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Tyr And The Wolf






Source: Asgard Stories Tales From Norse Mythology

I.

Odin, the Allfather, sat one day on his high air-throne, and looking
around him, far and wide, saw three fierce monsters. They were the
children of the mischievous fire-god Loki, and Odin began to feel
anxious, for they had grown so fast and were getting so strong that he
feared they might do harm to the sacred city of Asgard. The wise father
knew Loki had given strength to these dreadful creatures, and he saw
that all this danger had come upon the Aesir from Loki's wickedness.

One of these monsters was a huge serpent, that Odin sent down into the
ocean, where he grew so fast that his body was coiled around the whole
world, and his tail grew into his own mouth. He was called the Midgard
serpent.

The second monster was sent to Niflheim, the home of darkness, and shut
up there.

The third, a fierce wolf, named Fenrir, was brought to Asgard, where
Odin hoped he might be tamed by living among the Aesir, and seeing their
good deeds, and hearing their kind words; but he grew more and more
fierce, until only one of all the gods dared to feed him. This was the
brave god, Tyr. He was a war-god, like Thor, and is sometimes called the
Sword-god. Tyr was loved by all because he was so true and faithful.

Each day the dreadful wolf grew larger and stronger, till all at once,
before the Aesir thought about it, he had become a very dangerous beast.

Father Odin always looked troubled when he saw Fenrir, the wolf, come to
get his evening meal of meat from Tyr's hand, and at last one night,
after the wolf had gone growling away to his lair, Odin called a meeting
of the Aesir. He told them of his fears, saying they must find some plan
for guarding themselves and their home against this monster. They could
not slay him, for no one must ever be killed, and no blood must be shed,
within the walls of the sacred city.

Thor was the first to speak: "Do not fear, Father Odin, for by to-morrow
night we shall have Fenrir so safely bound that he cannot do us any
harm. I will make a mighty chain, with the help of my hammer, Miolnir,
and with it we will bind him fast!"

When the Aesir heard these words of Thor, they were glad, and all went
home rejoicing--all save the Allfather, who was still troubled, for he
well knew the danger, and feared that even the mighty Thor would find
this task too much for him. But Thor seized his hammer, and strode off
to his forge. There he worked the whole night long, and all through
Asgard were heard the blows of Miolnir and the roaring of the bellows.

The next night, when the Aesir were gathered together, Thor brought forth
his new-made chain, to test it. In came Fenrir, the wolf, and every one
was surprised to see how willingly he let himself be bound with the
chain. When Thor had riveted the last links together, the gods smiled,
and began to praise him for his wonderful work; but all at once the wolf
gave one bound forward, broke the great chain, and walked off to his
lair as if nothing had happened.

Thor was much disappointed, still he did not lose courage. He said to
the Aesir that he would make another chain, yet stronger. Again he set to
work, and for three nights and three days the great Thor worked at his
forge without resting.

While he worked his friends did not forget him. They came and looked on
while he was busy, and, as they watched the mighty hammer falling with
quick blows upon the metal, they talked to Thor or sang noble songs to
cheer him; sometimes they brought him food and drink. One visitor, who
was no friend, fierce Fenrir, the wolf, sometimes put his nose in at the
door for a moment, and watched Thor at work; then, as he went away, Thor
heard a strange sound like a wicked laugh.

At last the chain was finished, and Thor dragged it to the place of
meeting. It was so heavy that even the mighty Thor could hardly lift it,
or drag it as far as Odin's palace of Gladsheim. This time Fenrir was
not so willing to be bound; but the gods coaxed him, and talked of his
great strength, and told him they were sure he would easily break this
chain also. After a while he agreed to let them put it around his neck.

This time Thor was sure the chain would hold firm, for never before had
such a strong one been made. But soon, with a great shake and a fierce
bound, the wolf broke away, and went off to his lair, snarling and
showing his wicked teeth, while the broken chain lay on the ground.

Sadly the Aesir came together that night in Odin's palace, and this time
Thor was not the first to speak; he sat apart and was silent.



