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August 20, 2019 2 min read

In Norse writings in the Edda, Fenrir is the nemesis of Odin and foretold to kill the wise leader of the Æsir. What is Fenrir, what does his name mean and why did he attack the only god he trusted?

Fenrir is Old Norse for “fen-dweller” and Fenrir was a fearsome wolf. In the Poetic and Prose Edda, Fenrir is a son of Loki by Angrboða from the land of Jötunheimr. His sister is Hel and his other sibling is the serpent Jörmungandr. The Æsir discovered Loki’s children were being brought up in the land of Jötunheimr. Prophecies predicted mischief and disaster would arise for the Æsir because of the nature of the children’s mother and father. Odin, thus, sent the gods of the Æsir to gather the children and bring them to him. Odin threw Jörmungandr into the great sea of Midgard (Earth), then threw Hel into Niflheim, but did give her authority over the dead from the nine realms. However, the Æsir brought up Fenrir in Asgard, although they feared him. Only the bravest of the Æsir, Týr, had the courage to approach Fenrir, and give Fenrir food. Up to this point, though, it must be noted that no record of anything bad existed about any of these children.

As Fenrir grew immensely, the Æsir formed a plan to fetter him. They a strong fetter, Leyding, to Fenrir, suggesting that he try his strength with it. At Fenrir's first kick the bind snapped. They brought Dromi, the second fetter, twice as strong. When Fenrir tried this fetter, he shook himself, knocking the fetter to the ground, kicked it with his feet, snapping it into many pieces. Fearful that they could not bind Fenrir, Odin sent messengers to the dwarves of Svartalfheim, who made a silken fetter called Gleipnir. The Æsir brought Fenrir to the island Lyngvi, a place overgrown with heather. They gods showed Fenrir Gleipnir, demonstrating its strength by passing it among themselves, showing that none were able to tear it but Fenrir. Suspecting a trap, asked that one of the Æsir put his hand in his mouth as a pledge to show that this was being done in good faith. All refused, except Tyr, who put out his right hand and placed it into the Fenrir's jaws. When Fenrir kicked, Gleipnir caught tightly. All laughed, except Týr, who lost his right hand. The Æsir hung a cord from Gleipnir, inserting it into the cord through a large stone slab and fastened it deep into the ground. Fenrir tried to bite the gods, who thrust a sword into his mouth, causing Fenrir to howl, saliva running from his mouth creating the river Ván, meaning hope. Here, Fenrir will be bound until Ragnarök, when he takes revenge on the Æsir by killing their king, Odin.

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