression as we know at the very least Odin and Fricco (Frigg), also received sacrifices at the site.
  • In addition to not mentioning that other deities at the site received such sacrifices, the program made this broad generalized statements that made it appear that ONLY Thor was honored by warriors. While I understand they were primarily looking at the late heathen period in the Viking Age where Thor was indeed popularized... Adam of Bremen's description of the Temple at Uppsala makes it clear that sacrifices related to warfare (and thus warriors) should have been Odin's. Thor in this period was a catch-all god for the overall community as a defender against the outsiders, including Christianity. It's understandable that a program about Thor would want to focus on Thor, but giving false impressions that things ONLY applied to him, and not the others... doesn't sit well with me.
  • The program failed to distinguish between the Vikings who were truly the 'raiders' and the other people often times lumpsummed and called Vikings. So it left an impression that these ancient peoples were nothing but bloodthirsty raiders and warriors.
  • And honestly, I don't understand why they were using the so called 'experts' that they were using. They certainly weren't from schools that specialize in this area of study. Where were the key colleges known for their academics on things related to the Norse? Like Cambridge University, the University of Rekyjavik, etc.?

Other Thoughts:
I must say I was pleasantly surprised about the inclusion of a couple of things in the program. The first was the fact they addressed how God Posts of Thor were sometimes carried with the ancient peoples. I honestly wasn't expecting something like that being present in a basic 1 hour program on Thor. I also liked the fact that the program did address the euherimistic process of the Gods in the battle of Ragnarok, and how it was set up to feed into the Christian mythos.

I realize programs of this nature are intended for people who don't know much about a topic... here's a case where I clearly was already familiar with the subject matter at hand. So I suppose it's not too surprising there really wasn't anything 'new' in the program for me, with one sole exception. The program stated that the reason why Thor was associated with oak (and thusly why we even have a thing called Thor's Oak in antiquity) is for the prevalence in oak being the tree most commonly struck by lightning. I just wish I knew their source for this.

In Conclusion:
Overall, it was a mediocre program at best, and despite parts of the program that were indeed accurate and presented a basic introduction to the God Thor, it was unfortunately full of flaws and inaccuracies and as such I cannot recommend this program.


I've been watching this program off and on when I come home for lunches. Its like a timer... you start it, and at the end its time to go back to work.

As far as I can tell, they've done a pretty decent job of confusing anyone who's actually interested in mythology. You get enough stuff to make it actually sound like they know what they're doing... and make it harder to undo their innaccuracies later.

Then again, those really interested in mythology will be checking their sources.
I recall reading about the connection between Thor and the oak somewhere, but I'm not quite sure where. I believe it was either Simek's Dictionary of Northern Mythology or H. R. Ellis-Davidson's The Gods & Myths of Northern Europe. This may be incorrect, however. If I do find it, I'll get back to you, and I would hope it would have a more primary source in the footnote or bibliography.
The Gods & Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis-Davidson, p 86
It is mentioned that some of the information regarding this can be found in Grimm's Teutonic Mythology.
I'm rearranging/reorganizing and can't find any of my books at the moment. But my quest on the source, wasn't Thor's Oak, but rather the claim that oak is the most commonly struck tree by lightning. Is that what's in those sources?

Yes. According to Ellis-Davidson, Grimm made the connection.

Review: History Channel's Clash of the Gods - Thor

To verify THAT claim properly though - wouldn't you need to ask a botanist or an eco -something-ologist: NOT a mythologist? 'Course, you could always ask a folklorist in any of these countries whether there was such a saying about oak trees.
How disappointing. I keep seeing this new series on tv, but I've only seen the episode about Tolkien and that was pretty much a repeat of what I already knew. It seemed like such an exciting concept. It's too bad it doesn't live up to its potential.
When I heard about the show I was existed, though I'd pretty much expected a google-based level of scholarship, seeing their other historical shows. After two i stopped watching. I only noticed this episode since I forgot to unsub it from the TIVO...