Abstract From the slim dossier of mythological lore concerning the senior Norse god Ty´r, which includes Loki’s mockery in Lokasenna, a single myth emerges: his binding of the wolf Fenrir and concurrent loss of his sword and oath-taking hand in the wolf’s maw. A Norse model of the surrender of a body part in return for ´ ðinn’s enhanced psycho-somatic ability in a divine meta-function, as seen in O pawning of an eye for knowledge, is extended to Ty´r, whose compensatory gain is skill in bold and clever power politics: knowledge of the social and legal systems, and their artful manipulation. The economy of loss and gain is measured against the ´ ðinn and events of the ultimate battle of Ragnaro˛k, in which the loosed Fenrir kills O Garmr, dog or wolf, and Ty´r kill one another. Keywords functions
The god Ty´r is a shadowy presence in the Old Norse pantheon and is best known from a single myth, the binding of the giant wolf Fenrir. Philological evidence suggests that Old Norse Týr reflects early Germanic *Tiwaz and is cognate with Greek Zeus and Latin deus. Were such a name not so suggestive of senior status in ´ sgarðr, the question of his earliest rank and role among the gods might not have A remained a debated, if not crucial, issue in the study of Norse mythology. Most scholarly interpretations of Ty´r, his attributes, affinities, and what might be tentatively identified as his divine function, have gathered around a single concept and, and, as noted, a single story. Ty´r has been variously called a “god of justice” & William Sayers [email protected] 1
Program in Medieval Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
(Larrington 1996, p. xv; Simek 1993, pp. 337–338), “god of contracts, an arbiter and guarantor of justice” (Frakes 2002, p. 167), the patron of judicial assemblies and judicial duels (McKinnell 1987–1988).1 In a grander scheme Georges Dume´zil sought to identify Ty´r as embodying the legal dimension of an archaic bifunctional divine kingship centered on religion and law.2 The present essay examines Ty´r in mythic story and from the evidence of characterizations by both fellow gods and the mythographer Snorri Sturluson, and to a lesser extent from poetic kennings, placenames, etc. It also opens an as yet unexplored perspective on what will be called fundamental and enhanced roles, or basic function and meta-function. First, it is rewarding to compare the introductory ´ ðinn capsule identification of the god in Snorri’s Gylfaginning with that of the god O and his better-known set of attributes, not only for content but also for the formal ´ ðinn, as the supreme god, is associated with criteria that organize the portrait. O esoteric knowledge and emotional arousal (cf. Old Norse óðr “furious”), especially as this finds expression in battle fury and poetic creation, rhetoric and illusion (the appearances in Miðgarðr as a floppy-hatted traveller and story-teller). Outcomes are, paradoxically for the modern viewer, poetry and death in battle. ´ ðinn heitir Alfo¨ðr, þvı´ at hann er faðir allra goða. Hann heitir ok Valfo¨ðr, þvı´ O at hans o´skasynir eru allir þeir, er ´ı val falla. Þeim skipar hann Valho¨ll ok Vingo´lf, ok heita þeir þa´ Einherjar. Hann heitir ok Hangaguð ok Haftaguð, Farmaguð, ok enn hefir hann nefnzt a´ fleiri vega, þa´ er hann var kominn til Geirro¨ðar konungs (Faulkes 1982, p. 20).3 Emphasis here is on onomastics (both central and traditional, and perhaps occasional and contextualized, in the sense of bynames or epithets that reference specific mythological situations and events). There is but a single and indirect ´ ðinn’s actions will follow in the allusion to divine activity, although many tales of O High Ones’ exposition to Gangleri. The subsequent presentation of Ty´r— significantly, perhaps, after those of Þo´rr, Baldr, Njo˛rðr, Freyr, and Freyja— follows an established pattern: Sa´ er enn a´ss, er Ty´r heitir. Hann er djarfastr ok bezt hugaðr, ok hann ræðr ´ hann er gott at heita hreystimo˛nnum. Þat er orðtak, at mjo˛k sigri ´ı orrostum. A sa´ er ty´hraustr, er um fram er aðra menn ok ekki se´st fyrir. Hann var ok vitr, sva´ at þat er ok mælt, at sa´ er ty´spakr, er vitrastr er. Þat er eitt mark um djarfleik hans, þa´ er æsir lokkuðu Fenrisu´lf til þess at leggja fjo˛turinn a´ hann, Gleipni, þa´ tru´ði hann þeim eigi, at þeir mundu leysa hann, fyrr en þeir lo˛gðu 1
Lindow (2001, pp. 297–299), ventures no such summary definition. These identifications risk dependence on the evidence of the name Mars Thingsus (“of the judicial assembly”) inscribed on on a third-century altar from the Roman fort of Vercovium in Northumberland, which has been ascribed to Frisian mercenaries serving along Hadrian’s Wall.
