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Author Topic: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move  (Read 1248 times)

Sarah

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Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« on: January 28, 2015, 04:56:20 am »
I’ve been thinking a lot about tricksters lately and a lot about Tyr a lot and somewhere those thoughts met in the middle…

Tyr is portrayed and perceived  as an upright, principled god, often to the point of rigidity, but when I think about the binding of Fenris I find that he actually behaved like a trickster.

He paid dearly for his actions (as he knew he would, and was willing to, to protect his community) both in physical loss and, in my interpretation, grief, because he bought fenris up so would have had a very strong bond with him.

And while he told Fenris the truth “if this binds you you can bite my hand off” it was such a truth that Fenris didn't believe it, because what warrior would willingly give up his sword arm, his oath arm?


Telling the truth but telling it in such a way that it will be not believed or it will be interpreted wrong is an inveterate trickster move, and while it meant that Tyr didn't actually lie, or break an oath, he wasn't behaving with honour towards Fenris. (But he was behaving with honour toward the rest of his community so maybe there are different levels of honour?) And it seems to me its often the "job" of tricksters to maintain kinds of balance, which is what Tyr was doing here

Tyr and I have a solid but not particularly close relationship and I often get the feeling of justice and balance being upheld “by any means necessary?”

But is it justice in that case?

or maybe it’s acceptable to behave dishonourably to protect you and yours, your community, to keep people safe. as long as, and I think this is really important, you are willing to pay the price and accept the consequences?

Thoughts? Ideas? Disagreements?
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Faemon

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2015, 05:03:17 am »
Quote from: Jake_;170121
I often get the feeling of justice and balance being upheld “by any means necessary?”

But is it justice in that case?

 
If the pragmatic thing isn't the honourable thing, is pragmatism still a virtue? :confused:
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Jack

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2015, 06:08:31 am »
Quote from: Jake_;170121
Tyr is portrayed and perceived  as an upright, principled god, often to the point of rigidity, but when I think about the binding of Fenris I find that he actually behaved like a trickster.

He paid dearly for his actions (as he knew he would, and was willing to, to protect his community) both in physical loss and, in my interpretation, grief, because he bought fenris up so would have had a very strong bond with him.


I definitely agree with your interpretation that it was something Tyr did with difficulty because of his role in raising Fenris. I've run into people who think of Tyr raising Fenris as being akin to having a dog that you have to eventually take out back like this is a middle grade novel, but my experience is that all of Loki's children are fully sapient. More specifically, my UPG is that Odin brought Fenris to Asgard to raise him to protect that realm the way he set Jormungandr to protect Midgard; Fenris was in a kind of court hostage position for as long as Tyr could protect him, and Tyr was in more of an adoptive parent position than a pet owner.

Fenris was trusting enough of all - or at least enough - of the denizens of Asgard that he didn't suspect anything was wrong with the "game" at first. It was only the lightness of the final bonds that spooked him, and caused him to demand a show that this game was done in good faith.

Quote
And while he told Fenris the truth “if this binds you you can bite my hand off” it was such a truth that Fenris didn't believe it, because what warrior would willingly give up his sword arm, his oath arm?


It may depend on the version of the story you're looking at, but it's my understanding that Fenris asked that someone offer their hand, not that Tyr offered it of his own will.

Quote from: Gylfaginning 34, Brodeur translation
The Wolf said: 'If ye bind me so that I shall not get free again, then ye will act in such a way that it will be late ere I receive help from you; I am unwilling that this band should be laid upon me. Yet rather than that ye should impugn my courage, let some one of you lay his hand in my mouth, for a pledge that this is done in good faith.' Each of the Æsir looked at his neighbor, and none was willing to part with his hand, until Týr stretched out his right hand and laid it in the Wolf's mouth.


So Tyr didn't come up with the oath so much as he was the only one with the balls to stand up and actually take Fenris up on it. For all I know, he didn't like that the Aesir were playing this game with Fenris at all, he wanted to find some other solution to the wolfchild's great strength, but in that moment, he didn't think there was a choice left. If nobody was willing to offer, Fenris would know they were using tricksy magic to bind him for real instead of just playing around, and there was no telling what would happen then. There was no way to back out of it at that point. Somebody had to step up to protect the Aesir from their own plan falling apart at the last minute, and in that moment, Tyr saw that the only one who could protect them was him, so he stepped up, because he was the chief and he was responsibly for their safety and so that's what a good chief does. That, in my opinion, is Tyr's great demonstration of honor. He was willing to hurt one he loved and sacrifice his own honor and position to protect his people.

