The Tesseract is a powerful alien artifact that has played a major role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger, the Tesseract contains the Space Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones that control essential aspects of existence. After being lost on Earth for centuries, the Tesseract was eventually recovered by the evil Red Skull and later secured by S.H.I.E.L.D. following Captain America’s sacrifice. But how did such a dangerous and coveted object from worlds away end up on our very own planet Earth in the first place?
In this article, we will examine the origins of the Tesseract, its initial arrival on Earth, and the winding journey that led it to fall into human hands. Delving into Marvel lore, we will unravel the cosmic history of this cube of unfathomable power.
The Nature of the Tesseract
The Tesseract is a containment unit for the Space Stone, one of six Infinity Stones that first formed during the creation of the universe. Each Infinity Stone controls an essential aspect of existence: Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Soul, and Time. The Space Stone allows the user to open portals anywhere in the universe instantaneously. Housed within the Tesseract, the glowing blue gem can also provide unlimited sustainable energy. This immense power means the Tesseract is incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. Its appearance resembles a transparent blue cube that emanates bright light from within. The cosmic cube is incredibly durable and nearly indestructible.
The Tesseract originated from Asgard, home of the godlike beings known as the Asgardians. The Asgardians used the cube as a means to teleport across vast cosmic distances using the Space Stone inside. They were also able to use its power as a renewable energy source. The Tesseract was kept in Odin’s Vault on Asgard for safekeeping. But at some point in distant prehistory, the Tesseract found its way out of Asgard and ultimately made its way to Earth.
Arrival on Earth
Exactly when and how the Tesseract first came to Earth remains unclear. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull claims the Tesseract was hidden for centuries and that “the Fuhrer digs for trinkets in the desert.” This suggests the cube may have been buried somewhere on Earth for hundreds if not thousands of years before being unearthed in the 20th century. During this long span, any records of the Tesseract’s origins were lost to time.
Fans have speculated about various possibilities for how the powerful artifact could have found its way to our planet:
Ancient Asgardian visits
In the distant past, Asgardians may have traveled to Earth via the Bifrost Bridge and brought the Tesseract with them. They could have lost it here by accident or left it behind intentionally. The Asgardians were known to have visited and interacted with ancient civilizations on Earth such as the Vikings and the Egyptians. Legends and hieroglyphs of Asgardian figures like Thor support such contact. The Tesseract could have arrived on Earth during one of these primeval visits and ended up buried or hidden somewhere secret.
Banishment from Asgard
As a last resort to keep the Tesseract’s power contained, Asgardian kings like Bor or Odin may have chosen to exile it from their realm. Transporting it away through the Bifrost Bridge could have been seen as the only way to protect the Nine Realms from its uncontrolled Space Stone powers. Asgardians may have selected Midgard (Earth) as an innocuous, remote destination to banish the artifact permanently. But the Tesseract remained undiscovered by humans for centuries until resurfacing in more modern times.
Space Stone traveled unaided
As an Infinity Stone tied to space itself, the Space Stone conceivably could have transported itself and the Tesseract to Earth without outside help. If housed for safekeeping or containment purposes in Asgard, the self-controlled Space Stone may have warped itself through space to escape isolation, inadvertently bringing the Tesseract to Earth as well. The cosmic gem’s abilities are not fully defined and could possibly allow for uncontrolled phasing through space and dimensions.
Brought by Celestials
The Celestials, immensely powerful cosmic beings who influenced early human civilization, may have been responsible for bringing the Tesseract to Earth. The Celestials were known to use the Infinity Stones as incredibly destructive weapons. They may have taken the Space Stone from Asgard or elsewhere and then lost possession of it on Earth in ancient times. The buried Tesseract could then have been left undiscovered for millennia.
While the exact origins remain shrouded in mystery, the Tesseract ultimately did make its way to our planet where it remained hidden for centuries…
Discovery by Red Skull
In 1942, during World War II, the Tesseract was discovered by the forces of HYDRA, a deep science division led by the villainous Red Skull. HYDRA had been searching for alleged artifacts of immense power around the world. The organization discovered the buried Tesseract in a crypt behind a church in Tønsberg, Norway. Finally unearthing this cosmic cube after so many centuries, Red Skull recognized it as the jewel of Odin’s treasury and immediately seized its power for his own use.
Once in HYDRA’s possession, the unlocked potential of the Space Stone within the Tesseract provided Red Skull and his chief scientist Arnim Zola with newweapons and unspeakable energy. In only a few short years, HYDRA was able to develop futuristic guns, bombs, tanks, and the laser cannons of the massive airship, the Valkyrie. However, Red Skull’s ambition led him to test the Tesseract on himself, hoping to become a superior human. This backfired and caused Red Skull to be teleported against his will to the planet Vormir, where he was condemned to guard the Soul Stone for decades.
Following Red Skull’s disappearance, the Tesseract remained in HYDRA’s hands and continued fueling their technology until the Allied forces assaulted Schmidt’s last base in the Alps in 1945…
Recovery by Captain America
In March 1945, Captain America led an attack on HYDRA’s final base in the Alps. Fighting his way through HYDRA forces with his team, the Howling Commandos, Captain America confronted Red Skull’s right-hand man, Dr. Zola, who was attempting to flee with the Tesseract. A battle broke out on the plane while Zola’s armored suit powered by the Tesseract attacked Captain America. However, the super soldier damaged the suit, forcing Zola to surrender.
