Mythbuilding: Thunor and Oak

There is one thing that any pagan of a religion that passed without written record of their beliefs can fully attest to, and it’s the lack of myths. As an Anglo-Saxon Heathen, I’m acutely aware of the loss of so much material to Christianization and to the destruction of monasteries, and honestly we’re luckier than our continental comrades in that at least someone kept some of the charms, but that leaves us with little, doesn’t it?

Now, you don’t need a mythos to have a religion! But, damn it feels empty without one. We, as ASH, could import Norse myth, and in a lot of cases we do! But even then, it’s not 100% ours, not until we make it ours, and besides, we assuredly should have stories of our own anyway, new ones. So, in this post, I’m posting a wholly new creation of mine.

Across Indo-European cultures, oak trees are seen as sacred to deities of storm and thunder; as they are often strong and mighty beings, so are the strong and mighty oaks considered their holy sites. The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European name of the thunder deity is even “*perkwunos,” the Lord of Oaks. In Germany, an oak said to be sacred to “Jove” (a latinization of Donar’s name) was slain by the missionary Saint Boniface, memorialized in images such as that used for this post. The oak is a holy tree, and so I wrote a story so as to explain that.

Thunor and Oak: why the oak tree is sacred to the Thunder God

One day, mighty Thunor was riding across the sky on his enduring quest to strike down the ettins that plague Middle-earth, when he spotted something growing on its own. A tree that he had never seen before stood proudly, unharmed save for the holes it allowed for the birds to nest in soundly.

He came up to this tree and marveled at it, knocking at it with his hand. It was solid as can be, and he nodded approvingly. “What a strong tree,” he said, “to withstand my strong hands; I am Thunor, son of Woden and Eorthe, Ettins’ Bane and Protector of Men. What are you, to be so strong against me?”

“I am Oak,” the tree happily proclaimed, “and Oak is me! No living thing may put a dent in me that I do not allow, not one thing!” Such a boast brought laughter to Redbeard’s throat, and his bellow shook the ground around them for miles. “Oh, do you truly think so?” he asked Oak, and he came to grin wolfishly. “I will strike you nine times with my palm, and if you do not fall, you are the victor!”

Oak laughed, its leaves rustling as if it was shaking its head. “Well! Been awhile since something dared to hit me! Bring it on, oh great and mighty Thunor!” And so, nine times did Thunor smack at the tree before him with the palm of his hand, and nine times the tree resisted. “See, I am stronger than the strongest of the Gods! Truly, nothing can put a dent in me, not one thing!”

Thunor snorted, great storms of rain flowing from his nose. “Alright, you are indeed strong, but are you strong enough to withstand my fists? All my strength curled into balls, that should make you tremble!”

“Oohhh nooo, he threatens me with his fists!” Oak cried mockingly. “Go on, then; nine times, strike me with your fists!” And so, nine times did Thunor punch the tree before him, and nine times the tree resisted. “See, I am stronger than the strongest of the Gods! I have done that which no ettin or troll can hope to, and beat the ‘mighty’ Thunor!”

Thunor growled, and caused the storms above to spark with lightning. In furious silence, he went for his wagon, and returned with his hammer, the Weland-forged Grinder. “Oho, I see the ‘great’ Thunor has resorted to using tools,” mocked Oak, practically sneering at the Ettins’ Bane. “We’ve already established that you cannot harm me,” Oak began, before Thunor swung Grinder towards it.

One! Two! Three! Oak felt barely a thing, and almost began laughing. Four! Five! Six! At the sixth swing, Oak started to fear; for it felt cracks growing throughout its body. Seven! Eight! Soon the final blow would come, and Oak knew; soon it will fall.

And… NINE!

Before Thunor, Oak came crashing, causing the earth to shake around them. It groaned as its life began to dwindle, and Thunor felt a twinge of guilt for felling such a mighty thing. “You… win… mighty Lord of Thunder,” Oak moaned out, the last bit of life leaving as its leaves fell to the earth.

With sorrow, Thunor sat beside the body of Oak, and sighed. “Never did I wish to fell such a strong, mighty tree, that could provide so much for the critters beside!” Around him, little squirrels began running about, collecting this and that. They came before Thunor, and dropped a load of acorns before him, brushing them towards him. Opening his eyes, he knew what that meant; he took the acorns into a sack and returned to his cart.

So, from that day onward, Thunor would find the best, most beautiful spots, and he would plant new oaks, in honor of the one that gave him such a fight. Be they in mighty forests or as solitary wardens, he would plant many, and considered them his holiest of trees. Like their fallen father, all the oaks would be strong (though perhaps not as strong), and yet would be home to all the little critters. And if Thunor saw someone try to replicate his greatest feat, he would come to warn them, by clubbing them in the head, to honor that which he came to consider a friend. Though, rarely, mighty Thunor might desire to take swing at his old foe’s children, testing to see if they are as strong as it ever was.

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