Quote
Telling the truth but telling it in such a way that it will be not believed or it will be interpreted wrong is an inveterate trickster move, and while it meant that Tyr didn't actually lie, or break an oath, he wasn't behaving with honour towards Fenris. (But he was behaving with honour toward the rest of his community so maybe there are different levels of honour?) And it seems to me its often the "job" of tricksters to maintain kinds of balance, which is what Tyr was doing here


There are often times when one's obligations, honor or oaths are in conflict. Finding the best way to navigate that, trying to serve as many people or as well as you can, isn't inherently a trickster role.

Quote
Tyr and I have a solid but not particularly close relationship and I often get the feeling of justice and balance being upheld “by any means necessary?”

But is it justice in that case?


I would probably be willing to concede balance, but no, I don't see how it's justice. Fenris is what he is, the product of his parentage and his upbringing. The binding is not "justice" for Fenris, certainly, and no one else is in a position to be the recipient of "justice" here.

Quote
or maybe it’s acceptable to behave dishonourably to protect you and yours, your community, to keep people safe. as long as, and I think this is really important, you are willing to pay the price and accept the consequences?


Because I tend toward the theory that Tyr was the leader of the Aesir before Odin, and I see this as a tipping point where Tyr takes (or gives in to) Odin's side of the argument - that it's fair to break an oath if you're willing to accept the consequences - I do think Tyr's behavior is "acceptable" here in the sense where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Tyr took a great deal of sacrifice onto himself when he put his hand in Fenris's mouth. (Not just the arm, but also where he no longer can lead Asgard, as both a public oathbreaker and one who has been disfigured for his action. He sacrificed a great deal more than his hand in my UPG.)

And yes, you could technically argue Tyr did not break the oath because Fenris did bite off his hand, but he put his hand in there as a pledge that the binding was done in good faith - he simply accepted the consequence of breaking it. But more than that, he betrayed the wolfchild he raised by letting him be put in that position, and that is a kind of oath too.

That's the reason I, personally, bristle at that story - I understand the need to protect the community, but I'm more of a Loki type (you touch my kids and plot the death of your entire pantheon). So I have a hard time imagining making the choice Tyr made.
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Juniperberry

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2015, 03:55:52 pm »
Quote from: Jack;170124




Because I tend toward the theory that Tyr was the leader of the Aesir before Odin, and I see this as a tipping point where Tyr takes (or gives in to) Odin's side of the argument.


This is a great insight, and is giving me a lot to think over!
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I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Juniperberry

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2015, 04:04:23 pm »
Quote from: Jake_;170121
I’ve been thinking a lot about tricksters lately and a lot about Tyr a lot and somewhere those thoughts met in the middle…

Tyr is portrayed and perceived  as an upright, principled god, often to the point of rigidity, but when I think about the binding of Fenris I find that he actually behaved like a trickster.

He paid dearly for his actions (as he knew he would, and was willing to, to protect his community) both in physical loss and, in my interpretation, grief, because he bought fenris up so would have had a very strong bond with him.

And while he told Fenris the truth “if this binds you you can bite my hand off” it was such a truth that Fenris didn't believe it, because what warrior would willingly give up his sword arm, his oath arm?


Telling the truth but telling it in such a way that it will be not believed or it will be interpreted wrong is an inveterate trickster move, and while it meant that Tyr didn't actually lie, or break an oath, he wasn't behaving with honour towards Fenris. (But he was behaving with honour toward the rest of his community so maybe there are different levels of honour?) And it seems to me its often the "job" of tricksters to maintain kinds of balance, which is what Tyr was doing here

Tyr and I have a solid but not particularly close relationship and I often get the feeling of justice and balance being upheld “by any means necessary?”

But is it justice in that case?

or maybe it’s acceptable to behave dishonourably to protect you and yours, your community, to keep people safe. as long as, and I think this is really important, you are willing to pay the price and accept the consequences?

Thoughts? Ideas? Disagreements?



