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Tyr, Gleipnir and Fenrir.

Tyr: The Norse God of Law and War Breaks a Promise

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The Norse god Tyr is not very well-known, at least when compared to such names as Odin and Thor. But he is also part of the Aesir tribe in the Norse pantheon and Tyr could be called the bravest of the Norse gods. This aspect of his personality is evident in the best-known myth about him, the Binding of Fenrir.

Tyr - God of Justice, War, and Law

Tyr was once a major god widely worshipped by various Germanic peoples and there were several variations to his name. In Old English, for instance, he was known as Tiw, whilst Tyz was his name in Gothic. In the pantheon of these Germanic peoples, Tyr was regarded to be a god of war. Given the war-like culture of these peoples, Tyr would have been one of their most important deities.

The role of Tyr diminished, however, with the arrival of the Viking Age, as he was superseded by Odin and Thor. These two gods were also associated with war, though they were also associated with wisdom, strategy, and cunning. As a result, Tyr was overtaken by Odin and Thor in importance.

The Norse god Týr, here identified with Mars.

The Norse god Týr, here identified with Mars. ( Public Domain )

Tyr became the god of law and justice, the role which he is remembered for today. Whilst war and law seem to be two contradicting aspects of life, to the Norse and other Germanic peoples, these two aspects are actually intertwined. Law, like war, may be used to settle disputes, and victory may be gained over an opponent using either method. Additionally, a legal assembly could be regarded metaphorically as a battlefield.

The Binding of Fenrir

Tyr is easily recognized as he is depicted as a god with only one hand. The explanation for this is found in the myth known as the Binding of Fenrir, arguably the most famous tale regarding Tyr. In this myth, the gods wanted to bind the great wolf Fenrir. This monstrous wolf was one of the three offspring of Loki, and the gods had been keeping him in Asgard since he was a puppy in order to keep an eye on him. As Fenrir continued to grow, the gods began to worry that they would not be able to keep him in their home and, fearing that he would wreak havoc if he left Asgard, they planned to have the creature bound up.

Tyr

Tyr. ( CC BY SA )

The gods, therefore, began to bind Fenrir with various ropes and chains. In order to obtain Fenrir’s consent to being tied up, the gods told the wolf that these bindings were meant to test his strength. Each time Fenrir broke free, the gods cheered and clapped, though in their hearts, they were growing increasingly worried. Eventually, the gods decided to seek the help of the dwarves, the best blacksmiths available, to produce a rope or chain that not even the great wolf would be able to break free from. As a result, Gleipir was formed. This was a light and silky rope made from several rather odd ingredients – the sound of a cat’s footsteps, the beard of a woman, the roots of a stone, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of a bird.

Tyr and Fenrir.

Tyr and Fenrir. ( Hellanim)

Consequences

When Fenrir saw the rope, he became suspicious, and would only allow the gods to tie him up on the condition that one of them placed his hand in his jaw as a sign of good faith. Despite knowing the consequences of his actions, Tyr volunteered to place his hand in the wolf’s mouth. Tyr had befriended Fenrir when he was still a pup and was known to be an honorable god, and so the wolf trusted him. When Fenrir found that he had been tricked, and that he could not break loose from Gleipnir, he was furious, and bit Tyr’s hand off. Tyr lost not only a hand, but also a friend.

Tyr and Fenrir. (Public Domain)

Tyr and Fenrir. ( Public Domain )

Fenrir would be bound until Ragnarok, when he would break free from Gleipnir and devour Odin. As for Tyr, he would face Garm, the guard dog of Hel, and both would succeed in killing each other.

Top Image: Tyr, Gleipnir and Fenrir. Source: Wolnir

By Wu Mingren  

References

Anderberg, J., 2015. Viking Mythology: What a Man Can Learn From Tyr. [Online] Available at: https://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/05/21/viking-mythology-what-a-man-can-learn-from-tyr/

Holloway, A., 2013. Pagan Gods and the Naming of the Days. [Online] Available at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/pagan-gods-and-naming-days-001037

Kaldera, R., 2014. Tyr. [Online] Available at: http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/tyr/who-is-tyr.html

McCoy, D., 2018. Tyr. [Online] Available at: https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/tyr/

norse-mythology.net, 2018. Týr: The bravest of the Gods. [Online] Available at: http://norse-mythology.net/tyr-the-bravest-of-the-gods-in-norse-mythology/

Prof. Geller, 2017. Tyr. [Online] Available at: http://mythology.net/norse/norse-gods/tyr/

Short, W. R., 2018. Týr. [Online] Available at: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/mythology/myths/text/tyr.htm

thenorsegods.com, 2018. Tyr. [Online] Available at: http://thenorsegods.com/tyr/

Winters, R., 2014. The Legend of Fenrir: A Wolf with a Bite. [Online] Available at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-europe/legend-fenrir-wolf-bite-002498

Comments

Crasslee's picture

I found this a very interesting article. But it omitted the most common piece of knowledge concerning this Norse god. That being Tuesday is named for the good Tyr.

Only after the advent of Christianity were the planets termed Gods. To the ancients they were rulers. Tyr is todays Mars the ruler of war. Mars is not the ruler of justice or law. Tyr was not worshipped by the ancient Germanic people but was revered as the ruler of war. Worshipped is also one of those words introduced by the advent of Christianity in an attempt to show the pagan the error of his ways.Tyr had no more importance that any of the other rulers contrary to Wu’s article. The Germanic people were not warlike more than any other nation. Tyr was not superceeded by Thor or Odin. i could go on and on but that is not what I want to do. I do like Wu’s subject matter but he sure does make mistakes in his interpretation.  

  

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