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The Pledge of Tyr

The Pledge of Tyr painting image

The Pledge of Tyr
by Ulf (2022)

For that which you claim to believe, what would you be willing to sacrifice?

Tyr, the Norse God of War, gave his right hand - his sword hand - so that the terrible Fenris Wolf could be bound.

This thrilling print by ULF captures the brutal moment when Divine blood is spilt as the Fenris Wolf, realizing he is bound fast, crunches down on the War God's right hand.

It is a moment in Norse Mythology that has become a symbol of Self-Sacrifice and Dedication to one's cause.

Further reading...

The Fenris Wolf (Fenrisúlfr in Old Norse) also known as Fenrir, is a monstrous wolf supposedly begat by Loki with the giantess, Angrboða - strangely, of the couple, Loki is the parent who somehow gives birth 'like a woman' to this monster, along with his brother, the midgard Serpent, Jörmungandr. In later stories he also gives birth to a daughter named Hel, the Goddess of Death.
As the Legend goes, the Gods kept Fenrir from the time he was a pup. The Wolf grew and grew until he became too strong for even the Gods, so they decided to tie him up.
They first used a fetter called Loeding, but the Fenris Wolf easily broke free. This gives rise to an Old Norse phrase "to free one's self from Loeding", which means to overcome difficulties.
Next the Gods tried a fetter called Drómi (Old Norse: 'fetter'), but Fenrir also broke free of this one. From this we are given another Old Norse phrase 'to throw off the Dromi' which means the overcoming of severe difficulties.
Finally, the Gods used a fetter called Gleipnir (Old Norse 'open one') - this was made by the dwarves from the sound of a cat walking, the beard of a woman, from the roots of the mountains, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of a bird. In other words, things that do not exist.
The Fenris Wolf sensed that he was being trapped with a magical fetter, so he said that he would only let the Gods tie him up with Gleipnir if Tyr, the God of War, placed his sword hand in the Wolf's mouth.
For the God of War, his sword hand was of incalculable value to him, but he put his hand in the mouth of the beast anyhow - it had to be done. This was Tyr's Pledge. Alas, when Fenrir realized he could not escape from his fetter, he bit down on Tyr's wrist and chewed his hand off. Because of this event, the wrist is still known as the 'úlnliður' or 'wolf joint' in Icelandic.
The Fenris wolf was bound on the isle of Lyngvi in Lake Ámsvartnir - the fetter fastened with a chain called Gelgja (ON 'post','fetter') to the stone slab known as Gjöll (Old Norse: 'loud noise') which they hit into the earth using the stone Thviti (Old Norse: 'hitter', 'batterer'). A sword was then placed in the Fenris wolfs mouth to prop his jaws open. As he howled the foam ran from his mouth and formed the river Van or Von (which possibly means 'hope' in Old Norse)
It is said that the Fenris wolf will break free at Ragnarok ('the twilight of the Gods').
There is some confusion as to what role Fenrir will play at Ragnarok: in some accounts he fights and/or devours Odin, in other accounts Tyr fights a wolf named Garmr, who is believed to be Fenrir. According to Snorri Sturlusson, in one instance two wolves, Skoll and Hati, pursue the Sun and the Moon respectively. In another instance two wolves are said by Snorri to devour the sun and the moon, one of these wolves is called Managarmr ('moon-eater').
Despite this confusion, however, it is most likely that these different names of seemingly different wolves are all one in the same wolf - Fenrir.