I don't have sources handy, but I have read that disability in the Norse pantheon is that which actually amplifies the god's strengths. So, in Tyr's case, losing his hand actually improved and strengthened the Justice god we know, because he can't be duplicitous. He was when he tricked Fenrir, but now he can only offer reward/justice in one hand. ...Rather than offering in one, taking away with the other. Hope that made sense.
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Jack

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2015, 04:30:38 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;170182
He was when he tricked Fenrir, but now he can only offer reward/justice in one hand. ...Rather than offering in one, taking away with the other. Hope that made sense.

 
That's a really neat literal image, I like that a lot.
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Riverwolf

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2015, 12:06:36 am »
Quote from: Jake_;170121
Telling the truth but telling it in such a way that it will be not believed or it will be interpreted wrong is an inveterate trickster move, and while it meant that Tyr didn't actually lie, or break an oath, he wasn't behaving with honour towards Fenris. (But he was behaving with honour toward the rest of his community so maybe there are different levels of honour?) And it seems to me its often the "job" of tricksters to maintain kinds of balance, which is what Tyr was doing here

Tyr and I have a solid but not particularly close relationship and I often get the feeling of justice and balance being upheld “by any means necessary?”

But is it justice in that case?

or maybe it’s acceptable to behave dishonourably to protect you and yours, your community, to keep people safe. as long as, and I think this is really important, you are willing to pay the price and accept the consequences?

Thoughts? Ideas? Disagreements?

 
Tiu (as I call him after an Old English variant) has been fairly present in my thoughts as of late, and I've definitely gotten the sense that he's a pretty harsh judge, and a stickler for honor, consistency, order, and justice. In war, he's the God who goes for victory by calculated tactics and strategy.

You bring up an issue that I had not considered regarding him. I think it's some pretty good insight, and highlights a depth to the story that I didn't realize was there. It's tempting to say he made the right, just choice seeing as it's his domain, but on the other hand, the Gods frequently demonstrate flawed behavior in the old tales.

While honesty is certainly a big aspect of honor, at the same time, as Sun Tsu wrote in Art of War, "All warfare is based on deception". In order to win a war, deceiving the enemy is pretty much required. But that's not "honorable".

It's a paradox.
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Jainarayan

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2015, 09:52:47 am »
Quote from: Riverwolf;170199
It's tempting to say he made the right, just choice seeing as it's his domain, but on the other hand, the Gods frequently demonstrate flawed behavior in the old tales. ...

It's a paradox.

It's indeed a paradox imo, because flaw and trickery is subjective [edit: it's relative also]. I have to think of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

In the Mahabharata, during the Kurukshetra War, Krishna did everything in his power to forestall war and re-establish peace. When that failed he agreed to participate in the war but in a non-combatant role. During the war he did everything he could to keep both sides honorable, but in the end it fell apart, with even Krishna resorting to trickery, to put it mildly, to put an end to the bloodshed.

In the Ramayana Rama also resorted to trickery to keep his kingdom, which he reclaimed after it was unjustly taken from him, from falling back into chaos. Now, who would have thought that two of the most popular and beloved, just and even-tempered Hindu deities would resort to trickery?

I think Tyr, Krishna and Rama were all in the same boat. They did what they could to maintain order and peace using righteous measures, but in the end they were "victims of circumstance" they had no control over. They had to consider the greater good even at the risk of a somewhat tarnished reputation, and their own personal price to pay. And for each of them, the price was indeed heavy.

Just my observations and analysis.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2015, 10:00:44 am by Jainarayan »
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Juniperberry

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2015, 10:17:47 am »
Quote from: Riverwolf;170199
Tiu (as I call him after an Old English variant) has been fairly present in my thoughts as of late, and I've definitely gotten the sense that he's a pretty harsh judge, and a stickler for honor, consistency, order, and justice. In war, he's the God who goes for victory by calculated tactics and strategy.

You bring up an issue that I had not considered regarding him. I think it's some pretty good insight, and highlights a depth to the story that I didn't realize was there. It's tempting to say he made the right, just choice seeing as it's his domain, but on the other hand, the Gods frequently demonstrate flawed behavior in the old tales.

While honesty is certainly a big aspect of honor, at the same time, as Sun Tsu wrote in Art of War, "All warfare is based on deception". In order to win a war, deceiving the enemy is pretty much required. But that's not "honorable".

It's a paradox.


That's not an issue with Tyr anymore. ;)
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Redfaery

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Re: Tyr, Fenris, and the trickster move
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2015, 08:25:01 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;170203
That's not an issue with Tyr anymore. ;)

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