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The Essay
Show #471
Thor Throat
David Gunn

   I am the God Thor
   I am the War God
   I am the Thunderer!
   Here in my Northland
   My fastness and fortress
   Reign I forever!

So begins "The Challenge of Thor," a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. If the tone of the text sounds a bit defensive, it's because Longfellow was both Thor's official biographer and his personal assistant. So you might forgive his hyperbole. In reality, Thor was in realty. He was a partner in Ikvald & Thor Properties, Ltd., a real estate establishment in 19th century Boston. Longfellow got to know Thor when he purchased a house from the realtor in nearby Cambridge. The house overlooked the Charles River, and as Longfellow was signing the closing papers on the patio, a trio of sculls glided by. Thor gazed at them longingly, and then, unbidden, began to recite:

   To ravage, to pillage
   To have one's way with young goats
   And the occasional wench, yea!
   Tis a proper calling for a Norseman!
   To die in battle wouldst I prefer
   Than to live long and dully in a cave
   With my betrothed, Irklynd
   To the boats, men!
   For far from these shores
   Is there plunder to be had!

Longfellow was impressed both by the realtor's knowledge of old Norse poetry and his fabulous collection of horned helmets. Thor admitted that he had been a skald--or master poet--at the Court of Gnarwald the Vile. When Longfellow pressed him for details, he learned that there was a lot more to Thor than met the sales agreement.

Thor said simply that he once was the personification of thunder and the principal war god of Norse mythology. Born to the gods Odin and Frigg, the latter proudly proclaimed that Thor was already a mighty warrior as he restless lay in her womb. Upon his birth, he was given a nanny, the Wizard Croftblenig, who in turn gave him the Mjollnir, a formidable hammer that returned to his hand whenever he hurled it. By the time he was five, Thor, employing a couple of stooges, was making heaps of money flinging it at the All-Valhalla Feast and Festival Days.

Thor lived in Asgard, a mixed use community that was populated by gods, giants, trattorie and a handful of mortals who worked in the service industry. The men oversaw the office supply and hospitality sectors that the gods so abhorred. But they had difficulty communicating with the gods--they were still so primitive that they required speech to converse. So a clever Valkyrie named Herfjotur invented a sentient mist called the Otsvold. The mist absorbed human sounds and transmogrified them into flavored thought crystals that the gods could process. In that way alone was there man-to-god communication. The gods, naturally, rarely deigned to speak to mere mortals.

Thor attended the Twilight God Academy along with a gallimaufry of berserkers and norns where he studied Norse Cosmology and the Big Ginnungagap Theory. While his teacher droned on and on about how all of goddom had descended from Audhumla, the Great Cow, Thor was clandestinely studying for his realtor's license, a decision that would one day prove remarkably felicitous. Upon graduation, Thor went to work for Niflheim Thunderbolts, a small collection agency. With the mighty Mjollnir at his side, Thor collected from every debtor every time. Soon, he had single-handedly turned the company into a major player in the accounts receivable management arena. He felt in his bones that he was destined for greater things, and the opportunity came when he had to collect on a past due note from the giant, Rundvunk, who refused to admit ownership of the note. Thor threatened him with his hammer, but the wily Rundvunk countered by producing runes on which the images of a rock and paper were inscribed. Thor angrily flung the Mjollnir at them. The rock rune surprisingly began to dull the hammer, but then the paper rune covered the rock rune, the Mjollnir broke free, and smashed them both to smithereens. The sullen giant paid up, an obligation which amounted to no less than the title of God of War, which Thor opted to keep for himself.

As a god, Thor could afford to move from his efficiency apartment to a fashionable brownstone in the Thruthheim district. He took a wife, Sif, oversaw fertility rites among mortal men, and struck down the occasional out-of-line giant with his trusty Mjollnir. His life was full of zest and prosperity--but over time the repressively stultifying weight of Christianity began to put the kibosh on all things pagan. The Norse gods fell into disfavor, and eventually lost their leases on their homes at Asgard. Some perished. Others, like Thor, adapted. He recalled enough from his schooling to go on at length about the digestive process of the Great Cow Audhumla which, in those days, passed for poetry. A position for skald at the Court of Gnarwald the Vile opened up and Thor took it. Centuries later--he is, after all, immortal--he reinvented himself as a realtor in southeastern New England.

Where is Thor today? In 1988, minor beat poet John Clellon Holmes published "Dire Coasts," his last book of poetry. The forward was written by a man simply identified as "Mr. Roht." In it, he pays token tribute to the poet, but inserts this telling couplet at the end: "Here in my Northland/Have I my way with young goats forever!"

Although it sometimes seems like forever to us, too, today's is but the 471st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. However, radiophonic immortality is probably not in the cards for the likes of Damian or the highly corporeal Kalvos.