Dumezil (1973), Magic, War and Justice: Odin and Tyr, pp. 26–48.
‘Odin is called All-Father, for he is the father of all gods. He is also called Val-father [father of the slain], since all those who fall in in battle are his adopted sons. He assigns them places in Val-hall and Vingolf, and they are then known as Einheriar. He is also called Hanga-god [god of the hanged] and Hapta-god [god of prisoners], Farma-god [god of cargoes], and he called himself by various other names on his visit to King Geirrod’ (Faulkes 1987, p. 21).
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honum at veði ho˛nd Ty´s ´ı munn hans, en þa´ er æsir vildu eigi leysa hann, þa´ beit hann ho˛ndina af, þar er nu´ heitir u´lfliðr, ok er hann einhendr ok ekki kallaðr sættir manna (Faulkes 1982, p. 25).4 Anthony Faulkes’s translation of this entry concludes with a rather expansive rendering of “ekki kalladur saettir manna”: “he is not considered a promoter of settlements between people.” Above it is translated more literally, with a dash of ironic litotes to conclude and fix the description in the hearer/reader’s mind—a kind of medieval kicker.5 Also noteworthy is the apparent muted volition on Ty´r’s part in that it is the other gods who place his hand in the wolf’s maw, not, of course, without his consent. Pending the later discussion, Ty´r and his hand may here be seen, in a kind of reification and commodification, as a divine resource. A fuller account of the binding of Fenrir is given shortly thereafter in Gylfaginning, in connection with the listing of the monstrous offspring of Loki.6 Ty´r’s role is amplified there, in that he is said to have been the only one brave enough to feed the wolf while it grew from a cub to a giant animal, and, again, only he is brave enough to pledge his hand in the wolf’s mouth while the fetter is being tested by the wolf. In this text Ty´r is accorded no opinion on the negotiations, unlike the garrulous Fenrir. The Æsir proceed to the binding of the wolf, who will come ´ ðinn. There is no statement of Ty´r’s loose only at Ragnaro˛k and will then kill O reaction to the loss of his hand, as authorial litotes is matched by the principal’s stoic laconism. Ty´r himself will be killed in the final battle by the dog/wolf Garmr, who will also have been freed. The only other myth in which Ty´r may figure is reflected in Hymiskviða, in which he advises Þo´rr of the existence of a huge beer-brewing kettle in the possession of the giant Hymir, whom he calls “my father”. Nothing here throws any light on divine function and the descent from giants in both the paternal and maternal line is
‘There is an As who is called Ty´r. He is bravest and smartest, and greatly determines victory in battles. He is good to invoke by bold men. It is said that a man is tý-valiant who surpasses other men and does not hang back. He was also clever so that a man who is very clever is said to be tý-wise. It is a mark of his bravery that when the Æsir were enticing Fenriswolf so as to put the fetter Gleipnir on him, he did not trust them that the Æsir would release him until they placed Ty´r’s hand in his mouth as a pledge. And when the Æsir refused to release him then he bit off the hand at the place that is now called the wolf-joint [wrist] and he is one-handed and he is not called a reconciler of men’ (adapted from Faulkes 1987, pp. 24–25).
