European Demons

Fenrir

 

Odin and Fenris (1909) – Dorothy Hardy

The wolf, Fenrir was the eldest child of Loki and the giantess, Angrboda. He had 2 younger siblings, Hel, and the serpent, Jormungand.

Alarmed that Loki had fathered these children, Odin sent a group of gods to kidnap them. To the gods, Fenrir looked like an ordinary wolf, so they let him roam the fields of Asgard, but they agreed they would watch him. Of all the gods, however, only Odin’s son, Tyr, was brave enough to feed him.

Urd, Skuld, and Verdandi again warned Odin that Fenrir would one day destroy him, and the gods soon began to rethink their decision as Fenrir grew bigger every day. Because they did not want to desanctify Asgard, they agreed they would catch and bind him instead of killing him and spilling his evil blood. They made a chain of iron links called Laeding, and went up to Fenrir to ask him if he was as strong as the chain. He answered that he was stronger, and let the gods bind his neck, body, and legs. Once finished, Fenrir quickly snapped the chain and freed himself.

The gods then made another chain called Dromi, which was twice as strong as Laeding. They told Fenrir that if he could break this chain, he would be known throughout the nine worlds for his great strength. He agreed to once again let them bind him, and again was able to break the chain.

Odin then sought the help of the dwarves to make a stronger chain. He sent Freyr’s messenger, Skirnir, to the world of the dark elves, Svartalfheim, to promise the dwarves gold if they could make a stronger chain. They made a fetter as smooth as a silk ribben called Gleipnir made of 6 things: the sound a cat makes when it moves, a woman’s beard, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and a bird’s spittle.

The gods were both astonished and skeptical of Gleipnir, but agreed to give it a try. They invited Fenrir to go with them to the island of Lyngvi in the center of Lake Amsvartnir, and then showed him Gleipnir. He was sceptical and told them if they had made it with magic, he didn’t want to try to break it. The gods then said that if he couldn’t break it, they would free him again. Fenrir told them that he didn’t want to be fettered, nor did he wish to be accused of cowardice, so he proposed that he would let them bind him if one of them would put their hand inside his mouth as a token of their good will. Tyr agreed and put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth. Gleipnir proved to be the chain to bind Fenrir, and at last, the gods had suceeded in binding Fenrir. Tyr unfortunately lost his hand in the process.

The gods then attached a large chain called Gelgja to the end of Gleipnir and passed it through the huge boulder called Gjoll to secure it. They then drove Gjoll into the ground one mile, found a large rock, Thviti, and dropped that on top of Gjoll to anchor it. One of the gods gagged Fenrir by wedging his sword between the roof of his mouth and his lower jaw.

Fenrir will stay bound until Ragnarok when he will be set free. Then he will engage in battle with Odin and swallow him. After Odin’s death, his son, Vidar, will tear Fenrir apart revenging his father’s death.

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