Tyr's Sacrifice

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Forums -> Norse Paganism -> Tyr's Sacrifice

Tyr's Sacrifice
By: / Novice
Post # 1
Many know the tale. A great wolf born from Jotun-kind growing to monstrous sizes, and the Gods' need to bind him. Fenrir, the God of Last Resorts, Son of Loki, and He Who Shall Slay the Allfather was growing too large and too powerful. The Gods attempt to bind him in chains, but both times he breaks free. As a last resort they use a Dwarven ribbon to restrict the beast. Being suspicious, Fenrir demands that a God places their hand in his mouth. When no one would step forward, Tyr, God of Law and Order, King of the North, volunteered his hand. As they tie the animal, he attempts to escape, but cannot. In the struggle he bites down and devours the right hand of Tyr.

Now many have heard the tale of Tyr and his Sacrifice, but not many know of it's significance and symbolism. Tyr himself has been known as the God of Law and Order, but this has not always been the case. In fact, some can argue that the event of the loss of his hand is what accredited to him this title. This is because symbolically Fenrir represents chaos and destruction, pure beast like rage, and it is because of Tyr he is contained and controlled. Much like the Law and Organization contains and controls Chaos. This could mean, symbolically, Tyr is law and order.
But that is not the point I wanted to highlight, I wanted to point out the actual hand he lost, his right one. Historically and symbolically, the right hand is the hand of strength, of goodness, and of purity and divinity, as opposed to the corrupt and weak left hand. This is seen in many cultures all across the world, including Northern Europe. Meaning that when the Vikings were telling this tale, they had this in mind, which is where the actual knowledge from this story can come from.
Many people see this story as "Ooh poor Tyr, he lost his hand" but it means so much more. Tyr sacrificed not only his hand, but symbolically his strength, his might, and his very divinity. This puts the gravity of his sacrifice into a very different and much greater light.
The lesson one can learn from this tale is willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the common good, and for the sake of law and the sake of order. And I know what you are thinking "But Heiden, we could've figured that out minus the big speech." And to that I say yes and no. Yes, you know it means to sacrifice, but in a softened modern society the extent of that sacrifice is very little to that of He Who Bound Chaos. The lesson isn't to sacrifice, but to greatly sacrifice, to give all you can for the sake of the common good, even if it leaves you weaker.
Now I'm not saying everyone has to run all gung-ho into every situation that can be seen chaotic, without having any thought to their own safety. Instead use Tyr's example to settle the chaos surrounding you in your life. Many people want peace, but are they willing to give all that they can to achieve it, all their effort, even if it means exhaustion or refraining from action they would have preferred?
We all have our own Fenrirs to bind in our lives, but you have to ask yourself...

"Am I willing to lose my hand?"
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Re: Tyr's Sacrifice
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 2

I think there are a lot of moral or ethical lessons we could draw from the lore. This story, in particular, has been one I've thought about and drawn some personal meaning from.

I agree with some of your interpretation of it. I think that Tyr's choice to sacrifice his hand (which as you mentioned is so symbolic) is acredited not only to his everlasting sense for doing good and for justice (as breaking an oath has consequences) but also serves as a sign of his own personal guilt. And you could look at this situation in a way that would argue that to uphold some personal honors, or to do what you determine a "greater good", you must also be willing to accept the consequences that come from doing so.

An interesting UPG piece I really enjoyed reading about:

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