We find two seemingly conflicting statements in
the lore regarding the parentage of Týr, the one-handed god. In the
Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson informs us that Tyr is the son of Odin,
while in the Eddic poem Hymiskviða, we are told that Tyr is the son
of the giant Hymir.
In Skáldskaparmál 16, Snorri says of Týr:
Hvernig skal kenna Tý? Svá, at kalla hann einhenda ás ok úlfs
fóstra, víga guð, son Óðins.
"How should one paraphrase Tyr? By calling him
the One-handed God, and Fosterer of the Wolf, God of Battles, Son of
In the Eddic poem Hymiskviða, where Thor and
another god travel to the land of giants in search of a cauldron
large enough to brew ale for all the gods, the word týr appears
twice: once in verse 4 and once in verse 33, where it is most often
taken as the name of the god Tyr. When Aegir refuses to hold a feast
for the gods, claiming he doesn’t have a kettle large enough, the
gods look for one. Hymiskviða verse 4 says:
4. Né þat máttu
of geta hvergi,
unz af tryggðum
“The glorious gods and the mighty rulers
were unable to find such a cauldron anywhere, until Týr, ever
the faithful friend, offered valuable advice to Hlorriði in
In the next verse, this “Tyr” identifies the giant
Hymir as his father:
5. "Býr fyr austan
at himins enda.
Á minn faðir
|"Hymir, the cunning giant,
dwells to the east of Élivágar, at heaven's end. He, my fierce
father, owns a kettle, a capacious cauldron, which is a league
This is the origin of the information that the
god Týr has a giant as his father. It is not mentioned anywhere
else. Again in verse 33, Thor’s companion is designated as “týr”, a
word which can mean the god Týr, as it does in the poem Lokasenna,
or it may simply be a word interpreted as “god”. Since the text of
the poem doesn’t capitalize proper names, both interpretations are
valid, and as we shall see, both find scholarly support.
Having met Hymir’s conditions, the two gods
attempt to flee with the kettle. Hymiskviða 33 reads:
33. Þat er til kostar
ef koma mættið
út úr óru
stóð at hváru
hverr kyrr fyrir.
|“But now we shall
see if you're up to moving the ale-boat out of our temple." Týr
tried twice to lift the cauldron, and both times failed to move
it an inch.”
In an effort to ‘harmonize’ these
seemingly incongruous statements, Viktor Rydberg proposed that Tyr was
the biological son of Odin (as Snorri says), and a foster-son of Hymir
(in Hymiskviða), having been raised in the giant’s home as part of a
peace pact between the Æsir and the giants. Rydberg is relying on a
common Germanic custom here. Such arrangements were common in Old Norse
society. In the endnotes to his translation of the Völsungasaga (1990),
Jesse L. Byock explains:
“Fosterage was a Norse custom of having a child
raised in another household in order to extend kinship bonds or to form
In his synopsis of the mythic epic, found in the
second volume of his Undersökningar i Germanisk Mytologi
(1889), Viktor Rydberg, speaking of the earliest mythic ages,
“9. The Peace Covenant. All creatures formed a
covenant, and to seal it gave one another hostages. …The giant children
Gullveig and Loki were admitted into Asgard. The goddesses favored
Gullveig; Odin and Loki entered into sworn brotherhood. Odin sent his
son Tyr to be fostered by the giant Hymir, and his son Thor, he sent to
the giant Vingnir and his wife Hlora."
Although he never fully explains his reasons for
doing so, Rydberg clearly bases this theory regarding Tyr’s parentage,
in part, on this passage in the Prologue to Gylfaginning:
“A king in Troy was named Munon or Mennon, his wife
was a daughter of the head-king Priam and was named Troan; they had a
son who was named Tror, him we call Thor. He was fostered in Thrace by
the duke, who is called Loricus. But when he was ten winters old he took
his father's weapons. So fair of face was he, when he stood by other
men, as when ivory is set in oak; his hair was fairer than gold. When he
was twelve winters old he had full strength; then he lifted from the
ground ten bear skins all at once, and then he slew Loricus, the duke,
his foster-father and his wife, Lora or Glora, and took possession of
Thrace; this we call Thrudheim. Then he visited many lands and knew the
countries of the world, and conquered singlehanded all the berserks and
all the giants, and one very big dragon and many beasts. In the north
region he found that prophetess who was named Sibyl, whom we call Sif,
and married her.”
As Rydberg, elsewhere in his work, explains:
“The Germanic myth
about Thor’s childhood has only been preserved in a distorted
historicized form; but one finds that, in its essential features, it
largely resembles the Vedic form.
prologue to the Prose Edda relates, in its well-known manner, that Thor
was fostered in Thrace by a Duke named Loricus. At ten, he inherited his
father’s weapons. When he was twelve winters old, he had reached his
full strength; then he lifted ten bear pelts off the ground at one time,
killed Loricus and Loricus’ wife, Lóra or Gloria, and thus he acquired
Thrace. Thereafter, he traveled far and explored all parts of the world
and alone conquered all berserkers and all giants, as well as one of the
greatest dragons and many wild animals—
“The Duke’s name, Loricus, is
freely formed from his wife’s name, Lóra. His actual name is reported in
Skáldskaparmál 4, which says that Thor was raised by Vingnir and Hlóra.
