Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

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Nor is the wolf at ease:

He in bonds must abide

Until the gods’ destruction.”

Sæmund’s Edda (Thorpe’s tr.).

Deprived of his right hand, Tyr was now forced to use the maimed arm for his shield, and to wield his sword with his left hand; but such was his dexterity that he slew his enemies as before.

The gods, in spite of the wolf’s struggles, drew the end of the fetter Gelgia through the rock Gioll, and fastened it to the boulder Thviti, which was sunk deep in the ground. Opening wide his fearful jaws, Fenris uttered such terrible howls that the gods, to silence [94]him, thrust a sword into his mouth, the hilt resting upon his lower jaw and the point against his palate. The blood then began to pour out in such streams that it formed a great river, called Von. The wolf was destined to remain thus chained fast until the last day, when he would burst his bonds and would be free to avenge his wrongs.

“The wolf Fenrir,

Freed from the chain,

Shall range the earth.”

Death-song of Hâkon (W. Taylor’s tr.).

While some mythologists see in this myth an emblem of crime restrained and made innocuous by the power of the law, others see the underground fire, which kept within bounds can injure no one, but which unfettered fills the world with destruction and woe. Just as Odin’s second eye is said to rest in Mimir’s well, so Tyr’s second hand (sword) is found in Fenris’s jaws. He has no more use for two weapons than the sky for two suns.

The worship of Tyr is commemorated in sundry places (such as Tübingen, in Germany), which bear more or less modified forms of his name. The name has also been given to the aconite, a plant known in Northern countries as “Tyr’s helm.” [95]


Chapter VI: Bragi

The Origin of Poetry

At the time of the dispute between the Æsir and Vanas, when peace had been agreed upon, a vase was brought into the assembly into which both parties solemnly spat. From this saliva the gods created Kvasir, a being renowned for his wisdom and goodness, who went about the world answering all questions asked him, thus teaching and benefiting mankind. The dwarfs, hearing about Kvasir’s great wisdom, coveted it, and finding him asleep one day, two of their number, Fialar and Galar, treacherously slew him, and drained every drop of his blood into three vessels—the kettle Od-hroerir (inspiration) and the bowls Son (expiation) and Boden (offering). After duly mixing this blood with honey, they manufactured from it a sort of beverage so inspiring that any one who tasted it immediately became a poet, and could sing with a charm which was certain to win all hearts.

Now, although the dwarfs had brewed this marvellous mead for their own consumption, they did not even taste it, but hid it away in a secret place, while they went in search of further adventures. They had not gone very far ere they found the giant Gilling also sound asleep, lying on a steep bank, and they maliciously rolled him into the water, where he perished. Then hastening to his dwelling, some climbed on the roof, carrying a huge millstone, while the others, entering, told the giantess that her husband was dead. This news caused the poor creature great grief, and she rushed out of the house to view Gilling’s remains. As she passed through the door, the wicked dwarfs rolled the millstone down upon her head, and killed her. According to another account, the dwarfs invited the [96]giant to go fishing with them, and succeeded in slaying him by sending him out in a leaky vessel, which sank beneath his weight.