Love And Thunder’s Dumbest Joke
The comedy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been mixed and changed over the past decade, and every fan has hits and misses in mind. It can be hard to squeeze a satisfying joke into an action superhero story, but, for better or worse, no one takes more swings than Taika Waititi.
Thor: Love and Thunder and its predecessor Thor: Ragnarok were somewhat controversial for their focus on quirky comedy. While some loved the gag-a-minute dialogue, others felt that too much of the drama in the narrative was undermined by one-liners. Waititi’s second MCU feature sees some improvement on this issue, but also doubles down on some jokes that may turn off audiences.
At first Thor: Love and Thunder, the God of Thunder finds himself picking up the ax to save a race of aliens from an army of violent invaders. After his overwhelming victory, slightly marred by massive collateral damage, the innocent civilians he rescued offer him a humble reward. They bring a pair of massive goats that emit a nightmarish cry every few seconds. Thor finds them a titanic inconvenience from the moment he obtains them, but the two large creatures become useful later in the plot. Thor ends up using his two goats as a new form of transportation, strapping them to a ship like a pair of extremely noisy draft horses. These goats are not given names in the film‘s script, but their names are known because Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder have their origins in ancient Norse myth.
The gods have many ways to move in Norse myth. Shapeshifting to animals, magic wings, teleportation, but most prefer the classic drag tank method. Odin has Sleipnir, his eight-legged flying horse to get where he needs to go. While Thor is often depicted flying through the sky throwing his hammer, this concept was an invention of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Thor could still fly in the original mythos, but not without help. Whenever Thor needed to travel between the nine realms, take a long journey with an entourage, or make a grand entrance, he climbs aboard his chariot and cracks the whip on his two magical goats.
There are two main sources of Norse myth, the poetic edda and the Edda in prose. The first is actually a canonized compilation of ancient poems and stories that have been passed down from generation to generation by minstrels. The latter is more like a textbook written by Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson. These two works are effectively all of the “source material” humanity currently has to reference the stories of those who passed generations before. It is in these two works that one could get acquainted with Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder.
Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, known as Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr in their native language, appear mainly in two stories from the Eddas. The Old Norse Tale Hymiskviða, or “Hymir’s Lay” mentions the goats, but does not use their names. This tale is considered a hodgepodge by scholars, noting that it appears to be broken from multiple stories. Thor and his fellow god Tyr are tasked with acquiring a single kettle large enough to brew ale for the Aesir and their Jotun hosts. Hymir, the frost giant father of Tyr, has a huge cauldron that should do the trick. Thor eats all of Hymir’s food, nearly catches the world snake Jörmungandr on a fishing trip, then smashes a glass over the old giant’s head to win a showdown. Angered by his terrible ways, Hymir insists that they take the cauldron and leave him alone, leaving the Aesir to celebrate happily. The goats serve as transportation and little else, but Thor is given the title “lord of the goats” at some point.
The other big role for Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder is in the Prose Edda, and this is the first mention of their names. Thor and Loki find themselves accepting the hospitality of a poor farmer and his family. The gods find they have no food, so Thor compromises and slaughters Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, and cooks their meat in a pot. Thor has the group throw the bones over the discarded skins of his beloved beasts and eat well. During the meal, Loki tricks one of the farmer’s children, convincing him that Thor is keeping the delicious bone marrow for himself. The boy steals one of the bones, breaks it and consumes the marrow. The next morning, Thor raises Mjolnir into the sky and uses his immense power to completely resurrect his goats. They reincarnate almost unscathed, except one now walks with a limp. Thor is displeased and, as punishment, accepts the boy and his brother as servants. The goats were left behind, which means they either got to live out their lives in the Earth’s woods, or they lived as farm animals for this peasant family.
Thor: Love and Thunder took an idea from the old mythos and tied it to an outdated meme, so it would work as a reference, a joke, and a way to advance the plot. While the gag may not have landed with some, fans can’t say it wasn’t an interesting choice.
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