Thor (from the old Norse Þórr) is a prominent god associated with the protection of humankind, and a model for the latter-day superhero. Reinvented by Marvel Comics as the Mighty Thor, the hammer-wielding hero who patrols the borders of the human world and keeps the giants out, he is echoed through Superman, the Hulk and other Avengers.
"What's interesting is that from the old Norse myths what remains is bit of a bonehead who hits people with his hammer first, and asks questions later," says Larrington. "What Marvel has done has given him a learning curve by putting him in a family where he has relationships with and adoptive brother and father and where he falls in love, so that his superhuman strengths are tempered by his human flaws."
In the Norse world, an oral society without written contracts, Thor represents the values of standing up for the weak and keeping your word. In our largely secular world, he is not about picking fights but being ready to tackle them when they arise. He does not turn the other cheek, but has the courage to call things out.
The Norse Myths that Shape the Way We Think by Carolyne Larrington is published by Thames & Hudson, and is out now in the UK, and from 23 May 2023 in the US.
If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.
And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called The Essential List. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.