First spoke Frey, the god of summer and king of the fairies. "Hearken
to me, O lords of Asgard!" he said. "I have not won a brave name in
battle, like the noble Tyr, neither have I done such mighty deeds as
the great Thor and others of our heroes. Instead of fighting giants
and monsters, I have spent most of my life in the woods, among the
flowers, listening for hours to the birds. Many things have I watched,
some perhaps that my brothers thought too small to be worthy of
notice. I have learned many lessons, and the greatest of them all is
to know how much power there is in little things, and to see how often
the work, done quietly, and hidden from the eyes of men, is the finest
and the most wonderful. Since we cannot make a chain strong enough to
bind Fenrir, let us go to the little dwarfs, who work in silence and
in darkness, and ask them to make us a chain!"

The Allfather's troubled face grew brighter as he heard Frey speak, and
he bade him send a messenger quickly to the dwarfs, to order a chain
made as soon as possible.


II.

So Frey went out, leaving the Aesir in their trouble, and came to his own
lovely home, Alfheim. There everything was bright and peaceful, and the
little elves were busy and happy. Frey found a trusty messenger, and
sent him with all speed to the dwarfs underground, to order the new
chain, and to return as soon as he could bring it. The faithful servant
found the funny little dwarf workmen all busy in their dark rock
chambers, far down inside the earth, while at one side, in a lighter
place, sat their king. The messenger bowed before him, and told him his
errand.

The dwarfs were a wicked race, but they were afraid of Odin, for they
had not forgotten the talk he once had with them, when he sent them down
to work in darkness underground, and since that time they never had
dared disobey him. The dwarf king said it would take two days and two
nights to make the chain, but it would be so strong that no one could
break it.

While the busy dwarfs were at work, the messenger looked about at the
many wonderful things: the great central fire which burns always in the
middle of the earth, watched and fed with coal by the dwarfs; above
this, the beds of coal, and bright precious diamonds, which the dwarfs
took from the ashes of the fire. In another place he watched them
putting gold and silver, tin and copper, into the cracks in the rocks,
and he drank of the pure, underground water, which gives the Midgard
people fresh springs.

After two days this messenger returned to the dwarf king. The king,
holding out in his hand a fine, small chain, said to the messenger:
"This may seem to you to be small and weak; but it is a most wonderful
piece of work, for we have used in it all the strongest stuff we could
find. It is made of six kinds of things: the noise made by the footfall
of cats, the roots of stones, the beards of women, the voice of fishes,
the spittle of birds, the sinews of bears. This chain can never be
broken; and if you can once put it on Fenrir, he will never be able to
throw it off."

Odin's messenger was glad to hear this, so he thanked the dwarf king,
and promising him a large reward, he went on his way back to Asgard,
where the Aesir were longing for his return, and were all rejoiced to
see him with the magic chain.

Now Father Odin feared that Fenrir would not let them bind him a third
time, so he proposed they should all take a holiday, and go out to a
beautiful lake to the north of Asgard, where they would have games and
trials of strength. The other gods were pleased with this plan, and all
set out in Frey's wonderful ship, which was large enough to hold all the
Aesir with their horses, and yet could be folded up small enough to go in
one's pocket.

They landed on a lovely island in the lake, and after the races and
games were over, Frey brought out the little chain, and asked them all
to try to break it. Thor and Tyr tried in vain; then Thor said, "I do
not believe any one but Fenrir can break it."

Now the wolf did not want to be bound again; but he was very proud of
his strength, and, for fear of being called a coward, said at last he
would let them do it, if he might hold the right hand of one of the Aesir
in his mouth while they bound him, as a sign that the gods did not mean
to play any tricks.

When the gods heard this, they looked at each other, and all but one of
them drew back. Only the brave, good Tyr stepping forward, quietly put
his hand into Fenrir's mouth. The other gods then put the chain around
the beast, and fastened it to a great rock. The fierce creature gave a
leap to free himself, but the more he struggled the tighter grew the
chain. The Aesir gathered about him in joy to see this, but their hearts
were filled with sorrow when they saw that their noble Tyr had lost his
right hand; the dreadful wolf had shut his teeth together in his rage,
when he found he could not get free.

Thus the brave Tyr dared to risk danger for the sake of saving others,
and gave up even his right hand to gain peace and happiness for Asgard.





Next: Freyja's Necklace

Previous: Odin's Reward



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