Saturday, July 5, 2014

Val Thor vs. Val Tor

The story about Valiant Thor, or Val Thor for short, has enjoyed a strange sort of revival lately. In the last couple of months, I have found mention of author/reverend/contactee Frank E. Stranges' The Stranger At The Pentagon several places, and some people I know have even sent me links to the story - independently of each other. I also learned a while back, that there is a relatively famous metal band called Valient Thorr, whose bass player calls himself Dr. Professor Nitewolf Strangees.

One of the many photos of Valiant Thor that appear in The Stranger At The Pentagon.

I had of course read about Val Thor in many UFO books prior to all this, and always brushed it off as a silly fantasy. But the name itself is one that stuck in my head from the beginning, and I have often wondered where he came up with it.

Well, I think I may have actually found out where. Browsing through a bunch of old pulps and comics a few weeks ago, I came across a story named Heritage, which featured in science fiction comic Space Adventures no. 13 (1954). The story takes place thousands of years into the future, and is about a robot who tries to find out what happened to his long gone creators, vaguely referred to as "man". The robot protagonist's name is Val Tor.

Heritage featuring Val Tor, the final story of Space Adventures issue 13 (1954). You can get the whole story here.

The Stranger At The Pentagon came out in 1967, but there were publications around by Frank E. Stranges mentioning Val Thor as early as 1960. Nevertheless, this was still many years after Heritage had been published, so it is quite possible that Frank Stranges at some point read the comic, took note of the name of the main character, and eventually - conciously or not - concocted the name Val(iant) Thor from it.

The similarities seem to end with the name, though. After all, Val Tor the robot could hardly be more different than Val Thor the holy space brother, who is a typical human-like 1950's alien. He is described by Stranges as tan, very manly, and with a "...firm grip that silently testified to strength and power". Like George Adamski's Orthon, he also comes from Venus. By contrast, the Val Tor of Heritage is a restless robot in the middle of an existential crisis, obsessed with discovering what happened to the humans who created his race, so long ago that they are now only regarded as a fairy tale. 

Stranges was involved with many different community oriented projects, as this 1960 ad from My Friend From Beyond Earth shows. 

Still, the story resonates somewhat with parts of Stranges UFO-theology. Rev. Frank E. Stranges basically used the hype about flying saucers at the time, as a vessel for promoting his own religious agenda. In his booklet My Friend From Beyond Earth, he describes his first meeting with Val Thor one December morning in 1959, during an "evangelist crusade", and from the very outset he attempts to validate the message of Val Thor in light of that of Jesus Christ. Thor himself says that he is a messenger from God, and that he has come to make people correct their errors and return to the Lord, because they have strayed too far in recent times. 

At the end of Heritage, Val Tor finally finds an underground cavern full of humans in suspended animation. He awakes a man from his slumber, but quickly realizes that humans have destructive impulses that threaten the stability of the current world order, and puts him back to sleep again. The humans in Heritage have therefore clearly also strayed about as far from God as possible, but by the power of Val Tor they are kept in check. Furthermore, the hollow earth element is something Frank Stranges also came to incorporate into his outlook on UFO's.

More Val Thor

There are no other obvious similarities between the stories of Val Thor and Val Tor. But then again, why should there be? Stranges might have found it convenient to not use an obvious name, IF he indeed purposely "borrowed" the name. And even if he didn't, does there have to be anything more than a coincidence at play? Does the name itself tell us anything?

"Val" has different etymological roots depending on the language used, but it is certainly not an uncommon short form of a name in the English speaking world, and neither is the association with words like "valiant" "vale" and "valor". Therefore the chances of some form of it being used, are not astronomical. "Tor", in the English language, means “a high rock, lofty hill, tower”, but there could have been nothing to this in the creation of robot Val's name. On the other hand, one can't help but think of the god of thunder in Norse mythology, when seeing the last name of Stranges' Pentagon friend.

It does appear to be more than coincidental, though, regardless of what associations the names awake, that they should appear in the exact same combination. And that of course begs the question - in case you were ever in doubt - if Valiant Thor was ever a real...Venusian.

Some readers might also make another association when hearing the name Val Thor, as I suddenly did while I was writing this. There is a well known ski resort in the French Alps known as Val Thorens. It is quite a famous destination for young Danes and other Northern Europeans. In this case "Val" derives from the french "Vallée" (meaning "valley" - although it might also make you think of a certain French ufologist). So, one could also argue that Val Thorens might just as well have been the inspiration for the name Valiant Thor. The probem with that, though, is that Val Thorens didn't come into existence until the late 1960's. So if anything, Valiant Thor was the inspiration for Val Thorens, not the other way around. But what are the chances of that.

External sources:

Stranges, Frank E.: Flying Saucerama (1959)
Stranges, Frank E.: My Friend From Beyond Earth (1960)
Stranges, Frank E.: Stranger at the Pentagon (1967)
UFO's Uncensored, vol.1 no.1 (1966)

Special thanks to Ole Henningsen for sharing rare material by, as well as personal experiences about, Frank E. Stranges.

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