The Viking civilization has one of the richest mythologies of humanity. This Scandinavian folklore is full of stories and legends, each more surprising than the last. From the story of the creation of the Viking world, to its destruction during the Ragnarök. There is a fantastic creature whose mere mention arouses fear and concern among men and Nordic gods: the famous wolf Fenrir.
According to the legends, the wolf Fenrir is described as a giant monster, whose ferocity would have of equal only size. Once a pet of the Aesir gods, he became a prophet of the apocalypse and the trigger of Ragnarök. According to this same prophecy, he will ultimately kill the god Odin and lead the nine worlds to their doom.
In this article, we tell you the whole legend of the wolf Fenrir. Find out why this mythical Nordic creature is both a source of terror and respect for men and Viking gods.
The wolf Fenrir is one of the three sons of the god Loki, god of mischief and deviousness. Although his legend is not as long as that of some gods, Fenrir occupies a major role in Norse mythology. From his birth, it is predicted that he will trigger the Ragnarök, the end of time!
The Norse sagas describe Fenrir as a wolf of immeasurable size and power. He is a creature of incomparable destructive strength, often likened to that of a titan. All the Viking gods, including the god Odin, feared him, so much so that he was nicknamed the titan of the apocalypse.
In reality, Fenrir is not an evil being, despite the fact that he is portrayed as such in popular culture. This subtle nuance comes from the fact that there is no such thing as the power of evil or good in Norse civilization. There is only a delicate balance between the forces of creation and destruction, which inevitably lead to cycles of renewal.
To fully understand the singular history of the wolf Fenrir, we trace the evolution of this Viking symbol according to ancient historical sources. This article will take you on a journey through the story of this mythical creature that marks the end and the renewal of the Viking world.
Fenrir is the last child of the god Loki with the ice giant "Angrboda or Angrboða". Loki, a polymorph with immense powers, was not initially an Aesir god. He was only elevated to this rank after having proven his worth to Odin.
The god Loki had the blood of giants running through his veins. This explains in part his deviousness and his incessant quest for power. This will lead him to give birth to the three most frightening creatures of Viking folklore, together with his mistress Angrboda, the giant bearer of misery and misfortune.
The wolf Fenrir, along with his siblings, posed too big danger to Asgard and the entire Viking world. The Aesir had to meet to decide what to do with Loki's three children :
This is how the legend of the terrible son of Loki, the wolf Fenrir, one of the messengers of Ragnarök, begins. We will dive deeper into the rest of his story to understand the title that has been given to him. This controversial Viking creature predicted glory for some gods, and desolation for others.
The wolf is an omnipresent symbol in Viking culture. According to the Poetic Edda and Snorri's Edda, the majority of wolves mentioned in Norse literature are different versions and facets of Fenrir.
He is mainly mentioned under the name of Fenrir, or Fenris, which both mean in Old Norse "the wolf of the marshes". However, other names refer to him:
In Norse mythology, both the sun and the moon are personified as goddesses. The sun goddess is called Sól, while the moon goddess is called Máni. According to Snorri's Edda and the Poetic Edda, the two stars are tirelessly pursued day and night by two giant wolves:
In Snorri's Edda, it is said that these two wolves are in fact the children of Fenrir, mentioned here under his epithet Vánagandr, and of a giantess with an unknown name. Sköll and Hati will continue this hunt without respite until Ragnarök, where they will end up devouring these two celestial bodies, as well as all the stars of the world.
Some sources say that Sköll and Hati are actually other names of Fenrir, who would devour a large part of the universe during Ragnarök.
The Viking civilization is very much linked to its mystical symbols. The wolf in particular has a special place in Nordic folklore. It embodies strength, wildness, duty and bravery. According to Viking legends, female warriors wearing Viking wolf necklaces and bracelets could invoke its divine power.
Although Fenrir is seen as a destructive being, he has many qualities that make him a respected symbol:
The wolf is also one of the symbols of Odin and the Scandinavian gods. The god Odin is protected by two wolves, Freki and Geri, who accompany him in all his battles. There is also a troop among Odin's army that gathers the most feared warriors of Asgard, the ulfhednar: warriors who are dressed in wolf skins.
In addition, some Viking warriors can summon the power of the wolf spirit. They are known as Berserkers. When they summon their animal spirit, their strength and bravery are increased tenfold on the battlefield.
Of all the children of Loki, Fenrir is the only one who surpasses the Viking gods in power. A being with such power could only be a bad omen. The fears and doubts of the Aesir gods are confirmed by the prophecy of the Völuspá, a witch with clairvoyant powers.
According to this prophecy, Fenrir would be the greatest enemy of the gods and of humanity. During the Ragnarök, he will start by devouring the skies and all the celestial stars, and end up killing the god Odin himself. This was enough to convince the Aesir to imprison Fenrir.
Chaining the terrible wolf Fenrir was no easy task, even for the gods. For this reason, they devised a subterfuge to convince Fenrir that it was all a simple test of strength. Fenrir, wanting to gain the respect of the gods, agrees to participate:
The Gleipnir chains finally manage to imprison Fenrir. They are tied to a rock on the island of Thviti, followed at the end of the world. To punish him for having torn off Týr's arm, the Aesir gods thrust a sword into his mouth.
At the time of the Ragnarök, the end of the worlds, all chains will break. The god Loki and his children will finally be free. At the head of his army of giants, Loki will lead a bloody war against the Aesir gods. The most terrible creature of Ragnarök is unequivocally the wolf Fenrir.
According to Snorri's Edda, Fenrir will single-handedly devastate a large part of the world. Just by opening his mouth, he will raze the earth using his lower jaw and with his upper jaw he will swallow the sky.
When the battle between gods and giants is in full swing, Fenrir will swallow the god Odin. Vidar, Odin's son, will avenge his father's death by killing Fenrir. The story of Fenrir's death differs according to the sources:
At the end of Ragnarök, a large part of the universe will be destroyed. However, very soon afterwards, the land and oceans will regenerate and regain their full splendor. A new world will be born for the survivors of Ragnarök!