The Warrior Writer

In November my life underwent a huge upheaval. I’m still working my way through some of the fallout from the initial incident, although the crisis part seems to be over. The whole situation has made me seriously consider – you’ll laugh – getting a tattoo.

What I’m thinking of is the rune tir (rhymes with “beer”, roughly) on my right shoulder blade, where it will be covered by my clothing. Tir is the warrior rune, named after the god Tir, or Tyr.

When I’ve read runes for people, some – particularly young guys – get very excited about the warrior rune. That’s because they think “warrior” means “berserker”. But the warrior is the one who can stay focused on what must be done, and do it, even if it’s hard, even if it’s frightening. The warrior rune is not about bashing around, but about discipline. The story I always remember about Tir is this one.

Fenris Wolf was one of the monsters of Norse mythology. At the end of the world, he will swallow the sun. The gods decided that he must be bound, but the problem was that Fenris was strong enough to break any chain put on him. The gods consulted a wisewoman who said that Fenris could only be bound by a fetter made from the sound of a cat’s footfall, the hair of a woman’s beard, and other similar things. The gods obtained these things and took them to the dwarves, who made the fetter. It looked like a lady’s hair-ribbon. But the problem remained; how were they to get it onto Fenris?

Tir used to play with Fenris as though he were a dog, and if there was a god Fenris trusted, it was Tir. Fenris agreed to have the fetter put on him as a game, a challenge to see if he could break this, too, but he had one condition: one of the gods must put his hand in Fenris’s mouth.

Tir immediately stepped up and laid his hand in Fenris’ mouth, and the wolf allowed the gods to fetter him. When he couldn’t break the fetter, he bit Tir’s arm off up to the shoulder.

Tir knew, when he put his hand in Fenris’ mouth, that he was going to lose it. He did it anyway, and he did it in a way that made Fenris think Tir wasn’t at all concerned. He must also have known that what he was about to do would break the trust that he and Fenris had. Chaining the wolf who would swallow the sun must have seemed worth the price to him, and he paid it.

In the last few months I’ve had to do some things that were painful and frightening to me, things I didn’t want to do. Through it all I also kept writing, even when I thought I couldn’t possibly write humour, which is a regular part of my work. More than one friend told me that I was a warrior, that I would prevail and achieve the things I’d set out to achieve.

By and large, I have. I invoked that warrior part of myself many times; I still call on it, and I see it as a large part of the way I write. Over the next few posts, I’ll be talking about the way I see the warrior as writer, or writer as warrior.

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