Reflected in Sigurðsson (2006, p. 142).
Stanza 41 in Egils saga may illustrate how the Ty´r/Fenrir nexus can be exploited poetically on general and specific levels. The poet writes “fell… ulfgrennir” (Nordal 1933, pp. 205–206) [the feeder of wolves fell]. All warriors who kill feed the beasts of the battlefield, which include the scavenging wolf. Thus the reference to Egill’s opponent, the fighter Ljo´tr, seems straightforward (týr = ‘warrior’) and this might seem a cliche´, since Egill heightens the status of Ljo´tr through a poetic device only in order to make him a more worthy opponent. But Ljo´tr had been challenging farmers to duels in order to appropriate their land holdings, expropriate really, since none was a match for him, so in this near-illegal action Ljo´tr replicates the action not of Ty´r but of Fenrir. Egill chops Ljo´tr’s leg off, like Fenrir did Ty´r ‘s hand, and, symbolically, the generational link is severed, but soon Ljo´tr’s life also ends through blood loss. On balance, however, this seems more a stock kenning than a direct reference to myth. Although there is an allusion to the myth in the poem Málháttakvæði (Frank 2004), Ty´r has only a faint presence in the skaldic world and then only by virtue of the single surviving myth in which he unquestionably figures.
inconsistent with the kinship structure of the Norse pantheon as we know it. It has been suggested (Larrington 1996, p. 78; Sigurðsson 2006, p. 142) that Ty´r be read as týr “god”, standing for some other erstwhile companion of Þo´rr from an original telling, perhaps Loki (cf. the plural form tívar, used elsewhere in Old Norse as ‘gods’). With the exception of Njo˛rðr and his marriage to Skaði, none of the gods has an introductory portrait in Gylfaginning that is complemented by a story from the mythological corpus. This could be judged an effort by Snorri to fill out his initial ´ ðinn portrait. The use of Ty´r’s name in compounds, in particular as bynames for O (Farmatýr, Hroftatýr, Veratýr), is consistent with the recognized etymology of the god’s name and appears to reflect a further diminution of status toward a concept of “generic” god, whose godhead, but not functions, can be exploited as raw material ´ ðinn, the emphasis on emotionality, fury, for other ancillary theonyms.7 As for O creative frenzy, as well as conflict and death, gives the impression of a culture and cult focused to advance the interests of well-born young warriors, candidates for a martial aristocracy, and this may have occasioned the assumed displacement of Ty´r in the pantheon and attendant story. To return to the question of perspectives from which to evaluate Ty´r, it will be more productive to consider his readiness to risk a body part in the interests of the ´ sgarðr. O ´ ðinn’s sacrifice of an eye for knowledge and divine community of A experience of pain on the windy tree of the gallows (Hávamál and Vǫluspá) is only one example of the preoccupation of Norse mythology with bodily integrity, its violation and consequences. Here scholarship has recognized disfigurations and restitution, the loss or diminution of a normal and normative cognitive or other physical faculty that is then compensated by enhanced ability in a more abstract sense. In the timeless world of myth, the gods are always both acquiring and already possessing such enhanced functions. In this, mythological narrative resembles a Mo¨bius strip. Since the pervasiveness of this binarism of loss and gain has not received due scholarly attention, a brief list of the major gods’ non-normative physicality and hypertrophic abilities is worth pausing over.8 Moreover, as examples of deficiencies in an another sphere but one still related to divine function, the accusations of moral turpitude made by Loki in Lokasenna are also incorporated in this brief review. It then presents mythological data—or allegations—in three spheres of activity: basic function, its betrayal in immoral action, and its cognitive and/or performative ´ ðinn pledges an eye enhancement through physical suppression, sacrfice, or loss.9 O for wisdom and knowledge of the past, present, and future of men and gods, but is accused by Loki of partiality in deciding the outcome of battles, of cowardice, and 7
Týr is the name of the ‘victory rune’ and was carved on weapons. There is place name evidence for a cult of Ty´r, but one more sparsely attested than those of other major gods. To the placename evidence in Lindow (2001) and Simek (1993) may now be added Tissø ‘the lake of Ty´r, site of a prosperous farm settlement in tenth-century west Zealand (Sawyer 2007, pp. 136–137).
