Your Writing & Tyr’s Sacrifice

What are you willing to give up for your writing?

In Norse mythology, there’s this story about Tyr, the god of war. The story actually starts with Loki, a recognizable name due to Marvel’s Thor and Avengers films, but the historic Loki was far more devilish than Tom Hiddleston’s onscreen version.

In the myths, Loki was a distant cousin turned blood-brother of Odin, the head of the Norse pantheon, and in the early days of the world, they would travel and have adventures together. But one day, Loki’s true nature reveals itself and he elopes with a giantess named Angrboda (literally “She Who Bodes Anguish”), leading to the birth of three monster babies: Hel, a half-dead witch who is placed in charge of the underworld; Jormungand, a sea-serpent large enough to encircle the earth; and Fenrir, a wolf that frightens even the most powerful gods of Asgard.

Once Hel and Jormungand are dispatched, the gods of Asgard decide they need to do something about Fenrir, but only Tyr, the god of war, is brave enough to go near the beast. In an effort to contain Fenrir, the gods challenge the wolf to be bound by a series of chains in order to show off his strength. Fenrir easily breaks all chains but the last one, Gleipnir, which was forged with magic by the dwarfs of Svartalfheim with incredibly rare ingredients (the beard of a woman, the sound of a cat’s footsteps, the breath of a fish, and so on).

tyr_and_fenrir-john_bauerBut when Tyr approached Fenrir with Gleipnir, the wolf smelled a ruse. So before he agreed to be bound with the magic chain, Fenrir demanded that one of the gods place a hand in his mouth as a measure of goodwill. If the god in question breaks the wolf’s trust and truly binds him instead of merely testing his strength, then that god loses his hand. And in the time when these myths were told, it was equally dishonorable to be an oath-breaker as it was to be maimed.

For Tyr, the safety of all of Asgard was at stake, so he bravely volunteered, knowing that it would cost him his hand and he would be dishonored in the process. Thus it was that the Norse god of war lost his sword hand, but Asgard was kept safe until the final battle of Ragnarok.

As writers, we are gods of war against the blank page, fighting with our words to bind our story into a safe and marketable form. But if we want to make use of our magical chains, we need to be willing to make some sacrifices. Tyr risked shame and the loss of his hand to bind Fenrir. What are you going to give up in order to get your story into shape?

Unfortunately, sacrifices are never easy. We often have to give up good things in the pursuit of something better. Just like Tyr was the only Norse god who could handle Fenrir, you are the only one who can write your book. So stick your hand in the mouth of the beast and don’t look back until you’ve chained yourself a completed manuscript!
Bio: Josh Mosey is an avid fan of Norse mythology and a member of the Weaklings writer’s group which organizes the Jot writers conference. Come see Josh’s presentation “Write Like a Viking: Fiction Writing Tips from the Norse Gods” at the Breathe Conference on Saturday afternoon.

Book Review | Edda by Adam Auerbach

Have you ever had an idea for something, and then you go to the store and find that thing on the shelf, even though you’ve never seen that thing available before? I had a very similar experience recently at my local library.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing books for kids featuring the legendary characters of Norse mythology for a little while now. I just love the tales. As they inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create Middle Earth, and C.S. Lewis to dig into his spirituality, they inspire me with their depth and insight into the human condition (even though they focus primarily on gods and goddesses).

9780805097030And then Adam Auerbach beat me to it. And worse, he did it in a really cute and fun way.

Edda tells the tale of a young Valkyrie from Asgard and her decision to attend school on Earth. But things couldn’t be more different between the life that she is used to among the gods and the rules that she has to follow in the classroom. Using the imagery of Norse legend, Auerbach expertly captures the struggle of all children to adapt to the differences between home life and school life.

This is a perfect book for parents of children who are about to enter school. It is also the perfect book for people who appreciate Norse mythology. Edda is slightly less than the perfect book for people who cannot yet read, but it is still really good because the illustrations are quite endearing.

So instead of pouting about the fact that Auerbach wrote a great book using my beloved characters, I’m going to be encouraged and say that there’s a market for the type of books that I want to write.

Now I just need to learn how to illustrate.

Knockoffs are older than you think

1280px-Ufberht_gerade

About 1000 years before there was Fauxlex (Fake Rolex), there was the Ulfberht+.

The what?

Back in the age of viking world domination, wars were fought by hand, and a good sword was often the difference between life and death. But swords from 1000 years ago where pretty poor quality things. Blacksmiths would do their best, but almost no one could get their fires hot enough to blast out the impurities in steel. And impure steel made for impure swords.

But there was one sword that broke all the rules. The Ulfberht.

