Fenrir or Fenrisúlfr is the most dangerous wolf in Old Norse mythology. He is one of the children of Loki and giantess Angrboða, brother to Hel and Jörmungandr. Fenrir is so terrifying that even the gods are afraid of him. It is prophesied that Fenrir will kill Odin during the events of Ragnarok. In order to prevent this, Gods have bound Fenrir on the island Lyngvi.
Gods were concerned with the prophecies that three children of Loki would bring great disaster to the world. In addition, due to the nature of Angrboða and Loki, the gods have expected a lot of trouble from the three. To prevent that, Odin sent the gods to find the children and bring them to him. Once the children were gathered, Odin cast Hel into Nilfheim and bestowed on her authority over the underworld. He cast the Jörmungdandr into the ocean that surrounds Midgard, where serpent grew so large there that it encircled the whole Midgard and grasped its own tail. Fenrir they kept in Asgard in order to keep an eye on him.
Fenrir was rapidly growing each day; and among all the gods only Týr, the god associated with heroic glory, was brave enough to approach and feed Fenrir. Even the gods didn't want to spill blood in the sacred place, so slaughter of Fenrir wasn't an option. The different plan was put into action and the gods decided to shackle Fenrir. They forged a strong fetter called Leading and suggested that Fenrir should try his strength with the fetter. Fenrir eyed the Leyding and claimed that it was weak compared to his strength. He allowed the gods to put the fetter on him. At wolf's first kick the fetter shattered.
The gods used all their knowledge of engineering to create a second fetter that was twice as strong. This wone they named Dromi. When they presented the second fetter to Fenrir he said that it was very strong. The gods persuaded him to try it out, saying that he would achieve great fame if he managed to break the Dormi. Fenrir judged that his strength has also increased since he broke the first fetter and that he had to undertake some risks if he was to pursue fame. When the fetter was placed on Fenrir, he shook himself, strained hard and managed to shatter the second fetter.
Dormi was the limit of the craftsmanship of gods, and they knew they wouldn't be able to create a stronger one. Gods were afraid that nothing would be able to bind Fenrir; but Odin sent a messenger to dwarves, the ultimate craftsmen. They were instructed to create the strongest fetter. The dwarves used six mythical ingredients to construct Glepnir, the strongest fetter ever crafted. Although Glepnir was stronger than steel, it was also smoother than silk.
The gods went out to island Lyngvi and invited Fenrir to accompany them. Once there the gods passed Glepnir and tried to tear it with all their might but none of them could even bend it. The gods said to Fenrir that he would certainly be able to tear it as he was able to break iron binds constructed by gods themselves. They also told Fenrir that if he wasn't able to break it, gods will release him. They explained that they had nothing to fear from the one who couldn't tear a thin strip of silk. Fenrir replied that he will not gain any fame if he breaks a thin silk band and that he suspects it is made with trickery and magic. He requested that in order for him to allow the gods to bind him with Glepnir, one of the gods should put his hand in his jaws as a pledge of good faith.
No god dared to put his hand into the jaws of the mighty beast, but than Týr stepped forth from the crowd and placed his right hand in Fenrir's jaws. Fenrir than allowed the gods to bind him with the third fetter. Glepnir was put on Fenrir, and when Fenrir kicked the fetter gripped him stronger. The more he struggled, the stronger he was bound. All gods besides Týr were laughing at Fenrir's struggle, and when they refused to release him, he bit off Týr's hand.
Angry with the gods he spread his jaws to bite them, but gods put a sword into his gaping jaws. The tip of the sword touched the upper jaw while the hilt rested on the lower. Fenrir could no longer close the jaws, he gagged and howled while saliva rand from his mouth. The river was formed by that saliva, its name was Ván which means Hope in Old Norse. Thus shackled and suffering terrible agony, Fenrir will stay at Lyngvi until Ragnarök.
When Loki steers the ship bringing the hosts of Muspelheim and Ragnarök begins whole earth will shake. Fenrir's sons will swallow the sun and the moon and all stars will disappear. Mountains will fall and all binds will shatter setting Fenrir free. Enraged by countless years as a prisoner, Fenrir will join the events of Ragnarok. His mouth will be open so wide that his upper jaw will touch the sky while his lower jaw touches the earth. The flames will burn from his nostrils and eyes, and none will dare oppose him until Odin gets in his way. In a long battle, he will swallow the father of all gods. Once Odin falls, his son Víðarr the god of vengeance will step forth to fight Fenrir. Vidar will step on the lower jaw with a foot while pushing the upper jaw open with his arm. He will spread Fenrir's jaw so wide that it would tear thus killing him.
If you want to read more about Old Norse mythology check out my earlier posts:
- The Poetic Edda
- The Prose Edda - Snorri Sturluson