Bragg (2004) judges this thorough-going ascription of disabilities to be a late rationalization and sytematization.
Less readily incorporated in this opening survey is what might be called the god’s “bane”, the identity, symbolism, and relevance of his killer in the final battle of Ragnaro˛k; see further below.
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of the gender-specific sorcery (seiðr) that was women’s province. The virile and mighty Þo´rr has a short-handled hammer and is charged with cowardice and miscegenation. Freyr, god of fertility, gives his sword away in an otherwise anomalous wooing myth, and is charged with incest. His sister and female counterpart in the positive function of marriage and family-building, on the other hand, is incurably promiscuous. Heimdallr’s acoustic hearing is sequestered under Yggdrasil, leaving him, nonetheless, a clairaudient sentinel who hears all sounds, although scorned by Loki for his muddy back and service in the rain under the roots of the great tree. Ho˛ðr is blind but a sure shot, Viðarr, mute but iron-footed, Mı´mir decapitated but uniquely wise.10 The handsome Baldr may have albinism and his beauty does not make him invulnerable. His mortality is countered by a capacity for ´ sgarðr has absorbed, rebirth. Even the pantheon itself is less than integral, in that A after war, a more earth-oriented race, the Vanir. The Vanir, as noted above, are not spared by Loki. That Loki, the accuser in Lokasenna, should himself be even more blatantly “guilty” of these same discrediting charges and even more (miscegenation in the form of cross-species sexual congress and procreation, accessory to murder) only adds to what is seen in the poem, especially from a Christian perspective, as an ironic, discrediting and comic effect, but is much more than that, given the longterm consequences in the pagan world view (see below). It is also generally true that the meta-functions of the gods, those acquired through the surrender of some faculty, tend toward the immense generative power of Loki, father and mother to a variety of preternatural beings. At this point it will be useful to open a rather different but related and ´ ðinn structuralist-driven theoretical perspective. Georges Dume´zil characterized O and Ty´r as senior gods in the Norse pantheon, who underwent a loss of bodily integrity through what he called “mutilations qualifiantes”. He applied the rhetorically appealing, discrete terminology of modern French: le borgne (‘the one-eyed man’) and le manchot (‘the one-handed man’), their activities centered on ´ ðinn and religion and war, respectively.11 Under these catch-words, he classified O Ty´r with equivalent figures in legendary Roman history, Cocles in the case of his first function, Gaius Mucius Scaevola, in the second. Although never explicitly stated, Dume´zil’s idea of mutilations qualiﬁantes, which might be imagined on a horizontal or lateral axis of correspondence (loss [ gain), was matched by the principal of hierarchy that is implicit in his conception of a tripartite functionality behind the pantheons of the Indo-European heritage. Yet some cells of the grid created by these coordinatees, both in the Norse world and in comparable traditions, remain empty in Dume´zilian scholarship. More specifically, the third function is unrepresented. In an argument developed in another essay, I contend that the thirdfunction cell in Norse tradition should, quite naturally, be occupied by the god of fertility, Freyr, and, more speculatively, that his particular sacrifice and gain is of active, normative sexuality in favor of austere aloofness (save for a single mythic 10
These latter instances documented only in Snorri Sturluson, Gylfaginning (Faulkes 2005).