He is known as fóstri Vingnis ok Hlóru (Skáldskaparmál 11).
One learns what type of being this Vingnir is from Thjóðólf’s song about
Thor’s battle with Hrungnir, in which Vingnir is used as a giant’s name.
In the list of giants (added to Skáldskaparmál), he is likewise
In Vafþrúðnismál 53, where the old giant predicts that Vidar, after his
father’s death, shall split the jaws of Fenrir, the name Vingnir stands
in the place of the word “wolf” (vitnir) in Codex Regius.
And in the same poem, verse 51, it is said that Thor’s sons shall
possess Vingnir’s hammer after the battle of Ragnarök—doubtlessly
referred to as such, because Thor received his first hammer either from
Vingnir or in a battle with him.
Consequently, there can be no doubt that Thor’s so-called foster father
Vingnir was a giant.”
So based on the limited available evidence and a
common Old Norse custom, Rydberg has come up with a reasonable
explanation which incorporates both pieces of evidence.
Scholars have long speculated on
the identity of Týr’s father. The choices are Odin and Hymir. While
Rydberg concluded that Odin, was Týr’s biological father, and Hymir was
Tyr’s foster-father, there is another viable scholarly theory, which
supports Odin as Tyr’s father, by denying the god Týr any role in the
This theory interprets the word
týr found in the poem Hymiskivða, not as a name, but simply as
a common noun meaning “god”. Thus, instead of the one-handed god Tyr,
this interpretation allows us to substitute any god (‘týr’) into the
role. Typically, that “god” is Loki, Thor’s most frequent companion when
he journeys to Jötunheim.
This is viable, because the name
Týr is also the common word for “god” (týr) found in the plural
formation tivar, and occurs as part of names for Odin such as Hanga-týr,
the ‘Hanged god”, and Farma-týr, “the god of Cargos”.
The Icelandic-English Dictionary
by Cleasby/Vigfusson (1874) defines the words týr and the plural form
tívi in this manner:
TÝR, m., gen. Týs, acc. dat. Tý; the form tívar,
see tívi, may even be regarded as an irreg. plur. to tý-r; cp. Twisco,
qs. Tivisco, in Tacit. Germ.; [for the identity of this word with Sansk.
dyaus, dîvas = heaven, Gr. GREEK, Lat. divus, O.H.G. Ziw, see Max
Müller's Lectures on Science of Language, 2nd Series, p. 425] :-- prop.
the generic name of the highest divinity, which remains in compds, as
Farma-týr, hanga-týr: as also in Týs-áttungr, the offspring of gods (Gr.
GREEK), Ýt.: tý-framr, adj., Haustl. 1: tý-hraustr, valiant as a god:
tý-spakr, godly-wise, Edda 16. II. the name of the god Týr, the
one-armed god of war; see Edda passim. Týs-dagr, m. Tuesday, (Germ.
Dienstag), Fms. ix. 42, N.G.L. i. 10, 343, 348, Hkr. iii. 416; spelt
Týrs-dagr (Dan. Tirsdag), Fms. vii. 295, ix. 42, Rb. 572.
[Cleasby/Vigfusson clearly show
their support for the Jakob Grimm’s theory that Týr is the Germanic
cognate of the Indo-European Sky-father, *Dyuas Pater, with their
statement “properly the generic name of the highest divinity.”]
TÍVI, a, m., also spelt with f; mostly only used in
pl. tívar; a dat. sing. tíva occurs in Haustl. 8; fróðgum tíva (thus
Ób., the Kb. has tífi, a less correct form): a gen. sing. tíva, Vsp., in
valtíva; [this old word is identical in root with Lat. divus; Sansk.
devas; Gr. GREEK (GREEK); cp. also Týr] :-- a god, divinity; þriggja
tíva, Haustl. 1; tormiðladr tívum, 3; tíva rök, Vþm. 42; Álfheim Frey
gáfu tívar at tannfé, Gm. 5; ríkir tívar, Þkv. 14; mærir tífar, Hým. 4;
sig-tívar (q.v.), gods of victory, Ls. 1, 2, Vsp., Gm., Fm., Akv. 29
(Bugge); val-tívar, the gods of the slain, Vsp. 50 (Bugge); sæki-tívar,
the martial gods, Landn. (in a verse); kykvir tívar, living beings,
applied to men, Ó.H. (in a verse of the Christian time), all the other
references being heathen.
