If you haven’t heard, the mighty Thor has fallen on hard times. The gossip around the water cooler was Thor had a beer gut in Avengers: Endgame. Why is this such a traumatic thing for everyone?
I suspect it was because to most fans, Thor, the God of Thunder is expected to be a model of physical awesomeness. Under ideal circumstances, when Thor is out smashing giants or fighting aliens, it’s easy for him to remain in fighting trim. Alas, Thor, formerly of Asgard, the once-king of a vanished kingdom isn’t out slaying giants or destroying alien despots. Instead, he’s hiding in New Asgard, drinking beer, eating pizza and playing Fortnite with his friends.
Worse, I’m sad to report, Thor is no more a god than you or I. The word ‘god’ gets used to describe Asgardians, but it was the consideration of a Viking almost a thousand years ago watching Thor in battle, with capabilities, magic and phenomenal durability no Human could match. The word ‘god’ does seem a likely appellation. I have explained all of this in a previous essay, but I will say it again because it bears repeating: Thor and all of his kin are not gods.
The Asgardians are a species who utilized a technology so advanced it resembled what we might call magic and were never Human, though they appeared to be. The Asgardians are not gods. Nor are they supernatural beings, though they might appear to be. They are born, live and die, as mortal as you or I. They are, however, significantly more durable than any normal Human. They are aliens whose technology is so advanced we cannot hope to understand it from where Humans exist today. Humanity encountering them five thousand years ago called them gods because of their superhuman capacities.
- The Asgardians are a long-lived, genetically-engineered bilaterally-similar species with male and female aspects who resemble Humans externally. Underneath the skin, their biologies can be made compatible with genetic-engineering but otherwise they are functionally different from Humans.
- A number of Asgardians possess genetic capacities making them stronger, smarter, faster, more durable, and capable of magical or psychic abilities beyond Human understanding. Their lifespans are maintained by a genetic cocktail created by the World Tree (a magical/technological interface which allows the Asgardians to connect to other places across space-time) by a goddess/genetic engineer named Idunn.
- While the Asgardians are not immortal, Idunn’s booster gave the Asgardians a booster periodically to heal their bodies and extend their lifespans. How the Asgardians will maintain their extended lifespans outside of Asgard has not been revealed.
For the record: When real aliens come to Earth, they are UNLIKELY to resemble humanity, because they were born on another planet which has a different ecosystem with correspondingly different underlying genetics. However, Thor was created in the minds of Humans, so the Asgardians appear to be Human in stories and legends and will continue to appear Human into modern lore.
Like most of the fiction of the time period, the Asgardians are aliens which look like Humans because writers in the 1960s wanted the Asgardians to seem Human, a conceit which has plagued deities (and extra-terrestrials) in fiction for millennia. The underlying truth of their physiology remains beyond our capacity to know. For the sake of the stories we are to assume:
- Their metabolic requirements resemble humanity’s including the ability to metabolize food in a similar fashion (but presumably more efficient manner, as befitting their metahuman physiology). Asgardians are stronger, faster and have more dense bodily tissues, giving them increased strength and durability.
- While resembling Humans, Asgardians can consume Human foods and process them with increased efficiency. Asgardians, when utilizing their metahuman capabilities in warfare across time and space, most maintain a degree of enviable fitness well into their senior years. The Asgardians can live to be three to five thousand solar years of age. Thor is estimated to be around fifteen hundred years old and the equivalent of a young Human adult in his early twenties.
- But even in their population, some deviance can occur. An Asgardian can become overweight if the circumstances are right. It’s already on record: Asgardians CAN get fat. This should not have been a problem for anyone if they remember Volstagg’s existence. Yes, this guy (see below) who often accounts for two thirds of the Warrior’s Three…
Volstagg, thought to be extremely handsome in his youth, did develop a girth which lead to the extension of his appellation from Volstagg, the Lion of Asgard to Volstagg the Voluminous.
- Volstagg’s heroic bulk did not prevent him from being a mighty warrior whose legend preceded even Thor’s. In fact, the Warrior’s Three accompanied young Thor on his adventures, acting as his bodyguards and trainers in his early years. The trio and notably Thor were known for their ability to consume and maintain a degree of sobriety despite their appetites. Legends report Thor was a known drunkard and, on more than one occasion, was thought to be a mean drunk as well.
- In the comics, both Thor and Volstagg routinely drank their weight in mead and other Asgardian libations at celebrations in Asgard, resulting in unfortunate degrees of drunkenness.
As to Thor getting fat is from his sitting at home, eating pizza, playing Fortnite, and drinking a small nation’s worth of beer whenever he was able? Should he have been able to get drunk? Or fat?
- Ultimately, calories are calories and if you consume mass quantities, one of the results is likely to be weight gain, even amongst the most athletic of individuals. If we are being fair, the Asgardians probably can’t make the kind of mead they were known for, but might still manage to create something potent enough for a god from time to time.
- More likely, Thor resorted to drinking kegs of whatever piss-water passes for beer or ale among Humans and made the best of it. To be fair, he probably didn’t get as drunk as he could have on Asgardian libations, but I suspect he did his level best to try. Since beer is nothing but empty calories, together, beer, pizza and Fortnite are a sofa’s worst nightmare…
But the combination still wasn’t strong enough to assuage the God of Thunder’s feelings of inadequacy and personal loss. In the last five to seven years, Thor had engaged in a host of losses, deep personal failures which undermined his psychological well-being.
- The loss of his father, Odin, his mother, Freya, his brother, Loki, his best friend, Heimdall, his road-dogs, the Warrior’s Three, his beloved warrior goddess, Sif, the destruction wrought by his sister Hela on her rampage through the kingdom and her massacre of the bulk of Asgard’s warrior ranks, the Einherjar. Seems like he had a lot of loss to handle. But wait. There’s more…
- The absolute destruction of Asgard itself at the hands of Surtur… Which he initiated to destroy his murderous sister. He destroyed his home of 1,500 years to murder a sister he just met and did not really get to know, to protect a Universe who didn’t even know he was saving them.
- Let’s not forget his most personal loss after his parents, friends, home and family: his precious Mjolnir, which was like losing a part of himself.
Losing so much, so relatively quickly, to an enemy he didn’t know existed a decade ago, resulted in a state of post-traumatic stress disorder the likes of which even his mighty shoulders, for a time, were unable to bear. Drinking himself into a stupor, hiding in his home with friends who have understood his struggle and his loss, seemed like a perfectly Human thing to do. Thor’s state of mind and body seemed about right for the Asgardian who was bred from birth to prevent the disasters which befell Asgard. He feels he failed his people and has fallen into a deep depression.
Could he get drunk on Human liquors? Only the strongest have any chance of giving him anything beyond a mild buzz. What they lack in quality, he could try to make up with quantity. After all, quantity is a quality all it’s own.
Could he get fat? Yes, if he ate the worst foods, without doing anything Thor-like at all for YEARS at a time? Yes, it happened to Volstagg, who was, in his youth, quite a looker. It could happen to anyone. Even Odin appeared to have a bit of bulk on him after five thousand years.
Thor has put on a great deal of weight, as he has come to grips with the challenges of Thanos and what he did to the Universe. Nevertheless, Thor rallied with some help from his friends, the Avengers, and has returned to the Universe renewed for the struggle, where ever it may be. It may be difficult to remember that the Asgardians boasted a degree of diversity among their population and being fat was just one more way of being Asgardian.
This essay first appeared on Quora as an answer to: Thor had a beer belly in Avengers: Endgame, how is this possible? Isn’t he literally a god?
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.