For the conclusions drawn from an initial study, see Dume´zil (1973), and for the status of his inquiry after further consideration, Dume´zil (1974). Simek (1993) also offers comparanda for Ty´r’s loss of a hand.
exception as recounted in Skírnismál) on the first hand, and augmented fertility, peace, and proserity for the divine community and for his human devotees on the second, that of the meta-function. On the assumption of coherence in the functional paradigm of psycho-somatic ´ ðinn’s pawn of an eye in return for wisdom and Freyr’s sexual surrender and gain, O abstinence in return for fertility for the gods and humans should, in theory—even by mythological standards of logic and economy—be matched in the case of Ty´r by some more lasting, concrete, and positive gain than the provisional, single-instance binding of one of the ultimate foes of the gods. How, then, in this wider sense is Ty´r compensated in the meta-functional dimension for his severed hand? We now turn to Lokasenna with this fundamental question.12 The poem is organized as a concatenation, rather like Dante’s terza rima, but with a different kind of contrapaso. Loki makes a charge, against which the offended god tries to defend her-/himself. A fellow-god then comes to the injured party’s defense, only to become the new target. And within individual stanzas of the poem, the first verses often set out a topic that is expanded, developed, or complemented in the subsequent lines, like alliteration writ large (Sigurðsson 2006). Although it is not the high point of the narrative, this technique reaches a new level of complexity when it becomes the medium for an elaboration on the motif of encatenation. Loki attacks Ty´r for having defended Freyr in the immediately prior contentious exchange. Ty´r had praised Freyr for, among other qualities, loosing men’s fetters. High praise indeed from one so closely associated with putting a fetter on. After telling Ty´r to hold his tongue, Loki says: “Þu´ kunnir aldregi/bera tilt með tveim” (Neckel 1983, p. 104, st. 38). English translations, as exemplified by Orchard’s “you never know how to be even-handed among folk” (2011, p. 90), do not replicate the stinging formal and semantic economy of the original.13 Tilt is made by translators to stand for some desirable state of peace, accord, or reconciliation, but is basically an unspecified “good, benefit” as an objective in human relations. In its brevity and content, however, the phrasing is not inconsistent with Snorri’s summary statement that Ty´r “is not called a reconciler of men.” Still, does it concern Ty´r’s failure or his choice? Since Loki goes on to mock Ty´r’s loss of a hand to the wolf Fenrir, the succinct accusation may be both more sly and more revealing than hitherto recognized. The phrase “með tveim” could as well refer to the god’s two hands as to two opponents or litigants (Jakobsen 1979). The charge may then be read as: “Shut up, Ty´r, you could never do anything worthwhile between your two hands.” Between the two hands could refer to the legal and enhanced meta-legal dimensions—the two 12 Lokasenna has attracted relatively little scholarly inquiry. See, as most relevant to present concerns, Anderson (2002), Clark (2012, p. 84), Frakes (2002), and McKinnell (1987–1988), and the introduction to the work in Orchard (2011, pp. 295–299). 13
“[N]’er no heed gavest thou that man meet man halfway” (Hollander 1962, p. 98); “no one could call you the perfect peacemaker” (Terry 1990, p. 78); “you can never deal straight with people” (Larrington 1996, p. 91); “you never had the talent for settling two factions fairly” (Dronke 1997, p. 341); “you never know how to mediate something good between two people” (Lindow 2001, p. 111); “… decide justly between two parties” (McKinnell 2005, p. 16); “bear something well with two hands = establish peace between two people” (La Farge and Tucker 1992, p. 204, s.v. tilr, further interpreting the reading in Jakobsen 1979).
