Sunday, March 11, 2007

Courage in Norse and Roman Myths

ADF defines courage as “Acting appropriately when faced with danger.” This is more than just being brave. Courage also includes acting rationally. In Norse and Roman mythology, two similar myths show that both cultures defined courage as ADF does.

Tyr, Norse God of the Thing and Justice, lost his right hand to Fenris, the Great Wolf. An offspring of Loki, Fenris was known as the devourer. To prevent the destruction of Asgard, the Gods had to leash him. However, Fenris only trusted Tyr, and asked the God to prove that nothing awful would happen. So the God put his right hand into the wolf’s mouth. When Fenris was leashed, he bit off Tyr’s hand. Afterwards, Tyr became known as the One-Handed God for his sacrifice to the greater good.

During the Roman-Etruscan War, Lars Porsena, the Etruscan king, laid siege to Rome. An ordinary citizen, Gauis Mucius, went to the Roman Senate, and volunteered to end the siege by killing the king. Unfortunately the Etruscan king caught Mucius. To demonstrate Roman fortitude, Mucius put his hand in the fire. Lars Porsena, not only admired his courage, but was also unnerved by his actions. The king let Gauis Mucius return to Rome. Afterwards, Lars Porsena decamped, ending the siege.

In these myths, courage is tempered with reason. By volunteering for a greater good, both Tyr and Mucius both lost their right hands. Afterwards, they both had to learn to live life one-handed. They displayed quiet courage, going about their business not completely whole but coping nevertheless.

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