In a world of zombies, how would you survive? There are many different game mechanics that could be used to make your survival journey more interesting. What one do you think is the most compelling for a zombie apocalypse scenario?
Tyr is a survival game that was released on Steam in January of 2018. It has received mixed reviews from the gaming community, but it is still worth checking out.
So far in this series, we’ve looked at both Odin and Thor in detail. We’ve gone through their tales and come up with some ways that their legendary models might help men become better men. Those two are actually Norse mythology’s titans. We’ll wrap off this series with two brief portraits of Tyr and Loki, two Norse gods who don’t appear as heavily in Viking stories but nevertheless provide insight into Norse society and masculinity. To us moderns, the former serves as a legendary model of dignified manliness, whilst the latter demonstrates how not to be a man. Let’s start with Tyr.
Tyr, the God of Justice and Honor
Tyr is a well-known name among Scandinavians and Norse fans, but not so much in the rest of the world. This is most likely owing to the fact that he has yet to appear in a Marvel film and that there is just one popular misconception about him (which we’ll discuss later). Tyr is known as the “guarantor of justice” and is frequently referred to as the “boldest of the Norse gods,” inspiring valor and bravery. With that kind of background, you’d think there’d be more legends about him. There most likely was at one point.
Northern Germanic peoples had a comparable group of gods and goddesses before the Viking era. They were, however, more basic and less fully out. Tyr, also known as Tiwaz, was the most powerful deity in that pantheon. He was a fighting deity who seemed to be akin to the Roman Mars. His key attributes, like Tyr’s, were honor, justice, and bravery. By the time of the Vikings, however, Odin and Thor had overtaken Tyr/Tiwaz as the most important gods. This reveals something about the various civilizations. Battle was significant in the Germanic society of the early and mid-hundreds. Courage and courage in battle were profoundly ingrained in a man’s life.
When the Vikings rose to prominence, the foundation shifted somewhat. Although military bravery was still admired, the Norsemen were raiders and pillagers rather than warriors on the battlefield. With their longships, they caught seashore ports off guard and simply outmuscled their adversaries. As a result, a standard emerged that included intellect, cunning, and strategy, as well as sheer power – the defining traits of Odin and Thor. Tyr was reduced to becoming a lesser deity as a result of this.
However, as I previously said, there is one key myth about him that reveals his character and provides a valuable lesson for both Viking men and those of us living in the current world.
Loki, the cunning trickster, had three sons and daughters: Jormungand, the world-encircling serpent, Hel, the death goddess, and Fenrir, the big wolf. The other gods were terrified of Loki’s progeny, and they made measures to keep them at away. They drowned Jormungand, banished Hel to the underworld, and kept Fenrir in Asgard to keep an eye on him. Tyr was the only one brave enough to feed Fenrir when he was a pup. The beast, on the other hand, expanded and grew until the gods realized they couldn’t keep him in their realm any longer. They decided to attempt to tie Fenrir with different chains and ropes since they knew the damage he would do if he was free to wander the globe.
The gods would convince Fenrir that the bonds were only contests of strength, and they would shout and cheer as the wolf burst through each effort at restraint. Desperate for a solution, the gods entrusted the best artisans in the world, the dwarves, to make something that not even Fenrir could free himself from. They created Gleipnir, a rope constructed from the sound of a cat’s footsteps, a woman’s beard, the roots of a stone, a fish’s breath, and a bird’s spittle. It’s pointless to fight these things since they don’t exist.
Fenrir became skeptical when the gods brought Gleipnir to him as yet another test of strength. How could the rope possible hold him when it was so light and silky? Something was going on. As a result, he insisted on not being chained until one of the gods put a hand in his jaws as a symbol of good faith. Tyr was the sole deity to walk forward, fully aware of the consequences of his action. Fenrir was bound, and as a kind of retaliation, he grasped Tyr’s hand. Tyr was left with a lifelong handicap and scar, both of which symbolized his valor for the sake of the whole world.
