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Definition: Fenrir from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

In Scandinavian mythology the wolf of LOKI. He was the brother of HEL, and when he gaped one jaw touched earth and the other heaven. At the RAGNAROK he broke his fetters and swallowed ODIN, who was avenged by VIDAR thrusting his sword into the yawning gullet and piercing the beast's heart.


Summary Article: Fenrir
from The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings

When Garmr, the hound of hell, breaks free and begins its awful baying, Fenrir, the wolf child of the giantess Angrboda and the god Loki, will snap its fetters and devour the father of the gods, Odin, before Vioarr can protect him. All of these events signal the onset of Ragnarok (in Old Norse, “the final destiny of the gods”), the destruction of the old world and the old gods. Vioarr, the strongest of the gods after Thor, appears soon after Odin has been killed by Fenrir, and he avenges him by grasping the wolf's jaws in his hands and ripping its mouth apart. Fenrir dies, and Vioarr joins the generation of gods who will live in the new world.

In some accounts of the myth of Ragnarok, Loki fathered three children by his dalliance with the giantess Angrboda-Fenrir, the wolf child; the Midgard serpent; and Hel. The gods decided to rear the wolf, but when Fenrir grew too strong for them to handle comfortably, they decided to bind him. The werewolf easily broke his fetters until dwarfs at last managed to create a chain that he could not shatter until he regained his freedom at Ragnarok, the end of the old world.

In certain tellings of the onset of Ragnarok, Garmr, the hound of hell, and Fenrir become one wolf that rips free of its chains and kills Odin. In other accounts, Garmr is also a wolf, and when Fenrir is freed, one of them swallows the sun, the other the moon. Still other versions allow Garmr and Fenrir to assume their traditional roles in the drama and assign the names Skoll and Hati to the two wolves who devour the sun and the moon.

Sources:
  • Davidson, Ellis H. R. Gods and Myths of the Viking Age. Barnes & Noble New York, 1996.
  • Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Trans. Hall., Angela Boydell & Brewer Rochester NY, 1993.
Copyright © 2012 by Brad Steiger

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