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modalities of Ty´r’s activity—that will be further examined below. As well, Loki claims to have made Ty´r a cuckold and to have fathered a son on his wife. This represents a violation of the marriage contract. With no compensation paid, it is also a failure in legal redress. Otherwise, Ty´r escapes the charge of immorality leveled at almost all the other gods by Loki. The poet also accords Ty´r a bit of repartee after Loki’s mockery, having him say that he may have lost a hand but Loki has lost the wolf, his offspring. The wrist is called the “wolf-joint” (úlﬂiðr) in Old Norse figurative language. In early Europe the joint was widely seen as a symbol of the link between generations (ON liðr “degree of kinship, generation”, Irish glún “knee, degree of kinship, generation”, Latin genus ‘descent, origin’\genu ‘knee’). Thus, Loki has also lost a link, as Ty´r notes. Is it only coincidental that Ty´r is not credited with children in the myths, so that the generational link appears to be lost in his case as well? Note, in the context of Fenrir and Loki’s paternity, the Norse idiom “ala u´lfa” “to breed wolves” = “create mischief (for someone)”. Although the assembled gods are unsuccessful in closing Loki’s mouth before the arrival of Þo´rr, he will, like the wolf, eventually be fettered, until Ragnaro˛k. In the relationship of the two gods, one son is lost and another unwillingly gained, in the interlocking reciprocity so characteristic of Norse story. Equally characteristic is the basic image of the talion, the principle of exacting matched compensation, although, as here, homological and symbolic substitutions may elaborate on a simple eye for eye, tooth for tooth. In sum, in addition to the concatenated dialogue, notions of constraint and release, fettering and unfettering, permeate this part of Lokasenna and the larger Ty´r story. Repetitions of various kinds also serve to unite the dialogue and, on the topics of freedom and constraint, it is noteworthy that Loki repeatedly uses the imperative “Þegi þu´” (‘Be silent! Shut up!’) plus a vocative to forestall objection to his criticism, yet the gods seem to have no vantage point from which to tell Loki to hold his tongue in this asymmetrical relationship. Different from the true giants, who are ab initio and categorically the enemies of the Æsir, Loki’s monstrous progeny, the giant serpent, Jo˛rmungandr, and mistress of the realm of the dead, Hel, fathered by the god on a giantess, are generated on the periphery of the divine community. The Æsir know in advance that Fenrir will be their bane, hence the effort to bind him, but only after having allowed him to live on to maturity. It is striking that, like Loki himself, Fenrir is bound, constrained—but not killed. Loki’s other children, Jo˛rmungandr and Hel, also live on, as permanent reminders or threats to the gods. In this model, no basic resource within the community is destroyed, although such economy carries its own fatal risk. As the offspring of Loki, Fenrir emerges only momentarily as a character in Snorri’s (rationalizing?) telling. The deception practiced on the wolf in the fettering episode cannot, alone, be counted a sufficient motive for his participation in the final battle. Yet Fenrir, the ‘fen-dweller’ and outsider, and his fellow wolves seem to represent nothing more specific than enmity against the gods and their order (see further below). To reiterate, both Snorri and Loki state that Ty´r does not promote settlements among men, the former in a laconic concluding attribution of what, for a rhetorical effect of litotes, must be a generally understood key characteristic, the latter in a
mocking barb that needs to have a satiric edge to be effective. Loki’s double allusion, both to the two hands as coordinated body members implicated in contracts or in contention, and to two parties to a dispute, is the vehicle for a judgment on the adequacy of divine function as incarnated in Ty´r. It has some of the formal features of a pun, one signifier, two signifieds. The resulting tension in and around the poem Lokasenna is consonant with combinations of divine qualities both positive and negative (as seen in human terms) and loss of bodily function but compensation in the psychic sphere. Lacking a sword arm, Ty´r cannot fight conventionally with sword or spear, and shield. The loss of his right hand also means that he cannot take oaths or enter into transactions that might have been sealed with a handclasp (handsal), which symbolized the transfer or accord (Sigurðsson 1992). Ty´r‘s compensatory ability, whether figured as consequent on the Fenrir episode (a diachronic view of narrative) or inherent (the synchronic view that all myth occurs in a temporally undistin´ ðinn’s ability is meta-cognitive, Heimguished sphere), is meta-legal, just as O ´ dallr’s, meta-acoustic. In Oðinn’s case we are never shown just what specific knowledge has been gained by the sacrifice and this is equally true of Ty´r and Freyr. Central to the evidence is the essential myth in Ty´r’s file: the binding of Fenrir, which illustrates a clear connection with contract, but contract only in its most advantage-seeking form. Still, since vargr “wolf” was used of outlaws and oathbreakers, Ty´r’s role in the containment of Fenrir as representing an extra-legal force remains thematically congruent. The same story also shows Ty´r in his problemsolving capacity: understatedly but dexterously negotiating with