What about power?

I’m not a huge fan of power.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know it’s necessary if you want to have any measure of freedom or control over your life.  And I like freedom as much as the next person, maybe more.  Which means I don’t want someone to have power over me.  But more than that?  Not so much.  I have no desire to have power over them.  I taught grade school for six years.  I know how hard it is to make small children bend to your will–not that they ever do.  Parents know.  Kids are who they are.  You just cross your fingers and do the best you can to raise them.  So for me, power means work.  It means making the right choices, and I have enough trouble doing that for myself.  For others?  Forget about it.  I’d rather teach than rule.

And why am I going on about this?  Because I used the Norse god, Tyr, as the romantic interest in my novel, EMPTY ALTARS.  Tyr intrigued me.  He wasn’t enamored of power either.

Tyr isn’t as well known as Thor and Odin, but he preceeded them.  According to some versions of Norse myths, Tyr is an old god, powerful and wise.  Not the norm.  In most myths, the old gods are turbulent, barbaric.  They’re raw power, who swallow sons and daughters to cling to what they have.  Not Tyr.  He walked away from his role as supreme ruler and gave his power to Odin–without a fight, without a struggle.  Why?  The sky-god didn’t care if he was the top guy or not.  He retained his position as god of war and justice, but he was happy to let Odin deal with the politics of keeping his fellow gods under control.

As god of war, Tyr was more concerned about honor and strategy than bloodshed.  Maybe because he ruled justice, too.  Tyr’s the god who placed his right hand inside of Fenrir, the wolf’s mouth, so that his fellow gods could tether him.  The wolf thought he had a sweet deal.  The gods were using a ribbon to bind him.  Fenrir expected to break free and prove his strength.  Tyr knew differently.  Tyr knew the thin ribbon was created by dwarf magic.  Made from “the footstep of a cat, the roots of a mountain, a woman’s beard, the breath of fishes, the sinews of a bear, and a bird’s spittle,” (encyclopedia Mythica), the ribbon would not break, and Tyr knew Fenrir would gnaw off his hand for revenge.   But he still met Fenrir’s challenge when no other god was brave enough.

Not one other god would challenge Tyr, even though he stepped down.  Not even Thor, who was known for his mercurial temperament.  So… if Tyr was as strong as any god in Norse myths, and wiser than most, what happened?  According to legend, mortals had grown tired of him.  They began to worship Odin and leave offerings on his altars, ignoring Tyr.  If gods are fickle, mortals are too.  Eventually, mortals would favor Thor with his mighty hammer over Odin.  And after time, new gods would take Odin and Thor’s places.   So, what do gods do when forced into early retirement?  In EMPTY ALTARS, I decided to have them still dedicate themselves to mortals, even though mortals no longer dedicate themselves to old gods.  But it made me think.  How important is power?  And who craves it the most?

Power is often associated with ego, but the saying, “Power corrupts,” didn’t apply to Tyr.  He didn’t have much of an ego, but he did have a huge sense of duty.   He thought about others more than he thought about himself.  Not always the case.  I guess power is like anything else.  What do they say?  “A gun doesn’t kill.  The person who pulls the trigger does.”  That could apply to power too.

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