Járngreipr – Thor’s Magical Iron Gloves

Have you ever wondered why Thor, the mighty god of thunder, needed iron gloves? It’s a curious question, isn’t it? …

Have you ever wondered why Thor, the mighty god of thunder, needed iron gloves? It’s a curious question, isn’t it? Well, buckle up, because we’re diving into the fascinating world of Norse mythology to uncover the secrets of Járngreipr, Thor’s legendary iron gauntlets!

Thor, the beloved protector of Midgard, was known for his immense strength and power. However, he also had three magical artifacts (at least): his incredible hammer, Mjölnir, the belt of power called Megingjörð, and the mysterious iron gloves known as Járngreipr. Not much is known about the iron gloves, but I’ll share all of it here. I will also dispel one myth regarding the gloves and Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. 

Name and Etymology

Járngreipr, also known as Járnglófar, are Thor’s iron gloves in Norse mythology. The term “Járngreipr” originates from Old Norse and can be translated as “iron grippers,” while “Járnglófar” means “iron gauntlets.” These gloves are a great accessory for the god of thunder, aiding him to wield his mighty hammer, Mjölnir, with great strength and precision.

The Origin of Járngreipr

Photo Credit: rufus_ironside

One of the more puzzling aspects of Thor’s iron gloves is that their origins, much like those of his belt Megingjörð, are never explicitly mentioned in the Eddas. However, a few hints can be found in the ancient sagas and poems. In Snorri’s prose version in the Skáldskaparmál of an old poem called Thórsdrápa the gloves are mentioned a couple of times. Based on it, I believe Thor may have been given these powerful items from the jötun Girdr, mother to his son Vidar.

In Snorri’s prose version of the poem, an interesting twist in the narrative reveals two separate sets of belts and gloves. Loki tricks Thor into leaving behind his hammer, Girdle of strength, and iron gloves. This trickery forms part of a deal Loki made to bring Thor, unarmed, to the jötun Geirröd.

However, there is never any other mention of how Thor came to own a magical Girdle of strength or iron gloves. This seems highly unlikely as all great artifacts and animals of the gods have interesting origin stories. 

The Járngreiper are a gift from gridr

I believe that Thor actually never owned neither a belt of power or magical iron gloves before this journey. Then, in the face of adversity and a possible trap, Gridr gave them to him. When Snorri writes about the Thórsdrápa poem in Skáldskaparmál, he either makes up, or base his statement on some misunderstanding. 

It might seem strange that things in Snorri’s Prose Edda could be made up, but this is not uncommon. Several things in the Prose Edda contradicts the “facts” found in the several hundred years older Poetic Edda poems.

No mention exists about who made the Járngreipr, but it’s likely they could be magical jötun iron gloves. The poem portrays Geirröd as proficient in magic, which aligns with this idea.

Attestations of the iron gloves 

Mentions of Thor’s iron gloves are found a couple of places in the Prose Edda. First the Gylfaginning ch. VIII where Har (Odin) tells about Thor and his magical possessions.

“One of them is the hammer Mjolner, which the frost-giants and mountain-giants well know when it is raised; and this is not to be wondered at, for with it he has split many a skull of their fathers or friends. 

The second treasure he possesses is Megingjarder (belt of strength); when he girds himself with it his strength is doubled. 

His third treasure that is of so great value is his iron gloves; these he cannot do without when he lays hold of the hammer’s haft.”

Further on in the Prose Edda, in the Skáldskaparmál ch XVIII Snorri gives his own prose version of the skaldic poem Thórsdrápa. In it, he relays how Thor receives the iron gloves from Gridr.

“Thor went to spend the night with the giantess Grídr, who was the mother of Vídarr the Silent. She warned Thor that Geirrödr was a cunning giant who could not be trusted, and she lent him her Girdle of Might, iron gloves, and her staff, called Grídr’s Rod.”

In this storytelling feature, the hero encounters someone providing him with the necessary weapons as he heads into a trap. As the story unfolds, we discover that without these weapons, Thor would likely have faced death.

Does Thor need the Járngreipr to handle Mjolnir?

Photo Credit: history_nerdette

The description of Thor’s three treasures also includes the gloves, stating that he requires them to wield his hammer effectively.

His third treasure that is of so great value is his iron gloves; these he cannot do without when he lays hold of the hammer’s haft.”

This passage states that he simply cannot hold Mjolnir without the iron gloves. I think Snorri imagined this detail to add more value to the gloves.

Moreover, it has no foundation in mythological stories, and artwork frequently contradicts it by portraying Thor with the hammer but without gloves.

Skáldskaparmál – Treasures of the Gods

Later in the Prose Edda, in the Skáldskaparmál ch. 43 “Treasures of the gods” Snorri shares the story on how Thor came to own his hammer. This was after a wager where Loki had boasted about the splendor and quality of some artifacts made by dwarves. 

Sindri and Brokkr, the two dwarf brothers and master craftsmen, created three gifts for the gods, which included Mjolnir’s presentation.

Then he gave the hammer to Thor, and said that Thor might smite as hard as he desired, whatsoever might be before him, and the hammer would not fail; and if he threw it at anything, it would never miss, and never fly so far as not to return to his hand; and if be desired, he might keep it in his sark, it was so small; but indeed it was a flaw in the hammer that the fore-haft was somewhat short.”

The text never mentions that Thor requires magical iron gloves to use the hammer, nor did he receive any gloves at that time. Thus, while the iron gloves provide assistance, they are not essential. Gylfaginning exaggerated their importance for dramatic effect.

Final thoughts on the Járngreipr gloves

The iron gloves Járngreipr are a key component of Thor’s identity and power in Norse mythology. Though their origins remain shrouded in mystery, their significance is unquestionable. Járngreipr represents Thor’s strength, power, and control over his weapon and the forces of nature. Moreover they are a projection of Thor’s strength.


What is the purpose of Thor’s Járngreipr?

The Járngreipr serves as a vital accessory for Thor, helping him to wield his powerful hammer, Mjölnir, with exceptional precision. These iron gloves provide Thor with enhanced grip and control over his weapon.

How did Thor acquire the Járngreipr?

The jötun giantess Gridr, mother to Thor’s son Vidar, most likely gave Thor the Járngreipr. She also provided him with his belt Megingjord and a magical staff called Gríðarvöl.

Do any Norse myths mention the Járngreipr?

Yes, the Prose Edda mentions them a few times, specifically in Gylfaginning and the Skáldskaparmál.

Can anyone besides Thor use the Járngreipr?

The Járngreipr was a gift from the giantess Gridr who presumably would have used them herself, before giving them to Thor.

Do the Járngreipr have any special abilities?

Although their primary function remains unclear, they appear to enhance Thor’s ability to wield his mighty hammer Mjolnir more effectively.

Featured Image Credit: Eduard Ade, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of author


Norse mythology enthusiast, Norwegian and living in Oslo next to a series of old Viking age burial mounds.I am also able to navigate and understand quite a lot of the old Norse texts and I often lean on original texts when researching an article. Through this blog I hope more people, young and old will get to know Norse mythology and the world of the Vikings a bit better.

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