Celebrating the launch of the Marvel Museum Collection, Philip Bates strains to lift his pen in order to ask “Who is Worthy to lift Thor’s hammer?”.
“Whosoever holds this hammer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
But who is really worthy enough to lift Mjolnir, Thor’s mystical hammer? What does “worthy” actually mean? And could you become the God of Thunder just by working out a bit?
The answer to the latter question is, of course, no. Sorry. Lifting Mjolnir isn’t a case of being strong, so you can weightlift all you like; it won’t mean a jot to the discerning hammer. No, the enchantment on Mjolnir means something more – only those worthy enough can command the power of a Norse God.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the number of people that applies to is severely limited. For a great deal of time, Thor has been the only person capable of lifting the hammer; indeed, the Avengers even tried it out in Age of Ultron and Steve Rogers was the only person to make it wobble. That is, until the Vision who immediately proved himself by casually handing it to Thor. (It helps that his power involves density control, so that might go some way toward explaining it.)
Before all that, however, came Odin, the All-Father – the person who enchanted Mjolnir in the first place, and who casts it to Earth in Thor and lets it wait for someone who really is worthy enough. It would seem that Thor’s family can move Mjolnir, or at least Hela, his older sister in the MCU, can. And she subsequently destroys it in Thor: Ragnarök. With so much blood on her hands, she’s definitely not worthy, but perhaps the familial connection explains that. Loki, of course, is stumped: it appears only blood relatives can swing Mjolnir.
We never see Thor’s mother, Frigga, lift it, although, in the comics, she’s the one who changes the enchantment from “he” to “they”, becoming gender-neutral and granting Jane Foster the power of the Gods. Presumably, we’ll see something like this in Thor: Love and Thunder, in which we’re promised Foster will become the new Thor, just as she does in the source material. She’s one of very few who takes on Thor’s mantle for a considerable amount of time.
The first was Donald Blake, seemingly an ordinary guy who stumbled upon the hammer in a cave and was able to transform into Thor. Sort of. This was retconned so that Blake was actually an amnesiac Thor sent to Earth to become worthy enough to reclaim his godhood. So Donald Blake was worthy because Mjolnir was always meant to be his anyway.
Then came Beta Ray Bill. With The Mighty Thor #337 (1983), Walt Simonson kicked off his character-defining run on the title by giving Thor’s hammer over to a stranger. Bill bested Thor in battle and was able to lift Mjolnir, likely because the alien had been genetically modified to protect his race, the Korbinites, after the destruction of their galaxy. With an entire race on his shoulders, Beta Ray Bill was worthy.
Nonetheless, Thor wanted it back, so Odin crafted a second one, Stormbreaker, for their new ally to swing. In fact, Odin takes pity on a few “lesser” beings, like Eric Masterson, a human architect who was injured during a fight between Thor and Mongoose. To save Masterson’s life, Odin merged him and Thor together. When they separated, Eric was gifted a Mjolnir-like hammer called Thunderstrike.
Otherwise, a few Asgardians can lift Mjolnir, including Bor, Thor’s grandfather, as seen in Thor #600 (2009); Volstagg of the Warriors Three, becoming the War Thor (though this Mjolnir was from the parallel ‘Ultimate’ dimension); and Loki, albeit during the ‘Axis’ event, in which a major role-reversal meant the villains became heroes, and vice versa.
The enchantment is the important thing here. That’s why anyone can lift Stormbreaker, forged at Nidavellir after Hela destroyed Mjolnir in the MCU. Odin’s magic forbids anyone unworthy of lifting Mjolnir, but not any of Asgard’s wider arsenal or anything else created by the Dwarves of the weapons forge. Nonetheless, Thor assures the Guardians of the Galaxy that only the strongest can put such arms to use: “You simply lack the strength to wield them. Your bodies will crumble as your minds collapse into madness.” (Sure enough, Groot appears strong enough, actually creating Stormbreaker’s handle in Avengers: Infinity War.)
It apparently takes considerable heart to go to battle in Asgard’s name. Naturally, this means Captain America really can lift Mjolnir itself, in a scene in Endgame that made cinemas erupt with applause. Did you ever really doubt Captain America’s worthiness?
Similarly, the Steve Rogers of the comic-book universe wields the hammer a few times over the years, first in The Mighty Thor #390 (1988), then in event issues, Fear Itself #7 (2011) and Secret Empire #10 (2017). The latter adds a neat caveat to the whole debate. Earlier in the storyline, a warped Cap working for Hydra lifted Mjolnir too… so how can someone so duplicitous be considered worthy? Mjolnir has Terms and Conditions.
In that instance, the witch, Elisa Sinclair, was able to tweak the wording, meaning Evil Cap could swing it about. Loopholes account for a number of other individuals who have lifted it, including Awesome Andy, who absorbed Thor’s worthiness in She-Hulk #14 (2007); the Ultimate version of Magneto, who controlled the magnetic environment around Mjolnir in order to shift it; and the Hulk in Avengers Assemble #4 (2012), in which Thor was manipulating Mjolnir (think of it like Thor actually lifting it, but letting Hulk hold the handle).
Perhaps most shocking was the revelation that Moon Knight and his god, Khonshu can use Mjolnir – because it’s made from Uru metal, sourced on natural satellites, i.e. moons. This certainly came in handy during The Age of Khonshu, which saw Moon Knight defeat almost all of the Avengers, including knocking back the God of Thunder right from the off. Yowch.
So who can wield Mjolnir? This is Marvel, so practically anyone, as long as the story calls for it. Or heck, even when the story doesn’t, like when the Red Hulk burst onto the scene, stole the Silver Surfer’s board, punched the Watcher in the face, and fought back Thor using Mjolnir. No explanation has been given, but this must mean “Rulk” is worthy.
Most of the time, it’s not about the small print. You can cheat in order to control Thor’s mystical hammer, sure, but when it comes down to the wire, those who are truly worthy in character will triumph. But isn’t that the superhero game in a nutshell?
The Marvel Museum Collection is a treasure trove of movie-accurate replicas from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
These hand-painted polyresin collectibles bring to life the MCU’s most iconic weapons, masks and gadgets in exacting detail. Each miniature prop stands between 15-20cm tall, atop a stand emblazoned with its movie of origin. The enchanted hammer of Thor, God of Thunder, Mjolnir was forged by dwarves in the heart of a dying star. Odin passed this mighty weapon down to his son – until Thor’s arrogance saw him stripped of his powers and cast out of Asgard. His faithful hammer followed him to Earth, waiting to be reclaimed by its master… when he proved himself worthy.