Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Fenris Wolf in Norse Mythology by By Ritza Freeman & Ruth Davis 1912

The Fenris Wolf in Norse Mythology by By Ritza Freeman & Ruth Davis 1912

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Though Loki was a god and lived in Asgard, yet in many ways he was like the giants. One day he went to the home of the frost giants and married a terrible giantess. They had three children, each more horrible and repulsive than the others.

Not long after this, when Odin was sitting upon his throne looking over the world, he saw the children of Loki. They were so powerful that he knew they would soon make trouble for gods and men, so he sent a messenger to bring them to Asgard. It was an awful sight when Loki's children were brought to the home of the gods. One Odin put into the house of the wicked dead, one he chained to the sea, but the Fenris wolf did not seem very harmful, so he was allowed to stay in Asgard, and the god Tyr fed and cared for him.

You know how it is — when anything is with you every day, it is hard to notice any change. That was the way it was with the gods and the Fenris wolf. Tyr fed him and they all played with him without realizing how strong and vicious he was growing.

But Odin could see away down the future with that one eye of his, and he knew that unless they did something to the Fenris wolf he would soon be stronger than they. So he talked with the rest of the gods, and they too saw that the Fenris wolf was a dangerous beast to have walking about the streets of Asgard.

"See this wolf," they said to one another, "Unless we bind him he will destroy us and our city. We must have a great chain. But where will we get it? We have nothing here that would come anywhere near holding him. Thor, you make us an iron chain."

So Thor built a great fire in his smithy, and all night long the blows rang on the anvil. In the morning he had a mighty iron chain forged. Then the gods called the Fenris wolf and showed him the chain, saying, "I don't suppose you could break it, could you, Fenrir?"

The wolf knew exactly what was going on in their minds, but he knew his own strength better than they did. He knew that it would be child's play for him to break the chain, so he consented to be bound. Thor fastened the chain about his legs and over his back, and riveted the ends together until it would seem that no one on earth could ever break it. When he was all through, the wolf gave a yawn and a stretch, and the chain broke into a hundred pieces.

The gods looked at one another and then at the pieces of iron, and Odin said, "He is stronger than we thought."

"I was never more surprised in my life," said Tyr.

Thor said not a word, but picked up the pieces, threw them away, and went down to his smithy and began to forge another chain. He worked two days and two nights without stopping, and the Fenris wolf walked up and down the streets of Asgard, gnashing his teeth, hitting things with his tail, and glaring at folks with his fiery red eyes. When Thor had finished the chain, the gods all said no chain had ever been made to equal it.

"Surely," they said, "we will soon have the Fenris wolf bound."

They went to Fenrir and showed him the chain. "Come, Fenrir," said Thor, "we are going to play a little game. You let me fasten this chain around you, and then you stretch yourself as you did the other day, and see if you can break it."

The wolf looked at the chain and knew that he could break it, but he growled while the gods were wrapping it about his legs, for he knew that the gods were afraid of him and wanted him tied up forever. When the chain was all riveted in place, the wolf grinned, showed all his teeth, stretched his legs, shook himself, and gave a great lunge; the chain broke, the links flew into the air, and some of them landed in the treetops.

Imagine how the gods felt to see Fenrir walking up and down, growing bigger every day, growling with rage, so fierce that few dared to go near him. They knew something had to be done soon, but no one could think of anything strong enough to hold him, until Odin said,

"Skirmer, go to the dwarf, Sindre, and tell him we need a magic cord that nothing can break."

Skirmer was off in the wink of an eye, and soon he came to Sindre's cave in the centre of the earth. He lost no time in telling Sindre what he wanted. The dwarfs felt that it was a great undertaking, but after whispering together and shaking their tiny heads, they told Skirmer to go outside and sit down, as he would only be in the way, and they would soon have the chain made.

When it was finished they wrapped it in the skin of a rabbit, and without stopping to look at the size of the package, Skirmer hurried to Asgard.

The gods were surprised when they unwrapped the skin and saw the tiny silken cord the dwarfs had sent, but Odin said it was a magic cord made of the footfall of cats, the roots of stones, the breath of a baby, and other things that no one but a dwarf could use, and that nothing could break it.

The gods all went to a rocky island and took Fenrir with them. Thor showed him the tiny thread and said, "Fenrir, everybody is talking about your great strength. You have been able to break the strongest iron chain I could make. Now a friend of mine made this cord, and said you could never break it. I think you can, but it is a good deal stouter than it looks. It fooled me at first. We have all tried to break it and can't, but that is no sign that you are as weak as we are. I, for one, believe you can break it."

The wolf was wise and did not want to allow himself to be bound, but when they laughed at him and told him he was afraid, it made him angry.

"I am no coward," said Fenrir, "but there is something queer about that chain. I 'll allow myself to be tied all right if one of you will put your right hand in my mouth while you are fastening the cord."

The gods looked at one another. They knew Fenrir had to be bound, but it meant the loss of the right hand of one of them. Then Tyr, the good and fearless, said, "My right hand fed him and helped the monster to grow strong. My right hand shall go into his mouth."

They bound the tiny thread about Fenrir, over and over his shoulders, around and around his legs; then they tied the ends together and fastened them to a rock. The wolf threw himself against the rocks, tore from side to side, glared at them with his fiery eyes, and leaped again, but he could never get free.

This is how Tyr, the great god Tyr, lost his right hand.

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