a potential opponent in a risk-filled situation that promises a substantial reward, although there is no assurance that things will work out just as planned. Ty´r’s hand represents a veð, which is conventionally translated as “pledge, gage”. To the modern reader, this gives the negotiation a moral quality, as if founded on some higher principle of honesty or oath-taking. But here it may be preferable to see pragmatism—not principle, to see the hand as a concrete and practical “stake”, the asset put at risk in the deal with Fenrir. In a paradox well represented in myth, Ty´r has also been charged with perjury (Simek 1993: “necessary lie”). This is not entirely fair. The gods had no assurance that the fetter Gleipnir would hold. The gods have promised Fenrir that they are only testing his strength. But what is a god’s promise worth? It is proposed that Ty´r’s compensatory ability, what we might today call the “work-around” necessitated by the lost hand and what it symbolizes, can be speculatively identified as his achievement of ends—however unspecified these are in our texts—through power politics: knowledge of how social systems work, suasion, coercion, alliances, compromise, guile, bluffing, and the like, as exemplified in the gaming situation with Fenrir.14 These are, however, more evident in human actions among Ty´r’s devotees than in their divine antecedents, limited as they are in the extant texts. Just as victory in battle does not always go to ´ ðinn’s partiality—so the bravest and to the most worthy cause—Loki’s charge of O in a legal dispute, where pleading under Ty´r’s aegis may result in unexpected 14 Compare the death of Baldr, in which another supposedly innocuous gaming situation is deceptively exploited to fatal ends.
Ty¨r’s Enhanced Functionality
victory, whatever the merits of the case. The argument advanced here might give the impression of promoting Ty´r’s enhanced, compensatory legalistic abilities over his basic divine function, as if, to extrapolate a bit, myth and story had survived cult. While the preserved evidence is not conclusive, many scholars have, as noted above, posited an association between Ty´r and the law, seen in its broadest and most varied application. Yet the Ty´r of extant texts (Snorri, Edda) must be judged at some ironic distance from any role as simple judge, arbiter, guarantor of justice, or patron of contracts and judicial duels. The center of gravity here may lie not in the static legal code, which represents an idealized, pro- and pre-scriptive view of human conduct, but in the more dynamic process of judicial affairs, the deity to be seen less as law-giver than as lawyer. And we recall that Ty´r is not a reconciler of men. Overlooked in this regard is Snorri’s clear statement that it is Forseti (“the Presider”), Baldr’s son, who is the settler of disputes.15 As noted above, Loki is guilty of all the ethical infractions with which he charges the other gods in Lokasenna. Many of these actions are morally equivalent to those ´ ðinn or Þo´rr at their most questionable but others have positive outcomes and of O benefit the gods, such as resolving the problem with the giant builder of ´ sgarðr, when he claims Freyja as his wage (Gylfaginning, fortifications around A Faulkes 1982, p. 42). In this ambivalent functionality, working for both good and ill, Loki shares features with Ty´r as here conceived, in that he is a fixer, one who solves problems, although generally by means both novel and duplicitous. Like Loki, Ty´r contributes to the resolution of dilemmas, not through compromise and mutual renunciation but through pragmatism and bold action. To the extent that the meagre evidence permits a distinction, Ty´r operates within the parameters of the system, while Loki finds solutions outside it and its conventions. In this, we should not see Ty´r and Loki as kindred spirits of subterfuge, but should nonetheless recall Snorri’s two-edged characterization of the former as “brave” and “clever”. In the logic of mythic paradox or the mythic equivalent of the first law of thermodynamics, according to which energy is never lost, the one-handed god is the patron and exponent of dexterity. Although legally structured reconciliation among men does not occur under the aegis of Ty´r, his favor in a dispute is realized as the advantage that one party gains through a practical knowledge and exploitation of law, rules, conventions, and the dynamics of “wheeling and dealing”, the means to a victory perhaps not to be had by arms. Still, neither power politics nor skillful litigation can always replace armed combat and then, since “he has great power over victory in battles, it is good for men of action to pray to him.”16 In sum, Tyr’s loss of a sword and oath hand and the putative gain in lawyerly skills is preserved in the single full story about him and the few kennings, and, as a further proof of its seriousness for the cosmic course of events, is at the the core of 15 Hann a´ þann sal a´ himni, er Glitnir heitir. En allir, er til hans koma með sakarvandræði, þa´ fara allir sa´ttir a´ braut. Sa´ er do´mstaðr beztr með goðum ok mo˛nnum (Faulkes 1982, p. 32) [He has a hall in heaven called Glitnir, and whoever comes to him with difficult legal disputes, they all leave with their differences settled. It is the best place of judgment among gods and men] (Faulkes 1998, p. 26). 16 It has been proposed that Ty´r’s earliest status was as god of war on basis of the equation dies Martis = *Teiwes-dagas.
