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Fenrir

Fenrir

Fenrir, a monstrous wolf, was one of three terrible children of the Norse* trickster god Loki and the giantess Angrboda. Their other childrenJormungand, a giant serpent, and Hel, the goddess of the deadwere thrown out of Asgard, the home of the gods, by Odin* . But Odin felt that the gods should look after Fenrir.

In time, Fenrir grew incredibly large, and only Odin's son Tyr was brave enough to approach and feed him. The gods finally decided to chain the beast, but Fenrir broke the two huge chains they made to restrain him. Asked by the gods to create something that would hold Fenrir, the dwarfs produced a silky ribbon called Gleipnir. To make it, they used the sound of a cat moving, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the spit of a bird.

The gods took Fenrir to an isolated island and challenged him to prove that he was stronger than Gleipnir. Because the ribbon seemed so weak, Fenrir suspected it was magical. He allowed himself to be bound with it only after Tyr agreed to put his hand in Fenrir's mouth. When Fenrir found that he could not break Gleipnir, he bit off Tyr's hand. The gods put a sword in Fenrir's open mouth to quiet him.

trickster mischievous figure appearing in various forms in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples

chaos great disorder or confusion

According to legend, Fenrir will be released during the chaos just before Ragnarok, the final battle in which the gods of Asgard will be killed. Fenrir will swallow Odin during the battle and then be killed himself.

See also Animals in Mythology; Norse Mythology; Ragnarok; Tyr.

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Fenrir

Fenrir in Norse mythology, the wolf, son of Loki, which will devour Odin at Ragnarök. Fenrir was originally shackled by the gods, in the process of which he bit off the hand of Tyr, but at Ragnarök he will break his bonds to join in the attack on the gods.

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Fenrir

Fenrir

Nationality/Culture

Norse

Pronunciation

FEN-reer

Alternate Names

Fenris, Vanargand

Appears In

The Eddas

Lineage

Son of Loki and Angrboda

Character Overview

Fenrir, a monstrous wolf, was one of three terrible children of the Norse trickster god Loki (pronounced LOH-kee) and the giantess Angrboda (pronounced AHNG-gur-boh-duh). Their other children—Jormungand (pronounced YAWR-moon-gahnd), a giant serpent, and Hel , the goddess of the dead—were thrown out of Asgard (pronounced AHS-gahrd), the home of the gods, by Odin (pronounced OH-din). But Odin felt that the gods should look after Fenrir.

Wolves of Legend

Wolves feature prominently in legends from around the world. Sometimes they are seen as monsters, sometimes as nobility. Since, until recently, wolves were a very real threat to humans in Europe, there are many folktales and children's stories involving wolves, including “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The fear of wolves also sparked a belief in werewolves—creatures that are human at times, but under certain conditions become ferocious wolves—throughout much of Europe, especially during the Middle Ages.

In Roman mythology, however, it is a wolf who makes Roman civilization possible. The twin orphan babies Romulus and Remus were, according to legend, nursed by a she-wolf. Romulus went on to found Rome.

In time, Fenrir grew incredibly large, and only Odin's son Tyr (pronounced TEER) was brave enough to approach and feed him. The gods finally decided to chain the beast, but Fenrir broke the two huge chains they made to restrain him. Asked by the gods to create something that would hold Fenrir, the dwarves produced a silky ribbon called Gleipnir (pronounced GLAYP-nir). To make it, they used the sound of a cat moving, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the spit of a bird.

The gods took Fenrir to an isolated island and challenged him to prove that he was stronger than Gleipnir. Because the ribbon seemed so weak, Fenrir suspected it was magical. He allowed himself to be bound with it only after Tyr agreed to put his hand in Fenrir's mouth. When Fenrir found that he could not break Gleipnir, he bit off Tyr's hand. The gods put a sword in Fenrir's open mouth, with the tip of the blade against the roof, to quiet him. Saliva ran from his howling open mouth, and formed a river called Van Hope.

According to legend, Fenrir will be released just before Ragnarok (pronounced RAHG-nuh-rok), the final battle in which the gods of Asgard will be killed. It is written that Fenrir will swallow Odin during the batde and then be killed by Odin's son.

Fenrir in Context

The Eurasian wolf is the most commonly found wolf in Scandinavia, though it is much rarer in western Europe. They are known for hunting strategically in packs and swallowing large amounts of prey, which they then regurgitate for others after returning to the den. This is similar to Fenrir swallowing the god Odin during Ragnarok. To the Norse, who relied on hunting for much of their food, wolves were respected hunters, feared predators, and fierce competitors for available resources. It makes sense that a giant wolf would be seen as one of the greatest enemies of the gods.

Wolves have long been viewed as a threat throughout Europe and Asia, and have been documented as the cause of many human deaths over the centuries. In areas such as England and Scotland wolves were completely eliminated through bounties and other programs initiated by royal leaders. Some Scandinavian governments still view wolves as a threat to human and livestock safety, even though wolf populations have dwindled and the animals are protected under the laws of the European Union.

Key Themes and Symbols

In Norse mythology , Fenrir represents savagery that ultimately cannot be controlled, even by the gods. Although they subdue Fenrir with Gleipnir, the wolf will eventually grow large enough to break his bonds and kill Odin. The wolf is widely recognized as a symbol of wild ferocity. Fenrir also represents fate, or the unfolding of events that have already been foretold. The gods attempt to prevent Fenrir's devastation by binding him, but the creature is destined to continue growing and eventually break free despite all efforts to keep him bound. Specifically, Fenrir symbolizes the fate of the Norse gods, who are destined to fall during Ragnarok.

Fenrir in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

The image of Fenrir as a giant wolf has inspired northern European artists and writers for centuries. Fenrir has served as inspiration for many similar characters, including Fenris Ulf (also known as Maugrim) from the 1950 C. S. Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The legend of Fenrir inspired the character of Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter series by novelist J. K. Rowling.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

K. A. Applegate's Everworld series, first published in 1999, tells of four high school students who follow a mysterious girl into a realm inhabited by mythological characters and creatures from all the legends of the world. In the first book in the series, The Search for Senna, the mythical giant wolf Fenrir breaks through to our world and kidnaps Senna for his father, Loki. This sends the rest of the group on a quest through strange and dangerous lands to find and rescue her. The Everworld series consists of twelve volumes, and was written by the same author as the popular Animorphs series.

SEE ALSO Animals in Mythology; Norse Mythology; Ragnarok; Tyr

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