Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 48

Tyr, whose name was synonymous with bravery and wisdom, was also considered by the ancient Northern people to have the white-armed Valkyrs, Odin’s attendants, at his command, and they thought that he it was who designated the warriors whom they should transfer to Valhalla to aid the gods on the last day. [90]

“The god Tyr sent

Gondul and Skogul

To choose a king

Of the race of Ingve,

To dwell with Odin

In roomy Valhal.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).

The Story of Fenris

Tyr was generally spoken of and represented as one-armed, just as Odin was called one-eyed. Various explanations are offered by different authorities; some claim that it was because he could give the victory only to one side; others, because a sword has but one blade. However this may be, the ancients preferred to account for the fact in the following way:

Loki married secretly at Jötun-heim the hideous giantess Angur-boda (anguish boding), who bore him three monstrous children—the wolf Fenris, Hel, the parti-coloured goddess of death, and Iörmungandr, a terrible serpent. He kept the existence of these monsters secret as long as he could; but they speedily grew so large that they could no longer remain confined in the cave where they had come to light. Odin, from his throne Hlidskialf, soon became aware of their existence, and also of the disquieting rapidity with which they increased in size. Fearful lest the monsters, when they had gained further strength, should invade Asgard and destroy the gods, Allfather determined to get rid of them, and striding off to Jötun-heim, he flung Hel into the depths of Nifl-heim, telling her she could reign over the nine dismal worlds of the dead. He then cast Iörmungandr into the sea, where he attained such immense proportions that at last he encircled the earth and could bite his own tail. [91]

“Into mid-ocean’s dark depths hurled,

Grown with each day to giant size,

The serpent soon inclosed the world,

With tail in mouth, in circle-wise;

Held harmless still

By Odin’s will.”

Valhalla (J. C. Jones).

None too well pleased that the serpent should attain such fearful dimensions in his new element, Odin resolved to lead Fenris to Asgard, where he hoped, by kindly treatment, to make him gentle and tractable. But the gods one and all shrank in dismay when they saw the wolf, and none dared approach to give him food except Tyr, whom nothing daunted. Seeing that Fenris daily increased in size, strength, voracity, and fierceness, the gods assembled in council to deliberate how they might best dispose of him. They unanimously decided that as it would desecrate their peace-steads to slay him, they would bind him fast so that he could work them no harm.

With that purpose in view, they obtained a strong chain named Læding, and then playfully proposed to Fenris to bind this about him as a test of his vaunted strength. Confident in his ability to release himself, Fenris patiently allowed them to bind him fast, and when all stood aside, with a mighty effort he stretched himself and easily burst the chain asunder.