Loki’s mockery. The scornful god calls up the long-term consequences of Ty´r’s bargain as he does in his attack on Freyr—one hand and one weapon fewer at Ragnaro˛k. Most of the Norse myths, and derivative poems and stories point ahead to Ragnaro˛k in some respect. Conflicts and compromises are all paid for then and there. It is tempting to incorporate the simple failings of the gods as listed in Lokasenna into some greater scheme, one that also encompasses the functions, bodily sacrifices, subsequently enhanced faculties, and fates. However, the sins of the gods as itemized by Loki do not seem to impair central divine functions and are, most often, unscrupulous extensions of, or temporary lapses from them. Ragnaro˛k is not represented as directly consequential on such functional malpractice or sexual peccadilloes. Yet the gods’ meta-functions, the gains won by their sacrfices, may be more deeply implicated in the end of days. Is it divine presumption to seek even greater powers? An over-reach to abandon the ideal of hóf ‘moderation’? Is Ragnaro˛k to be seen as a collective sacrifice of bodily integrity (and life), coming after, not before, the set of functional enhancements? Or is Ragnaro˛k, in fractal terms, simply the inevitable alternation of day and night, summer and winter, writ much larger, the natural entropy of even a divine society? From this perspective the question must be posed whether we can gain a full understanding of the larger role of Ty´r without establishing that of Fenrir. While Fenrir has speech, his existence seems predicated on his final role, with no intervening life, save as a bound force for destruction. Fenrir’s lupine offspring Sko˛l and Hati, unless these are bynames of the great wolf himself, will devour the sun ´ ðinn, and Garmr, Ty´r. Thus, extraand moon at Ragnaro˛k, while Fenrir will kill O legal lupine force is responsible for the annihilation of both growing life (as dependent on the sun) and temporal order (the daily cycle), and for the death of the supreme god of the old order.17 We have seen how the concept of the wolf figures in legal language and sanctions (wolf = law-breaker, outlaw). Thus, at a minimum it is ´ ðinn and Ty´r, the destruction plausible to ascribe to Fenrir and Garmr, the banes of O of the Norse system of rule, law, and natural justice, although the effects of Ragnaro˛k go well beyond these losses. In a final reciprocity and quid pro quo, Garmr kills Ty´r, but the god also kills the wolf. In light of the deep pessimism that marks Old Norse culture, the shadow that is cast over the brightest of its literary artifacts, the ironic sense of the futility of much human effort in the face of chance and fate, it appears that the sacrifices of le borgne, le manchot, and le chaste (if we so label Freyr) count for little in the final ´ ðinn’s enhanced knowledge will battle, in fact, count against the Æsir. One-eyed O ´ be of no avail; one-handed Tyr’s negotiating skill is irrelevant when the outlaw Fenrir is loosed; swordless Freyr’s bounty of fertility and prosperity, the boon of his sexual austerity, is consumed in Surtr’s fire.
´ ðinn On the implications of kinship, rather than morality or functionality, in the fall of the gods and O in particular, see Kristensen (2007).
Ty¨r’s Enhanced Functionality
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