“These people are innocent. Taking their lives will gain you nothing, so take mine… And end this.”
Okay, so. Here’s the thing.
This entire scene bothers me. Like, really bothers me.
Who is Loki trying to kill? Thor. Some mortals keep getting in the way, whatever. Then Thor’s friends appear — the ones who, let’s remember, are committing treason just by being here — and hey, may as well do something about them too.
But they guy we’ve really got a hate-on for? Thor.
And, lo. There he is, making his “so take mine” speech. Well, okay. Just humour me for a second. Let’s imagine this scene from the other way around. Let’s imagine Thor is the Designated Villain of this film. He’s been banished for attempted genocide and is generally considered dangerous and unstable. We’ve got to kill the guy. Maybe we don’t really want to, but… well. Gotta make the tough decisions, as king.
But first we gotta fight through Thor’s army of mortals, then his Quirky Miniboss squad. Pain in the ass. We just want to kill the Big Bad and get this level over with. Whatever.
Suddenly, he’s there. All-but begging to be killed. This is like trying to rob a bank — to mix our analogies a bit — and having to fight our way through security, only to have the bank manager walk out at the last minute with a huge sack of cash and begging us to just take it and go and stop killing his guards. As if that wasn’t what we were trying to do the whole time.
Well, whatever. Never look a gift-horse in the mouth and all that. (Ehehehehehe…)
Boom. Dead Thor.
Except, lo! Here comes the deus ex fratricide. Because apparently Thor’s “sacrifice” is “heroic” enough for him to be deemed “worthy” of Mjolnir once more.
Except, wait a second. Who is Thor sacrificing himself for again, exactly?
His friends? Who are already, a) committing treason (did I mention that already? I think I should’ve), and b) wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place if it weren’t for Thor.
The mortals? Who — wait for it, wait for it — wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place if it weren’t for Thor. Like, just get out of the way, puny ant-like mortals. We’re trying to walk here!
We’re here to kill Thor. Who “nobly” sacrificed his life to stop us… killing… Thor…
So, basically, the only deed that makes one “worthy” of wielding Mjolnir is saving Thor’s life. Or possibly being Thor in the first place.
Talk about playing against a stacked fucking deck.
(Or, yanno. Just flat-out shitty writing.)
So ‘s long as I’ve been meta-ing lately, Imma talk about how Mjolnir works.
In theory, Thor can only lift it if he’s “worthy”. So if he’s a bad boy then he can’t lift it for a while, until he’s good again and then he can.
I understand that in the comics, it apparently really does work as a moral barometer - sometimes. The evidence for this is that a small number of very virtuous people (Captain America is one) are also able to lift it.
Occasionally in emergencies, Odin will temporarily allow someone else to lift it so they can save everyone and then when the emergency is dealt with they can’t again. Superman and Wonder Woman both got to wield it briefly in the Marvel Vs. DC series.
A couple of pages later, suddenly Superman couldn’t lift it anymore, because everybody was rescued and there was no more need.
Got that? Superman is not, normally, worthy. Superman.
Right. Moving on.
This panel is from “Fear Itself: Book One”. Odin is going insane. He and Thor are arguing because Thor wants to keep defending Earth and Odin doesn’t want him to.
Got that? Odin is losing his mind and still controls Mjolnir’s liftability. Mjolnir doesn’t go thunk because Thor did something bad - he didn’t, he was insisting on defending Earth - but because Odin told it to.
Then there’s Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes Vol 2 #19. This incident is so outrageous that I used it in one of my fics to illustrate Odin’s A+ Parenting. Odin figures Thor needs a swat upside the head, so he takes Mjolnir away from him and gives it to Loki for the day. Loki does various heroic things with it - I think the idea was supposed to be that he wasn’t as good as hero-ing as Thor is, even though he rescued people and defeated baddies and whatnot. Then Odin hauls his boys back to Asgard and apparently they’re Highlanders now:
So yeah, Odin was doing the same thing here with the hammer that he did with the throne in the movie: pretending that there was a contest between the sons about which one would get it in order to manipulate Thor, not giving a shit about how deeply he hurt his adopted son by dangling things in front of him he had no intention of ever giving him, no matter what he did.
This, btw, is the only thing Loki does actually wrong in the entire story. (It is arguable he wasn’t as good at hero-ing as Thor in this issue, but he still did a good enough job.) He lets this incident make Thor his enemy, when it isn’t Thor’s fault at all, much as he does in the movie. Not good, but understandable; nature viciously inflicted a hunger for parental love on all of us, but siblings are more expendable. Y’all may have noticed that I’m a wee bit irked that the people who (get paid to) write about these characters seem to believe that wanting your parents to love you is evil. (I guess because if they don’t, clearly you are evil by nature and just haven’t gotten around to embarking on your career of mass murder yet. But your parents instinctively know that’s your destiny and that’s why they don’t love you. Yeah, fuck you, writers.)
Odin’s last remark there - “Loki understands if he were truly worthy, no one - not even the All-Father - could have kept him from hoisting this hammer on his own.”
