Themes in Norse Mythology: Oath

Posted by Ms Elly on

Themes in Norse Mythology: Oath

Previous blog post revolves all around the theme of fate in Norse mythology. Back to the Viking Age, the Vikings seemingly believed in the Norns who created the fate of all beings in the cosmos. Norns were the most powerful figures in Norse mythology and no one could interfere into Norns' decisions. 

The upcoming theme in Norse mythology we are to discover is an oath. Keeping your words was one of the most important things in Viking society. We believe that this character trait of the Vikings was influenced by their Norse pantheon. 

Who was the god of oath in Norse mythology?

Norse god of honor and oath was Tyr. Commonly, Tyr was depicted as a muscular one-handed god. This physical disability of Tyr presented the qualities he embodied. 

The story went back to the time when the gods raised up Fenrir in Asgard. Learning that Ragnarok was ignited by the children of Loki, the gods decided to raise Fenrir one of Loki's kids up in Asgard. However, no one dared to approach him. The only one who approached to feed Fenrir was Tyr. 

Theme in Norse mythology: Oath Tyr Norse god of Honor and Oath

God of honor and oath

When Fenrir grew at an incredible speed, the gods could not let him stay in Asgard but also could not let him roam the worlds. That's why they came up with an idea to bind Fenrir to the rock. Yet, to trick and bind Fenrir up was a difficult task. 

Gods told Fenrir that they would test Fenrir with a chain, if he could not break out of the chain, they would release him. Fenrir smelt a rat with this but he still agreed to do what the gods wanted him to do. Fenrir demanded a god to put a hand in his mouth as an oath. The gods, of course, managed to tie Fenrir to the rock with the magical chain. 

The moment Fenrir knew it was a trick by the gods, he bit off the hand of Tyr - the only one volunteered to put his hand inside the mouth of Fenrir as an oath. Many scholars claimed that Tyr could have withdrawn his hand in time. But he felt ashamed for what the gods had done. They tricked Fenrir and they also broke their own oath. 

Because of the oath-breaking deed of the gods, Tyr wanted to sacrifice something for the good of his clan. He sacrificed his hand. This loss turned out to be a representative of what he embodied. 

Oath in the Viking Age 

Anyone in the Viking community daring to break their oath became hated by his clan. It was considered a cowardly deed to go back on what one had said. 

According to some sources, when a Viking boy reached the age of 12, he would come to see his jarl and declared his loyalty to the jarl. In return, he would be gifted something known as an oath arm ring in the Viking Age. This arm ring stood for his loyalty to his jarl and his community. 

Ragnar Lothbrok viking arm ring

Viking arm ring 

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