|Image: © Howard David Johnson||
Author: Peter Johnson, Winnipeg, MB
To most people, the word Edda is a four-letter word they find in their crossword puzzle.
The amazing fact is that the Icelandic Eddas are one of the world’s greatest cultural treasures because they contain eighty-five percent of what we know as Norse mythology, which was the shared wisdom that informed the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Scandinavian people for centuries in pre-Christian Europe and which continues to influence our lives to the present day.
Some people may be surprised that the Anglo-Saxon world is included, but we can appreciate the power of these myths on the English-speaking world when we realise that four of the days of our week are named for Norse gods, about whom we would know almost nothing if it were not for the Eddas.
Tuesday is named for Tiews, who Icelanders know as Týr, the god of justice and courage. A story in the Eddas tells us:
There was a terrible supernatural wolf named Fenrir. The gods knew Fenrir was growing at an unnatural rate and would soon be too powerful for them to control and that he would wreak havoc and chaos throughout the nine worlds.
The gods devised a plan to tether the mighty Fenrir.
They asked the dark dwarves, being the most skilled craftspeople in the cosmos, to forge a chain whose strength could not be equaled.
They then challenged the wolf to test his strength against this chain. The wary wolf, suspecting trickery, said he would only allow himself to be tethered if one of the gods would put his or her hand between his powerful jaws. Týr placed his hand between the jowls of the terrible wolf. When Fenrir realized he had been tricked he ripped off Týr’s hand and swallowed it whole. For the wellbeing of the cosmos, Týr had sacrificed his hand. . . .