Where to begin?
What makes you imagine Loki understands this, asshole? His reaction - storming out declaring sworn enmity - doesn’t seem consistent with this assertion of yours.
If the truly worthy can hoist the damn thing whether or not you let them, you wouldn’t have been able to take it away from Thor.
In this story we know from remarks others have made that this Loki has done bad things in the past, but Odin spins this hammer-lifter-for-a-day thing as his chance to prove himself reformed etc. Which would be great except that it isn’t. Loki does what he’s told, he does hero shit like a good boy even if he isn’t as good at it as Thor, but gets no credit at all for this and isn’t given the rewards he was promised.
And now let’s take Odin’s statement as a whole. Do shitty parents all take the same course somewhere in how to gaslight their offspring? Because I have heard exactly the same crap from so many parents in so many situations, and it’s always the same basic thing: the parents refusing to accept responsibility for their sadistic or manipulative behavior. I mean, do they have discussion groups where they instruct each other? “If your kids point out that you’re being an asshole, just tell them that it’s their fault because they’re so rotten. If you’re lucky, they’ll keep buying it until they’re in their 30’s.”
Sometimes when I come across random people hating on us Loki fans and Loki defenders, I have to wonder if they themselves are abusive parents and that’s the angle from which they’re seeing the story. Like, they figure they should be able to torture their kids all they want without then having to deal with the behavior problems that inevitably result, because hey, it’s the kid’s responsibility to remain virtuous even when his psyche’s been warped from infancy and his life made hell!
OK, I’m going to take a few deep breaths here and then talk about movie!Mjolnir.
Movie!Mjolnir does not give a shit about worthiness. If it did, if it had been enchanted to be a moral barometer, it would have dropped in the middle of Thor’s battle on Jotunheim. Or given Thor’s hostile intentions, maybe as soon as Thor got there, or as soon as he started exhorting his friends to go there. But it doesn’t. It drops and becomes unliftable when Odin tells it to.
Thor is able to lift it again not when he does anything worthy - as deefic points out above, he really didn’t. She also has Loki point this out in her fic Bag of Cats: “My brother refused to cower behind a few friends in the face of my wrath. You, Mr. Stark, I believe flew a nuclear bomb into deep space to save a million strangers from the same. If you were to grasp Mjolnir’s shaft… what do you think would happen? Do you think yourself worthy?”
Thor’s able to lift it when he needs it. The Destroyer apparently actually kills him. Odin is still asleep but is evidently conscious of this because he sheds a tear. And that’s when Mjolnir comes rocketing toward Thor, almost smashing Jane in the process, and Thor comes back to life and gets his armor and his superpowers back, destroys the Destroyer, and everyone lives happily ever after (except Loki).
From here it looks like even in a coma, Odin can still magic the fucking hammer to be liftable or not liftable.
There’s a scene in Avengers, after Thor has fallen out of the helicarrier, when he starts to reach for Mjolnir and then hesitates. Some people have read this as his being briefly unworthy. Others, including myself, read it as his hesitating to call his hammer because he knows that once he does, he’ll have to fight his little brother, maybe even kill him. He takes a minute to face that, and then calls the hammer.
So I think the whole “if he be worthy” thing is just more manipulative bullshit on Odin’s part. It’s enchanted to be liftable only by Thor (and Odin) so that others will not be able to take Thor’s weapon from him or use it against him. Loki’s not being able to lift it has nothing to do with him being evil, or any of the bad things he does in the movie - he wasn’t able to lift it before the movies, we’re given to understand, when the worst thing he’d ever done was turn Sif into a brunette.
Loki can’t lift it because he isn’t Thor. That’s all there ever was to it.
This is all very interesting, and the main thing I take away from it is that morality can be really very subjective. Of course, evidence is building up that it’s just Odin behind the curtain and really I’m in denial about it because I enjoy the lifting of Mjolnir actually meaning something. But still, Asgardian moral standards are obviously different than our own, and the direction I usually go with that is the value of glorious death in battle.
Glorious death in battle is, of course, the one and ONLY thing that will get you into Valhalla, the most desirable afterlife, to the point that stories tell of men who were dying of illness or old age, and cut themselves in order to trick Hel into letting them go to Valhalla.
So that makes this the key to the whole system of thought surrounding Norse mythology - warriors are rewarded for their own deaths in battle. So maybe it isn’t Odin directly, but the context in which both he and Mjolnir exist - the hammer has some independent use as a moral barometer, but only by Norse standards.
And that lends itself to explaining the difference between Steve Rogers and Clark Kent - by our standards, both noble men, with only the best of intentions. But by Norse standards, Steve Rogers is a warrior trained, tested, and ready to die every time he goes into battle. Clark Kent is a man of peace who is nearly incapable of dying, and is also aware of his own value to his world and how much preserving himself will help others in the long run.
Whether or not Mjolnir has some capacity of its own to judge worthiness, it’s more complicated than just Odin being a vicious SOB.