The Binding of Fenrir

The Binding of Fenrir

The devourer, Fenrir, Loki’s son, prowled the golden plains of Asgard on the day the skalds again whispered in the ears of Odin.

“Does the devourer change his ways?”
“Beware the beast of Ragnarok.”
“In his jaws you shall end your days.”

The gods listened and decreed, no longer could this monster roam free. They must kill him. No…they would bind him, for the wolf’s evil blood could not be allowed to stain their sanctuary.

Together, the Aesir made a great iron chain.  They named it Laeding, and took it to the wolf their intentions disguised as a test of strength. The wolf declared no chain of the gods could bind him. He lay down to be bound. The chain was wound over his body, legs, claws and jaw. When they had finished, Fenrir filled his lungs, flexed his muscles and burst every link in the chain.

“Come back again when you have a true test for me,” boasted the wolf.

Shaken, the gods tried again. This time fashioning Dromi, a chain twice again as strong as Laeding with links thick as ash trees.  This they took to Fenrir. He considered the chain and furrowed his wolfish brows.  This chain was much larger, but then, he too had grown in strength.

Fenrir lay again to be bound – body, leg, claw, and jaw. He stood and strained, rolled and howled, fighting against the chain. The gods cheered. Fenrir had been bound, their cunning rewarded.

Then a crack, then another, and as Fenrir threw himself against the earth Dromi shattered.

Distraught, the gods returned to Odin with tides of their misfortune. He listened in silence, then decreed that they would send Freyr’s messenger, Skirnir, to the dwarves, for none could craft wonders like the maggots of the mountains.

Skirnir travelled down through the words, to Svartalfheim, the dark elves’ land. To their keep he descended, to Nar and Nain, Niping and Dain, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and Nori he fell. They would be rewarded with gold and riches if they could fashion a fetter for Fenrir. Even in the dark, their maggot’s eyes glittered and in no time they had made a ribbon, silky and smooth. They called it Gleipnir.

When Skirnir returned, the gods were perplexed by the delicate ribbon. If their great chains had failed to fetter the beast what good would this thread to? They had been tricked!

Skirnir calmed them, for he also had asked this very thing of the dwarves. Their answer had been thus: “do not doubt the strength of this strand, for it is made of subtlety and hidden things. Do not the wise men of the world wonder where the sound of a cat’s stalking is, or where is a woman’s beard hiding, or how can you know if a mountain has roots? Be assured, messenger, these things and more are in our keeping.”

The gods accepted this mystery and together they went to Fenrir with the ribbon of the dwarves. But Fenrir saw them coming. Loki’s son saw the ribbon in their hands and knew it reeked of enchantments. He shouted to them to come no further, for he would not be bound by that ribbon.

Among the gods that day was Tyr, the courageous one, the one who every day brought food for Fenrir. Knowing the wolf, he saw that they had little time before the he would turn away. “Fenrir! Shall it be known in the nine worlds,” Tyr taunted. “That you feared to be bound by a ribbon?”

The gods laughed. “Be sure Loki’s son, if you fail to break this tiny ribbon we will deign to end your misery and cut you free.”

Fenrir’s hackles rose. He would not stand to be taunted so.  He snarled.  “Then I will lay down. Only – let one of you place his hand between these jaws as a sign of your good faith.”

The gods shifted, saying nothing. Fenrir turned. Then, without a word, Tyr placed his hand into the mouth of the wolf. The gods bound Fenrir with Gleipnir. The beast stood and strained, threw himself to the earth but with every struggle the ribbon grew tighter. Fenrir the great wolf was bound. He tried to howl, but was gagged by the hand. He bit, breaking bone and tearing sinew from skin, ripping away Tyr’s hand. The gods laughed and cheered, not hearing Tyr’s cries for the pain of his lost hand.

They tied a chain to the ribbon and dragged Fenrir to Lynvgi, snarling and howling, screeching and spitting. His slaver formed a river that flowed into the lake Ansvartnir. This river came to be called Von, River of Expectation. So horrid was his howling that one of the gods drew his sword and drove it point to hilt into Fenrir’s jaw – hilt to the roof and point through the jaw and into the earth. They passed the chain through a hole in a great rock called Gjoll and drove Gjoll a mile deep into the earth.  And there they left Fenrir, bound and gagged, as his brother coiled round the world, and his sister in Hel, lie in wait for Ragnarok.

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