The Fenris Wolf and Procrastination

More so than that of Greece or Rome (or even that of Middle East), the mythology of Scandinavia has stuck with me over the years. As a kid, reading about Ragnarok and the deaths of Odin and Thor at the hands of the Fenris Wolf (Fenrir) and the World Serpent, respectively, was one of my first encounters with the “bad guys” winning, even if the monstrous children of Loki all ended up dying, too.

It unnerved me that the gods didn’t just kill Fenrir on the spot when they were binding him with Gleipnir, the magical fetters that seemed flimsy but secretly stretched and stretched when resisted. Yielding to the wolf’s reluctance, they decided to let Tyr (you may know him as the namesake of Tuesday; all the days of the week are named for Norse gods, except Saturday) put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth as a token of good faith, i.e., that they wouldn’t just tie up Fenrir and leave him completely helpless. He promptly bit off Tyr’s hand after struggling against Gleipnir.

This episode seems like the be-all and end-all of procrastination. Overcome by their respect for the holy grounds upon which Fenrir was enslaved, the Aesir don’t deal with him – they don’t want to desecrate the nearby sanctuary with the wolf’s blood – but instead just restrain him, at least until one day when he breaks free and kills Odin as the current world ends around them – what stakes could possibly be higher?

“Well I didn’t do this assignment, which’ll probably lead to my certain death tomorrow and turmoil for everyone I love, too, at that … ”

Though the case of Fenrir and the Aesir initially horrified me, it now gives me strange confidence. I know that no matter what I put off till tomorrow (“procrastinate” is neat in that it literally means “to place before tomorrow,” in that nicely spacial way that Greek has), it won’t be nearly as bad as what Tyr, Odin et al did with Fenrir. I’ll live if a call is made or a book finished on time. I won’t lose my hand or cause a fictional deity to be eaten alive by a giant-wolf.

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