Tyr is a fairly recognizable name among Scandinavian people and Norse enthusiasts, but doesn’t have much mainstream recognition. This is likely due to the fact that he hasn’t starred in a Marvel movie (yet), and that there’s really only one prevailing myth about him (which we’ll get to in a bit). This lack of surviving Tyr-centered tales is surprising, as he’s the “guarantor of justice” and sometimes even called the boldest of the Norse gods — one who inspires heroism and courage. With that pedigree, you’d think there would be more myths surrounding him. Well, at one time, there probably was.
Loki — the wily trickster — was father to three great and terrifying beings: Jormungand — the world-encircling serpent, Hel — the death goddess, and Fenrir — the great wolf. The other gods had a terrible foreboding about these offspring of Loki, and took action to keep them at bay. They threw Jormungand into the ocean, relegated Hel to the underworld, and kept Fenrir in Asgard so they could keep a close and watchful eye on him.
To get Fenrir to consent, the gods would tell him that these bindings were merely competitions of strength; they even clapped and cheered when the wolf broke through each attempted constraint. Desperate for a solution, the gods sent down word to the dwarves — the greatest craftsmen in the universe — to create something that not even Fenrir could wrestle free from. They forged Gleipnir — a rope which was made from the sound of a cat’s footsteps, the beard of a woman, the roots of a stone, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of a bird. Since these things don’t exist, it’s futile to struggle against them.
When the gods presented Gleipnir to Fenrir as yet another challenge of strength, he grew suspicious. The rope was too light and silky; how could it possibly hold him? Something was afoot. So he insisted that he would not be bound unless one of the gods placed a hand in his jaws as a sign of good faith. Tyr — knowing full well the ramifications of his decision — was the only god to step forward. Fenrir was bound, and of course took Tyr’s hand as retribution. From thence on, Tyr carried a permanent disability and scar which spoke of his bravery for the sake of the entire world.
Sacrifice for the sake of bettering yourself is certainly a good thing. Better yet, though, is to sacrifice in a way that also benefits others. That’s the essence of legacy. In giving up his hand, Tyr both made the world safer and won a place of honor among all of the gods. He earned the respect of his peers, and was elevated among them as being the most courageous of all. Sure, Thor was the strongest, but how courageous are you really when your strength is second-to-none?
His example imparted courage and bravery. If Tyr could sacrifice his hand — something crucially important to a war god — then surely even common folk could make small sacrifices for the sake of their kith and kin.
Serving other people is easy when it fits into our schedule and our talents. Far more difficult is it to serve our community when we’re tasked with doing something we don’t enjoy, or that we aren’t good at, or that we know will bring some amount of financial or physical pain. And that last one is the toughest, isn’t it? Physical sacrifice hurts in a very literal way, and can have lasting physiological (and even psychological) consequences. And yet it’s been a moral imperative that mankind has shouldered for thousands of years. Primitive people would risk their lives to go hunt dinner, explorers and frontiersmen traversed great spans of sea and land to find a better life (and many didn’t come home), and today, first responders put their wellbeing on the line every day. And in times of danger and disaster, average people continue to put their own lives on the line to protect others.
Opportunities to make physical sacrifices do not always arise in our generally safe and secure modern world, but a man should be ready if/when such an exigency arises. Tyr certainly didn’t want to lose his hand to Fenrir that day, but when the community was in dire need, he stepped forward.
Beyond physical sacrifice, there are other ways to serve those around you in difficult circumstances. Maybe you serve on the board of a bureaucratic, stuck-in-their-ways local non-profit because you know it can better the community, or the next time a friend (or neighbor, or acquaintance) asks for help moving, perhaps you’ll actually say yes.
Will you be the kind of person who serves only when it’s easy and convenient? Or will you, like Tyr, willingly extend a hand, even when you know it will cost something?
So why specifically did I choose Tyr as the namesake for my business and why do I feature the wolf when Fenris was a great threat? In mythology wolves are common representations of the wild. The untamed. That part of us that works outside of civilization and order. When this is considered the myth makes even more sense as it can be seen as the struggle of order and chaos, of the wild and of civilization. The danger isn't inherent in the wolf. The danger is that Fenrir unceasingly grew. He is wildness unbound. Chaos unbound. That is the threat and so he is quite literally bound but the meaning comes in the metaphor. Unchecked wildness is destructive.
Wolves as a species are inherently shy yet still very social in their groups. They maintain strength through their packs. This idea of invoking both sides of the myth appealed to what I want to do as a trainer. I want to strengthen and protect the health of my community, but there is much gain to be had by understanding the power of the wild. We get stronger when we venture outside. Literally outside but again, also metaphorically. We grow when we move outside of our comfort zones, when we are challenged, when we struggle, when we overcome. And so at Tyr Fitness we use that wild part of us all to challenge and grow, but maintain our social community. We support each other. We connect with each other. We protect each other.
To gain in strength and endurance we also sacrifice like Tyr. Nothing of worth comes without sacrifice. We risk failure, we risk embarrassment, we risk physical discomfort, we risk all kinds of things person to person. Someday those hours at training might enable you to pull your child or neighbor out of danger. They might keep your health strong enough that you can spare your family great expense in treating illness or injury or the sorrow of losing you sooner than they had to be. The sacrifice of showing up to train and sometimes struggle will definitely make you a greater asset to your family and friends and community. You'll be happier, more engaged, more confident.
At Tyr Fitness we believe we can change the world for the better by empowering the people in our community to live as well as they can. It is our goal to help everyone become the strongest, healthiest version of themselves they can be. We seek balance. To be both bound by our responsibility to our families and friends and community and to keep a bit of the wild alive with us so we can grow and adapt and accept challenge. - Aaron Kline