A Frankish name that might translate to something like “Wolf-Light”, no one really knows where the Ulfberht swords came from, nor why the secret to their creation was lost for almost 800 years. Somehow, someone stumbled across the secret for crucible steel. Basically, instead of putting your iron into an oven and letting it heat up, you build an oven around the iron and superheat the poop out of it. The result was an incredible pure steel that was both strong and flexible.

The swords made from this steel would have been legendary. And from legends, come knockoffs.

There have been 44 swords discovered to have the word “Ulfberht” inscribed along the blade. But of those 44, only 11 are made from crucible steel. The rest are made from the inferior steel that was common to that time.

Aside from the metallurgical differences between the two, there was a difference in spelling as well. Though the name and the origin of the inscription are a mystery, the 11 good swords spell Ulfberht as “VLFBERH+T”. The rest spell it as “VLFBERHT+”.

Can you imagine how angry you would be if you spent good money on an Ulfberht sword that turned out to be a knockoff? At least your anger would be short-lived, since you would also likely be short-lived.

If you are interested in seeing how the Ulfberht sword is made, check out the awesome video below.

The Commercialization of Christmas Gets a Bad Wrap. | My Christmas List

ChristbaumkugelChristmastime is here. Happiness and cheer.

Christmas movies are playing wherever you look, and the general gist of these yuletide blockbusters is that the only thing that matters for Christmas is family time and love. Of course, many millions of dollars are spent to produce these blockbusters and the theaters are hoping that your version of family time is to spend time in their seats watching movies. And for the movies shown on television, advertisers are spending a lot of money to convince you to buy expensive and largely unnecessary gifts.

It is as though we are willingly suspending our disbelief in debt to get through the holidays. We convince ourselves that things aren’t as important as family and love, and then we express our love for family by buying things for them.

I could go on to tell you about how bad this all is, about how Christmas has become nothing more than a season for retailers to trick you into keeping them afloat. I could tell you that, but it probably isn’t needed. I’m sure that there is a good Christmas movie that could say it a lot better than I could anyway.

And besides, I work at one of those retailers for whom Christmas is an important season financially. Of course, my place of business sells wholesome things like Christian books, Bibles, and family board games, so I don’t have to feel too bad for working there or trying to sell things during the holidays.

So here’s my thought. Let’s set aside the platitudes of Christmas, recognize the advertising for what it is, and go for a happy medium where we know that things are not the goal of Christmas, but we have peace about buying them anyway. Let’s allow ourselves that peace. In the frantic rushing about from home to home in the grand search for perfect family time, we could do without buyer’s guilt.

The next time you hear about a family who doesn’t buy gifts for loved ones because they are too pious, or the next time some misguided soul tries to talk you into a homemade Christmas, just smile and say, “No thank you. I’ll be buying gifts for my family and friends this year, and I am not going to feel at all bad about it.”

Just, don’t go overboard or anything. I don’t think deeper debt will achieve the kind of peace that we are talking about here.

All of that to say this: Here are the things that I want for Christmas this year.

Books

CDs

Lego Sets (Any of these would be fine)

Gift Cards

Clothes

  • Humorous T-shirts (Size L usually)

Other

That’s a pretty good list. I may add to it if I see something else that looks good. Mostly, this list is for people like close family members, but if you want to buy something for me, that’s cool too. Maybe you could have it delivered to my work and I’ll get it there (that way I don’t reveal my actual address on the interweb). Ship any gifts to Josh Mosey c/o Baker Book House, 2768 E Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Unless it is a mean or deadly gift. Don’t bother to mail those to me.

Merry Christmas!

I am about to turn 30. | My Birthday List

I’m turning 30 in just over a month.

In my head, I stopped aging at 23. Maybe that’s because I was married just days after 23. Maybe marriage was the mark of being a grown-up, so I just don’t feel substantially different with each passing birthday.

Sure, I have kids now, but I don’t really feel older than when I got married. The fact that I have kids just means that I am a virile 23-year-old.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ll be 30 next month.

Medically speaking, this is a mixed bag. According to a CNN report, people have the greatest cognitive abilities between 30 and 40. But also, our major organs start to break down at 30.

Anyway, aging is better than the alternative. Plus, there are usually presents.

So for those of you who would like to give me something, here’s my list:

Books

CDs

Lego Sets (Any of these would be fine)

Gift Cards

Clothes

  • Humorous T-shirts (Size L usually)

Other

That’s a pretty good list. I may add to it if I see something else that looks good. Mostly, this list is for people like close family members, but if you want to buy something for me, that’s cool too. Maybe you could have it delivered to my work and I’ll get it there (that way I don’t reveal my actual address on the interweb). Ship any gifts to Josh Mosey c/o Baker Book House, 2768 E Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Unless it is a mean or deadly gift. Don’t bother to mail those to me.

Hey, only five more years until I can run for President, right?