Tuesday–The Day of Tiu

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Tuesday–The Day of Tiu

Tuesday is the first day of the week which is named after a god of the Angles and Saxons–Tiu, the God of War. The Angles and Saxons, like the Greeks and Romans, worshiped many gods, and though these gods were in a great number of ways similar to those of the Greeks and Romans, we also find very great differences. These differences are due to the fact that the Angles and Saxons lived in a very different kind of country, led a very different kind of life, and consequently had different ideas. Their chief enemies were frost and cold, and they imagined the freezing winds to be caused by frost-giants who lived in a land of ice and waged continual warfare with the gods who befriended man and protected him as far as they could against the frost-giants and all the suffering which they caused. The chief of these gods was Woden or Odin, the All-father, of whom we read in the following chapter, and next to him in importance came Thor, the God of Thunder, the bitterest enemy of the giants. The god after whom Tuesday is named was known as Tiu among the Angles and Saxons, and as Tyr among the Norsemen. He was the God of War, and corresponds to Mars among the Romans, whose name for this day was Dies Martis, the day of Mars. The French have kept the Roman name in the form mardi.


Tiu was a great fighter and knew no fear, and was naturally always called upon in time of battle. He was usually represented as having no right hand, owing to a misfortune which befell him in the following way. From his lofty throne Odin, the chief of the gods, one day saw in the land of the giants three terrible monsters, which grew so rapidly that he was filled with fear lest they should invade the home of the gods. Accordingly he determined to get rid of them before they became any stronger. One Hel, an enormous giantess, he flung into the Underworld, where, as the Goddess of Death, she ruled over the kingdom of the dead. Another, Iormungandr, a serpent, he cast into the sea, where it grew so huge that it encircled the whole earth. The third was Fenrir, a wolf, whom Odin brought to Asgard, the home of the gods, hoping that he might eventually tame him. Fenrir, however, grew stronger and fiercer each day, until the gods, of whom Tiu alone was brave enough to go near him, decided at last to bind him in such a way that he could do no harm. A very strong chain was obtained, and the gods suggested to Fenrir, who often boasted of his great strength, that he should allow himself to be bound with it in order to prove whether he was really as strong as he claimed to be. Fenrir agreed, and then by merely stretching himself easily brohe his bonds. Again the gods put him to the test with a still stronger chain, but as before he succeeded in breaking it. Seeing that no ordinary chain would be strong enough to bind Fenrir, the gods sent one of their servants to the home of the dwarfs, a race of little people who lived underground, and who were very clever workers in metal. They also possessed great powers of magic, as we shall see in a later story. At the bidding of the gods, the dwarfs made a silken rope out of the voice of fishes, a woman’s beard, the roots of a mountain, and the footsteps of a cat, which was so strong that no power could break it! A third time the gods challenged Fenrir to show his strength by allowing himself to be bound with this new cord, but Fenrir became suspicious, and at last consented only on condition that one of the gods should put his hand in his mouth, and hold it there as a pledge that the gods were not deceiving him. This condition greatly alarmed the gods, who began to fear that their trick was not going to succeed, but the bold war-god Tiu stepped forward and, without any hesitation, placed his right hand in the wolf’s mouth. The gods at once bound Fenrir with the magic cord made by the dwarfs, and, in spite of all his struggles, the wolf was unable to free himself. Great was the delight of the gods at their success, a delight shared by all but Tiu, who had little cause to be pleased with the result of the trick, for Fenrir, finding he was trapped, immediately bit off the hand of the god. Thus Tiu was deprived of his sword hand, but so clever was he that he wielded his sword equally well with his left hand, and still remained invincible in battle.


On one occasion Tiu and Thor, the God of Thunder, set out for the land of the giants to obtain an enormous kettle, which the gods required for a feast. They came at last to the home of a giant, Hymir, who possessed a kettle a mile deep and a mile wide, and were hospitably received by the giant’s wife. When she learned the errand on which they had come, she warned them that her husband was very fierce and hot-tempered, and advised them to hide themselves when Hymir returned, lest he should kill them with a glance. No sooner had the gods taken refuge behind some kettles, which were kept on a beam at the end of the hall, than Hymir came in. When he heard that visitors had called, he flashed his eyes round the hall so fiercely that, as his glance lighted on the gods’ hiding-place, the beam split in two, the kettles came crashing to the ground, and Tiu and Thor were discovered. Hymir, however, was persuaded by his wife to receive the gods kindly; he prepared a meal of three oxen in their honour, but was astonished and dismayed to see Thor eat two of them himself. The next day the gods gave the giant many proofs of their great strength and skill, and Hymir consented to give them the kettle they were seeking. Tiu at once tried to lift it but failed; then Thor, after a mighty struggle, raised it from the ground, and, as he gave the final pull, his feet broke through the floor of the giant’s house. As soon as the gods had departed, Thor carrying the kettle on his head, Hymir called his brothers together, and pursued after them. Thor, however, attacked them with his famous hammer, and killed them one by one. Tiu and Thor then continued their journey, and brought the huge kettle safely to their own land.


There are few stories told of Tiu, yet he held a high place among the gods, as the name Tuesday shows. He is most famous for his share in the binding of Fenrir, whereby was put off the dreaded Ragnarok, the day of the final battle between the gods and the giants.


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