In his translation of the Elder Edda (2011), Andy
Orchard argues that the word “týr" which occurs in Hymiskviða doesn’t
refer to the one-handed god at all, but actually refers to Loki. He
“Other translations and interpretations have
assumed that in Hymiskviða, Thor is accompanied by Týr, and that Hymir
is Tyr’s father, although there is no evidence for either
identification. The word týr does indeed occur in stanza 4, but
while it may signify the god’s name (as it clearly does in e.g.
Lokasenna 38, 40), it can also mean simply ‘god; and given the allusive
nature of the language of Hymiskvida as a whole, one might find the
later more likely. This god in offering ‘welcome advice’ tells us
that he has the ‘hugely wise’ and ‘fierce’ giant Hymir for a father (5),
and when Thor asks if Hymir’s cauldron can be obtained, answers
laconically: ‘If friend, we two do it with cunning’ (6). He accompanies
Thor on the journey, where they leave the goats that pull Thor’s chariot
with Egil (7), presumably the ‘lava-dweller’ (giant) who has to give up
two of his children as recompense for damaging one of Thor’s goats (37,
38). Butt he god who is described elsewhere as cunning, offering advice,
having a giant for a father, accompanying Thor on expeditions to the
Giants’ Domain, and being present when Egil was forced to offer Thor his
children is Loki. And the laming of Thor’s goat is explicitly attributed
to him in 37 (‘vice-wise Loki caused it.’); Loki is ‘vice-wise’ (læviss)
in Lokasenna 54. The argument in Lokasenna that he deliberately
provokes the gods at the feast in order to bring Ragnarök closer
gains a particular poignancy if he is also responsible for bringing in
However, despite this theory, other scholars
disagree, among them Eysteinn Björnsson who argues:
“Týr is described here as Þórr's trusted friend and
advisor. His role (and paternity) in this poem is unique, and would fit
Loki better, as has been frequently suggested. However, there is no
escaping the fact that the poet clearly meant Týr to be Þórr's companion
on this quest - he is mentioned again by name in stanza 33. [An
ill-informed idea, almost too ludicrous to mention, crops up in the
literature every now and then: i.e. that týr in this poem simply means
"god", and thus "Loki"! Apart from the fact that Loki would hardly be
named thus, there is no evidence for such a usage of the word "týr" in
the singular, neither in prose nor poetry. The mere idea is absurd,
anyway: a whole Eddaic poem about a quest of Þórr's and Loki's which
fails to mention Loki by name until the antepenultimate stanza, and
consistently calls him "týr"!]”
Scholars have and will continue to speculate on the
matter of Týr’s parentage. The matter cannot be conclusively settled
based on the limited and seemingly contradictory information available
to us. So, all in all, we are left with two equally valid choices, only
one of which can be correct. Rydberg’s theory, however, does have the
advantage of incorporating both pieces of evidence (the one from
Hymiskviða and the one from Snorri’s Edda) regarding Týr’s parentage,
without dismissing one or the other as an invention of the Hymiskviða
poet or Snorri.
“The ward of Vingnir and Hlóra.” Scholars are undecided on the meaning.
Anthony Faulkes questions whether this is a reference to some myth, then
tentatively suggests that Vingnir should be understood as a name of
Odin, and fóstri understood as “son.” [Snorri Sturluson, Edda:
Skáldskaparmál 2: Glossary and Index of Names, s.v. Vingnir.] Simek
agrees, adding: “The name has not been satisfactorily explained, but
‘the weapon-shaking-god’ would be possible, which would suit Odin as
well as Thor.” [Dictionary of Northern Mythology, p. 363].
Haustlöng 19/2. Scholars do not agree on the meaning here. Egilsson and
North understand Vingnir as a giant-name and read herju heimþingaðar
Vingnis, “the home-caller of Vingnir’s warrior-woman,” i.e. Hrungnir
[Lexicon Poeticum, s.v. Vingnir; The Haustlöng of Þjóðólfr of Hvinir, p.
82]. Faulkes adds that “if herja means ‘attacker’, Vingnir could mean
Þórr here.” [Skáldskaparmál 2: Glossary and Index of Names, p. 519].
In the Þulur, Vingnir is listed among the names for giants, for Odin,
and for bulls.
See Sophus Bugge’s Sæmundar Edda hins fróda, p. 73. According to this
reading, the verse can be understood as: "The wolf will swallow Aldaföðr
(Odin), Vidar will avenge him: he will cleave (the wolf's) cold jaws at
Vingnir's (Odin's) death" or, with Rydberg, “he will cleave the cold
jaws of Vingnir (i.e. the giant, but literally ‘Fenrir’) at death.”
Most scholars who follow this reading interpret Vingnir as Thor. It is
considered a Thor-name based on this passage and the inclusion of the
name in the list of Thor’s descendants in the Prologue to Gylfaginning.
The passage may also be read: "Móði and Magni will have Mjöllnir, at the
end of Vingnir's battle [Vignis vígþroti], i.e. when Thor is dead.
Among scholars today, Vingnir is understood as a giant name, an
Odin-name, or a Thor-name, depending on the context.