Fenrir, known by the pronunciation “FEN-rir,” Old Norse Fenrir, which means “He Who Dwells in the Marshes,” is the most infamous wolf of the many wolves in Norse mythology.
Fenrir, the monstrous wolf, was a son among the three terrible children of Loki, the demoniac god and giantess, Angrboda. The other two children were Jormungand, a giant serpent, and Hel, the goddess of the dead. These two children were thrown out of Asgard, the home of the gods, by Odin. But Odin felt that the gods could look after Fenrir. With time, Fenrir grew very large, and Tyr-the son of Odin – was the only person who was brave enough to approach and feed him. Later the gods decided to chain Fenrir, who had grown into a beast.
The Prophecy Surrounding Fenrir’s Birth
Fenrir and his siblings Jörmungandr the serpent, and the goddess Hel were prophesized to end the world, Ragnarok. Jörmungandr had the role of starting Ragnarok and battling Thor. In contrast, Fenrir’s part was to kill the All-father god, famously known as Odin, during Ragnarok. The act of killing Odin was not to happen because Fenrir was evil. Still, according to Norse mythology, the killing was self-fulfilling. The gods themselves knew the myth of Ragnarok, so they knew the role of Fenrir before he was born. So, when he was born, the gods took steps to prevent Ragnarok by raising Fenrir.
The Binding of Fenrir
The initial binding was known as Leyding, where the gods attempted to trick Fenrir by asking him to break the binding if it was strong enough. With a single kick, Fenrir destroyed Leyding.
The gods came up with the second binding called Dromi and promised him great fortune and fame if he could break loose. Dromi took a little more strength to break, but in the end, Fenrir destroyed it.
The gods were scared, so they asked some dwarves to help make the most powerful fettering possible. They made what was known as Gleipnir, which was made from:
- The sound of a walking cat
- The spit of a bird
- The beard of a woman
- The sinews of a bear
- The roots of a mountain
Fenrir sensed the strength of this fettering, and he knew that the gods had refined their tricks. When he saw a tiny ribbon-like Gleipnir, he knew he could not trust them.
Fenrir told them:
“If you bind me to an extent I can’t release myself, then you should be standing by in a way that shows I shouldn’t wait for a long time before I get help from you. I am uneasy having this band put on me. But instead of questioning my courage, I want someone to put his hand in my mouth as a pledge that you are doing this in good faith.”
Fenrir’s Death At The Hands Of Odin
Tyr, a good friend of Fenrir, agreed to place his hand in the great wolf’s mouth. Fenrir was then bound, but when he tried to struggle against Gleipnir, he realized he could not move. In revenge, he decided to bite off Tyr’s hand. Fenrir was tied to the rock Gjoll, and the gods decided to thrust a sword into his mouth and bind him until Ragnarok (the end of the world of the gods and men).
The Symbolism of Fenrir in Norse Mythology
Norse mythology views Fenrir as a creature who was wrongfully chained to prevent the fulfillment of his destiny. Despite Fenrir’s revenge on Odin being tragic and fearsome, Norse Mythology views it as a just act.
As much as Fenrir was feared and primarily used as the basis for many evil wolf characters in later literature and artistic works, according to Norse Mythology, Fenrir was a symbol of:
- Following one’s true path
For example, according to Norse Mythology, Fenrir represents savagery that cannot be controlled by anything, even the gods. Although Gleipnir subdued Fenrir, he grew large enough to break his bonds and kill Odin. This wolf is widely recognized as a symbol of wild ferocity.
Fenrir also represents the unfolding events that were told before or fate. For instance, the gods tried to prevent Fenrir’s devastation by binding him. Still, eventually, the creature is destined to grow bigger and break free despite the effort to restrain him. To be specific, Fenrir represents the fate of the Norse gods- the gods that must fall during Ragnarok.
Fenrir still stands out as one of the most influential and important characters in Norse Mythology. He is also used in popular culture and even characters in video games today. The wolf symbol is not limited to the Nordic culture (think of the SHE WOLF of Rome), but Fenrir remains the most powerful wolf of all time.