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Fenrir

Fenrir

In Norse Mythology Fenrir, also known as 'Fenrisúlfr' in Old Norse, which translates to 'Fenris Wolf' in modern English, was a giant direwolf who was one of the sons of Loki and the Jotun giantess Angrbodr. His siblings include the world serpent, Jormungandr, and Hel, the goddess of the underworld. 

fenrir and jormungandr

Loki's Children - Emil Doepler, 1905

The binding of Fenrir

Knowing that the prophecy predicted Fenrir's role in the battle of Ragnarok the Gods of the Aesir decided to keep close in order to try to control him. They therefore thought it best to raise the giant wolf themselves, but were astonished with the rate at which he grew. Eventually the Gods feared that he would become too large for them to control and devised a plan to trick the wolf into cooperating with them. 

They commissioned the drawves to create a chain which was stronger than any other and capable of subduing the beast, whilst being extremely light and soft to touch. In order too make things easier for themselves the Gods decided to challenge Fenrir to a test of strength to see if he could break free from the chain. He was suspicious of their intentions at first and agreed to their test only if one of the Gods would agree to put their hand into his mouth. 

the binding of fenrir

The binding of Fenrir - D. Hardy, 1909

The only one brave enough to take the risk was Tyr, who agreed to put his hand into the wolfs mouth whilst the other gods bound him with the magical chain. Once Fenrir had been bound he tried to break free from the chain, and suddenly realised that he had been tricked. Unsurprisingly he then bit down on the hand of Tyr and ripped it from his arm. The Gods finally managed to jam the wolfs jaws open with a sword and left him tied to a giant boulder, where we would remain until the prophecy of Ragnarok was eventually fulfilled. 

Ragnarok

The reason for the Gods fear of Fenrir was not just confined to his formidable physical attributes, he was also prophesied to wreak havoc on the nine realms during the events of Ragnarok. 

The prophecy stated that it would begin with Yggdrasil crumbling and causing earthquakes throughout the worlds. This would break the chains which were used to bind Fenrir and allow him to break free. He would then run across the world devouring everything he came across with his lower jaw on the ground and his upper jaw in the sky. 

Fenrir

Fenrir and Odin at Ragnarok - D. Hardy, 1909

Eventually the forces of chaos would descend upon Asgard from Muspelheim, lead by their king, Surt and his giant flaming sword. The Aesir would know that they were destined to lose, but deicde to meet them in battle none the less. During this battle Fenrir would be the one to kill Odin, swallowing him and his loyal Einherjar warriors. 

One of Odin's sons, Vidar, would charge at the wolf, enraged at the death of his father and hungry for vengeance. After some hard fighting he would manage to slay Fenrir by driving his sword through the giant wolfs throat.

Wolves in Norse Mythology

There are a number of other wolves which were also mentioned in Norse Mythology, Many modern historians are of the opinion that these might be references to Fenrir by a different name, as was often the case in the sagas. 

In the story of Ragnarok a wolf named 'Skoll' who is said to have been chasing the sun finally catches and devours it, likewise another wolf named 'Hati' devours the moon. These two are very likely descriptions of Fenrir going by different names. There has also been speculation that these two were the children of Fenrir, however there is little evidence to corroborate this hypothesis. 

It should also be noted that not all depictions of wolves in Norse Mythology were in a bad light. Odin himself was often pictured with two wolves, named 'Geri' and 'Freki' who were said to be his loyal pets.

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