|Thunor by John Michael Rysbraeck (circa 1730)|
Different Germanic tribal societies placed different gods in the center of their religious world. Agrarian societies venerated Thor above all others, as the Thunder God brought the rain that kept the crops growing. He was portrayed as an idealized self-image of the hardworking freeman. Rough and ready, honest and hardworking, he embodied the qualities that the Salt of the Earth types saw in themselves.
The older German name for Thor is Donar ("thunder"). This evolved into the Norse Thor and the Anglo-Saxon Thunor. Our modern English "Thursday" derives from the Anglo-Saxon "Thunor's Day," and the modern German noun Donner is, obviously, derived from the original Donar, but refers to the natural phenomenon, not the mythical figure (except in the works of Richard Wagner, in which the Thunder God appears as "Donner").
|Thor with crown of stars (19th century)|
|Thor & goats by Haukur Halldórsson (Straumur, Iceland)|
Instead of the hammer, the German Donar throws stones from the sky. These flinty wedges crash to earth, accompanied by the flash of lightning, and bury themselves in the ground "as deep as the highest church-tower is high" or "as far as a hare can run in a hundred years" (obviously there is some variation in these measurements). This burying of the god's weapon can be seen reflected in Thrymskvida ("Thrym's Poem"), when the eponymous giant steals the mystic hammer and declares, "I have hidden Thor's hammer / eight leagues under the earth; / no man will ever take it back again, / unless I am brought Freya as my wife." The hammer is buried through the agency of an enemy and held for ransom, but the concept of the weapon buried deep in the ground is the same.
|Thunder-stone found in Viking grave (600-1000 CE)|