During the fight, Red Skull’s last major weapon, the enormous Valkyrie aircraft, had also become active and was bound for the United States to bomb major cities. Boarding the massive plane, Captain America eventually made his way to the cockpit to confront Red Skull himself, who had been transported back from Vormir. It was here that the climactic battle over the Tesseract took place.
Red Skull, determined to use the cube’s power to destroy America, fired energy blasts at Captain America, who could only defend himself with his shield. The Valkyrie was also diving towards New York City at full speed. With no other options left, Captain America shattered the glass case surrounding the glowing Tesseract with his shield. He then grabbed the cosmic cube directly with his hand. Instantly gaining the power of space itself, the weak mortal form of Steve Rogers was overwhelmed, releasing a huge blast of light. The reaction blew Red Skull backwards into the beam of the Space Stone, teleporting him once more across space to an unknown destination.
Now alone with the dislodged Tesseract, Captain America rerouted the Valkyrie away from New York towards the freezing waters of the Arctic. As the ship descended, he made his final sacrifice, crashing the Valkyrie into the ice shelf while clutching the loose Tesseract in his hand. The ship and its contents, including the two powerful artifacts, sank and froze within the glacial ice…
Study by S.H.I.E.L.D.
In 2011, after nearly 70 years buried in the Arctic ice, the Tesseract was discovered by S.H.I.E.L.D., a global peacekeeping and spy agency once led by the now-aged Captain America during postwar reconstruction. A Russian oil team in the Arctic Circle uncovered the frozen wreckage of the Valkyrie protruding from glacial ice. The discovery prompted S.H.I.E.L.D. to lead a secret recovery mission, excavating the Valkyrie to salvage its contents, including the deceased Captain America. Deep inside the frozen ship, Steve Rogers’ body was found preserved along with the powerful glowing Tesseract still clutched in his hand.
Recognizing the cube as a powerful relic and energy source, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury began intense study of the Tesseract under Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., based at a remote S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. The recovered cosmic cube was placed in a specialized containment chamber so scientists led by Dr. Erik Selvig could study its molecular structure and cosmic radiation.
The researchers made quick progress unraveling the Tesseract’s mysteries and identified it as a gateway to the other end of space. Eventually, they were able to use the cube to open a portal, unwittingly drawing the attention of the warlord Loki. The adopted Asgardian prince covertly made contact with the scientists to manipulate them into ramping up their Tesseract testing. Ultimately, the project’s tampering with forces beyond their control led to the cube fully activating and opening a wormhole into space through which Loki traveled to Earth, heralding the Chitauri invasion of New York City.
Once again, the immense cosmic powers of the Tesseract had fallen into sinister hands and threatened the safety of Earth. It would take the assembled Avengers team to finally put a stop to Loki’s schemes and disarm the portal…
Return to Asgard
In the aftermath of Loki’s attack and defeat by the Avengers, efforts focused on recovering the Tesseract and removing this dangerous relic from humankind’s reach. Following Loki’s capture, Thor vowed to return the Tesseract to Asgard where its power could be safely contained under Asgardian protection. To avoid the cube falling into the wrong hands again on Earth, Nick Fury agreed to hand the Tesseract over to Thor to transport home.
Thor brought Loki, bound in Asgardian chains, through the Bifrost Bridge back to Asgard along with the Tesseract. There, under Odin’s orders, the Tesseract was once again locked away deep in his treasure vault. The Asgardians hoped that this would finally be the last that any realm would see of the cosmic cube and the untold power contained within. But the Tesseract and Space Stone’s role in galactic events was far from over…
Despite Odin’s efforts, the Tesseract did eventually leave the Asgardian vault through less than noble means. After faking his own death and exiling Odin to Earth, Loki masqueraded as his adoptive father for a time, eventually exposing his deception to Thor. After a violent escape, Loki came into possession of the Tesseract, using it to transport himself to the planet Sakaar.
On Sakaar, Loki offered the Tesseract to the being known as the Grandmaster in exchange for favors. The Grandmaster, an ages-old Collector of interesting objects and creatures across the cosmos, agreed to take custody of the cube.
Years later, shortly before Asgard was destroyed by Surtur, Loki covertly retrieved the Tesseract from the Grandmaster’s vaults and delivered it to Asgard where it was placed back into Odin’s vault. The cube and other artifacts were later stolen from Asgard by Thanos and his forces during their attack on the remaining Asgardians aboard their evacuation ship.
After taking the recovered Space Stone from the Tesseract, Thanos, in his quest to control all six Infinity Stones, went on to decimate half of all life in the universe with a snap of his fingers in the tragedy known as “the Blip.” The Space Stone would continue to play a pivotal role in the fight to defeat Thanos and undo the damage wrought by the so-called “Infinity War.”
Despite the Tesseract itself being reduced to fragments, the adventures of its contained Space Stone are far from over. Where and how this powerful cosmic artifact may appear next remains to be seen…
The mystifying history of the Tesseract and its arrival on Earth spans countless centuries and light years across space. Originating from the cosmic realm of Asgard, the opaque cube housing the Infinity Stone of Space traveled a winding path through the universe, to our planet, and into human hands. The unfathomable energy it contains has endangered Earth more than once. Yet also led to marvels of science and technology. While the Tesseract itself now lies shattered after a brutal galactic war, the Space Stone within remains an object of immense power that will shape events and worlds yet to come. Its past and future journey still hold many secrets left to uncover.