I'm doing a project on Norse mythology. Many early descriptions of Thor suggest that he was "fierce-eyed, red-haired and red-bearded"

I was wondering why Marvel changed Thor's physical appearance so much in the comics and movies. If anyone can find out why, I will be very happy about that.

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    Changed his appearance from what? It's not like the Norsemen had a canonical, unchanging depiction of him.
    – jwodder
    Apr 17, 2014 at 18:48
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    And I guess I won't tell you about the fact Marvel has had a red haired being who was also called Thor... Thor vs "Thor" Apr 18, 2014 at 20:52
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    Interesting side note: When Neil Gaiman went for a red-bearded, drunken and loutish Thor in Sandman: Season of Mists, he got outraged letters "from comics fans who felt I was creating cruel parodies of the Marvel Comics characters Thor, Loki and Odin." (Interview with Gaiman in The Sandman Companion, Titan Books hardcover, p. 105.) Apr 20, 2014 at 12:10
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    Blatant gingerism. Apr 24, 2014 at 16:36
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    With the color printing tech of the time, Thor's red hair probably would've looked like either The Thing's skin or a Stop Sign. Dec 20, 2014 at 12:33

4 Answers 4


There is actually a great writeup about this titled Blond Thor - Stan Lee Wasn't Wrong.

It can be noted that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby apparently did consider the red haired, bearded design and decided against it.

In an issue of The Jack Kirby Collector, Stan Lee says

“Before starting the series, we stuffed ourselves to the gills with Norse mythology, as well as almost every other type of mythology – we love it all! But you’ve got to remember that these are legendary tales – myths – and no two versions are ever exactly the same. We changed a lot of things – for example, in most of the myths Thor has red hair, Odin has one eye, etc. But we preferred doing our own version.

The article delves into why Thor is said to have had red hair and a beard. Their findings were surprising.

I don't want to copy/paste too much, but the TL;DR of it is that when they started looking into it, the very early texts said that he had either red or blonde hair depending on your interpretation of the material. Those early texts also waffled on whether or not he had a beard at all. It wasn't until much later (we're talking 300-400 years) that he was "definitively" red-headed. So, making him blonde and without a beard actually harkens back to what may have been his earliest depiction.

Much of the blonde design may actually stem from Steve Ditko's (a friend and co-worker of Stan Lee) earlier work on a comic called "The Hammer of Thor" for Charlton Comics. Here it was a young, blonde and beardless viking who happened to find Thor's hammer.

out of this world

Donald Blake's discovery of the cane which magically transforms into Thor's hammer in Marvel's Journey Into Mystery is incredibly similar.

journey into mystery

  • 1
    Let's not forget that fact that Thor only has one arm too I think... Didn't he get it bitten off by a giant water snake or something Apr 17, 2014 at 20:28
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    @DoctorWho22 you're thinking Tyr and The Fenris Wolf
    – user16696
    Dec 20, 2014 at 21:43
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    “the very early texts said that he had either red or blonde hair depending on your interpretation of the material” — it's not relevant to Thor, but I believe Ancient Greek seemingly has no word for "blue". Translation is a tricky thing. Jul 21, 2020 at 10:12
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    @PaulD.Waite Still not relevant to Thor, but yeah, that's actually an anthropology thing where colors develop in a distinct pattern in cultures, and blue is usually one of the later ones, in part because it's relatively rare in nature. Heck, even Japanese still kind of merges blue and green as one color. Red is usually one of the early ones FWIW.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 21, 2020 at 13:16

There are a considerable number of paintings from the 1700s and 1800s that depict Thor, for example

"Thor's Battle Against the Jötnar" by Mårten Eskil Winge. Thor's Battle Against the Jötnar

and Thor and Jormungand by Johann Heinrich Füssli Thor and Jormungand

As you can see, these famous images bears a striking resemblance to the cartoon and movie depictions of Thor created in 1964 and 2011.

enter image description here

As such, I would dispute the premise of the question. Stan Lee and Marvel may have decided not to make him a bearded redhead, but they certainly weren't the first to do so, nor were they going against the popular impression of what he would look like.

It's perhaps worth noting that the earliest Thor comic (which predates the Marvel version by nearly 30 years) also has a blond, beardless Thor.

enter image description here

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    I bet there's a lot of people who'd like to see movie Thor dressed (or not) like your second painting! Apr 18, 2014 at 0:24
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    @Ward - Unfortunately you're more likely to get the "granny-panties" version in the bottom set...
    – Valorum
    Apr 18, 2014 at 0:57

Actually, Thor is supposed to be blonde. He was only described as red-haired by christians, but the vikings described him as having gold hair or light hair. Hence why some viking would try to make their hair look blonde to be more like the thunder god.

  • 2
    Whilst this appears to be at least somewhat true you should edit in some evidence to back this up. Look at the other answers here with their sources to back up the points for an example of how to do this.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 21, 2020 at 8:09

Simple. Tall, handsome, blond haired beach boys play better to a 'modern' audience than pale, mean looking and bearded redheads.

I know this is not what many want to hear, but truth sometimes is a bitter pill.

In 2012, the journal 'Psychological Studies' published a study that created quite a stir on this topic, and was widely reported as "bad news for redheads." Researcher Nicolas Guéguen examined how hair color alone could influence a person's chances of scoring at a nightclub. By using the same set of men and women, and changing only the apparent color of their hair, this experiment was able to separate the influence of other features and characteristics. Men were rejected the most often when wearing a ginger wig. The news looks pretty bad for ginger men.

This would be a far more accurate depiction of the original Thor: http://www.webburgr.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ginger-male-2-3.jpg

  • 2
    Personally I'd go for a redhead over a blonde.
    – Xantec
    Apr 17, 2014 at 19:07
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    @Xantec LOL apparently someone else agrees with you.
    – Morgan
    Apr 18, 2014 at 6:29
  • Can you back up this bold assertion with some actual evidence?
    – Valorum
    Apr 19, 2014 at 11:45
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    I've changed this to an upvote. I'll be even more impressed if you can show that Stan Lee was influenced by these prejudices...
    – Valorum
    Apr 19, 2014 at 16:24
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    BTW, the actual creator of Marvel's version of 'Thor' was actually Jack Kirby, not Stan Lee. Stan was the 'get it done so I can sell it' guy. Kirby was the Mythology maven and Lee was the Marketing maven. Just sayin'.
    – Morgan
    Apr 20, 2014 at 3:04

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