You’ll recall that Odin gave up one of his eyes in order to attain enlightenment. In many respects, it was a selfish endeavor – others benefitted, but he was mainly interested in learning because he had a voracious appetite for it. Tyr made a bodily sacrifice as well, although it was mostly for the benefit of his society. Yes, Fenrir’s bond provided Tyr with protection, but ultimately, his objectives were to serve his comrades as well as the humans who lived underneath Asgard in Midgard.
Sacrifice for the purpose of self-improvement is unquestionably a positive thing. But it’s much better to make a sacrifice that helps others. That is what legacy is all about. Tyr gained a position of respect among the gods and made the world safer by giving up his hand. He gained the admiration of his contemporaries and was dubbed “the most brave of them all” by them. Sure, Thor was the most powerful, but how brave are you when your might is unrivaled?
Vikings (and even present adherents of the ancient Norse faith!) looked to Tyr in the same way that Christians look to and derive strength from Christ’s sacrifice. His example instilled courage and bravery in others. Tyr could give his hand, which is significant to a war god, so certainly ordinary people could make tiny sacrifices for the benefit of their loved ones.
It’s simple to help others when it fits with our schedules and abilities. Serving our community is much more difficult when we’re faced with doing something we don’t love, aren’t excellent at, or are aware will cause financial or physical hardship. Isn’t the final one the most difficult? Physical sacrifice is painful in the literal sense, and it may have long-term physiological (and even psychological) ramifications. Nonetheless, it has been a moral requirement for males for thousands of years. Today, first responders — the overwhelming majority of whom are males — put their lives on the line every day to go hunt food, explorers and frontiersmen travelled enormous swaths of water and land in search of a better life (and many did not return), and cavemen risked their lives to go hunt dinner. And, in the face of danger and calamity, ordinary men continue to risk their lives to defend others.
In our usually safe and secure contemporary environment, opportunities to make bodily sacrifices do not often come, but a man should be prepared if/when such an emergency arises. Tyr didn’t want to lose his hand to Fenrir that day, but he went up when the community was in desperate need.
There are other ways to help others around you in tough times than physical sacrifice. Perhaps you’ll volunteer on the board of a bureaucratic, stuck-in-their-ways local non-profit because you believe it will benefit the community, or perhaps you’ll genuinely say yes the next time a friend (or neighbor, or acquaintance) asks for assistance relocating.
Will you be the kind of guy who just serves when it’s convenient? Will you, like Tyr, offer a hand gladly, even though you know it will cost you something?
Next time, we’ll look at Loki, the Norse world’s cunning trickster.
Read the whole series:
Read the whole series:
Additional Reading and Resources
H.R. Ellis Davidson’s Northern European Gods and Myths This 1965 textbook offers a remarkably accessible introduction to Norse mythology, as well as its background and meaning within Viking civilization.
Anders Winroth’s The Age of the Vikings This is more of a history of the Viking people than a study of Norse mythology. It does, however, help create the scene and does a good job of portraying their culture honestly.
The Edda Poetica (Hollander translation). Many Norse tales have their origins in this collection of anonymous mythological poetry and verse from the 1300s.
Snorri Sturluson’s The Prose Edda The Icelandic historian gathers Norse mythology in a textbook-like work. This, together with The Poetic Edda, provides the bulk of Norse mythology’s source material.
Padraic Colum’s Nordic Gods and Heroes This is a list of Norse mythology that have been reinvented and altered. Rather than a perfunctory translation of old words, they’re written in a manner that preserves the stories’ beauty and inspiring nature.
Norse Mythology for the Educated. A wealth of articles and information regarding the legendary Norse cosmos may be found on this website.
Tyr is a crossfit gym in the United States. The gym was started by Mike and Matt, who wanted to create a place where people could get fit without being judged. Reference: tyr crossfit.
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