The Fenrir symbol represents a wide range of meanings, from courage to brute strength, destiny, inevitability, patience, and determination.
Wolves are closely associated with Norse mythology, as is the case with many other cultures, such as Native Americans and some in Northern Europe. Geri and Freki, for example, are two wolves that always accompany the all-father, Odin.
Fenrir is yet another wolf featured in Norse mythology whose purpose and destiny directly contradict those of Geri and Freki. Instead of being friendly and protective of the all-father, Fenrir was fated to kill him come Ragnarok.
In old Norse mythology, Fenrir is a child of the god Loki, who, in turn, is the son of Odin, the All-Father. Norse mythology states that Loki and the giantess Angrboda had three children:
- Fenrir, the giant wolf
- Jormungandr, the world serpent
- Hel, the goddess of the dishonorable dead
According to Norse myth, Loki’s children were destined to wreak havoc on the world and bring about Ragnarok (the end of the world). Fenrir was prophesied to be the one to kill Odin.
In old Norse, the word Fenrir means “fen dweller.” There are cold marshlands in Europe known as “The Fen.” In Viking culture, it was believed that this is where all beasts, including the monstrous wolf Fenrir, arose from to terrorize the world of the living.
Because Odin, the All-Father, is wise and all-knowing, he foresaw the birth and coming of Fenrir and knew that the great wolf would be the end of him. To change that destiny, Odin ordered the gods to take charge of Loki’s children, with Tyr, the Norse god of war and strategy, being given the responsibility to care for and perhaps tame Fenrir.
The Binding of Fenrir
Norse mythology says that the giant wolf, Fenrir, eventually grew up to become as massive as a mountain. It’s believed that the gape of his jaws was so large that it extended from the ground to its highest peak whenever he yawned.
All the gods knew that Fenrir was quickly becoming too big to control, and Odin grew increasingly fearful. As an additional measure, he ordered that the great wolf be restrained.
Unfortunately, neither ropes nor chains were strong enough to keep the giant wolf subdued. The gods tried three times.
- Leyding: The very first binding was Leyding. The gods tricked Fenrir by asking him to try it on and see if the binding was strong enough. Fenrir destroyed the binding with a single kick.
- Dromi: This was the second binding that the gods tried. This time, they tricked Fenrir by promising him an unimaginable fortune if he could break free from it. Although it took some trying, Fenrir did eventually break free from Dromi.
Finally, Odin called upon the dwarves, who, in Norse mythology, are the greatest craftsmen. He asked to make the strongest, unbreakable binding known to both man and god. Using their considerable skills and some magic, the dwarves made Glepnir, the only binding that could hold Fenrir.
It is believed that Grepnir was made from a combination of:
- The spittle of a bird
- The sound of a cat’s footfall
- The muscle sinews of a strong bear
- The beard of a woman
- The roots of a mountain
All things that are nearly impossible, if not impossible, to find. That’s how strong Grepnir was designed to be.
This time around, Fenrir suspected that the gods weren’t coming to him in good faith. To even things out, he asked one of them to put his hand in his mouth, and if they put Grepnir around him and he couldn’t break free, then the god would release him or lose his arm.
Since the god Tyr was the closest to and the only one brave enough to pet Fenrir, he agreed to put his arm in Fenrir’s jaw as part of the deal. When Fenrir couldn’t break free from the magical chain, he demanded to be released, but Tyr, obeying Odin’s commands, refused.
So Fenrir tore off Tyr’s hand and swallowed it, but he remained bound. The gods then tied Fenrir to the great rock Gjoll and thrust a sword into his mouth (upper jaw).
The great wolf Fenrir swore to kill Odin if he ever got free.
Fenrir’s Destiny Fulfilled
When the prophecy came to pass, and Fenrir’s family (parents and siblings) brought about Ragnarok, the event shattered Gjoll, the rock to which Fenrir’s wolf was tied. Even though the Grepnir chain did not break, it became loose enough for Fenrir to escape.
Upon his escape, Fenrir immediately tracked down Odin and battled him. As it was his nature, Odin rode Sleipnir, his great eight-legged horse, and wielded Gungnir, his awesome spear of storms.
The battle between Odin and Fenrir was unimaginable, and even though Fenrir won and managed to kill Odin, he was gravely injured and died soon after.
Fenrir’s Norse symbolism is heavily loaded with a wide range of representations. For one thing, the fact that the great wolf had to wait for so long to fulfill his destiny of killing Odin and ensuring that Ragnarok occurred represents destiny and inevitability.
Fenrir was friendly to the gods until they bound him to keep the prophecy from coming true. This binding, it could be argued, almost guaranteed that the prophecy would come true. It could be argued that had the gods not feared Fenrir so much and treated him as one of their own; he might have sided with them against the goddess Hel and his entire family.
Other Fenrir symbols also represent brute strength and courage. Because of his size, brute strength, and courage to let the gods try to bind him, his binding occurs, and the prophecy is fulfilled. Had he not been so massive, the gods might not have been so scared of him.
The Fenrir symbol could also represent loyalty. Fenrir was so fond of the god Tyr that he did not immediately go on the rampage as soon as he suspected the gods were up to no good. It can be argued that because Tyr put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth, the great wolf believed he had enough security that his friend would release him should he be unable to break free from Grepnir.
Wearing a Fenrir wolf head necklace is also a symbol of patience, might, and determination. There’s often an upside-down rune marking on Fenrir’s forehead that symbolizes victory. Fenrir had to wait patiently, bound by Grepnir to Gjoll, until the rock shattered, allowing him to exact his vengeance on Odin.