Viking Symbolism: Fenrir

  • Fenris

Viking Symbolism: Fenrir

Anywhere you look in Norse mythology, you’re bound to find wolves. After all, for the old Norse, they were a very important part of life. They were exceedingly dangerous, but they were also clever, powerful, and family-oriented.

Fenris

The original “big bad wolf” is destined to kill Odin.

Perhaps the most famous wolf in all Norse mythology (and perhaps in mythology the world over– barring the Big Bad of Western European faerie tale lore) is Fenrir. This big and nasty beast is not just a giant fucking wolf. He’s also the son of Loki– and he’s meant to kill his uncle, Odin. That’s right, Marvel fans: Loki is Odin’s bro, not son.*

But unlike Jörmungandr or Hel (their sister and the goddess of the underworld), Fenrir is raised by the gods, not by Loki. He has a special relationship with Týr, the god of law and the only god brave enough to approach him and offer him food.

Typically, if you find a symbol of Fenrir, he’s biting a chain. This is because Fenrir is bound until the end of the world, after he grew too fucking big to be left on his own– and the gods knew, too, that no matter how they cared for the, uh, sweet pupperooni, Fenrir would cause them harm one day. Fenrir will only be released when the sun and the moon have been devoured. Then, and only then, he will attack and eat Odin.

There is a lot of speculation as to why Fenrir must eat Odin. Is it because of the rivalry between his father and the All-Father? It could be because that’s how wolves operate– when the pack grows weak, the young kill the old. You’ll find similar stories in Greek mythology– for that was Zeus’ father Chronos’ one great fear.

 

Fenris

Custom engraved howling wolf on a 20oz horn tankard

Fenrir lends his name to many wolves and wolf-like folk in modern day lore. Of course, Fenrir Greyback from the Harry Potter novels springs to mind– as vicious werewolf who purposely targets children. And if that’s not hardcore enough for you, Fenriz is also the name of one half of the death metal duo, Darkthrone. But there’s also Fenris from Dragon Age II– who, while a vicious slaughterer of bad guys, is a bit of a lone wolf looking for a pack (yes, Fenris is just an archaic word for Fenrir!)

Fenrir is an excellent symbol to put on the ale horn of someone who has faced a lot of troubles and risen above them. Whether it’s someone who’s broken out of an abusive relationship and risen in the pack hierarchy to tend to their own needs, or someone who’s spent time in jail and deserves a welcome home gift, a Fenrir ale horn is the sort of bad ass gift you will hold on to and appreciate for a life time.

Feature image cred: Gloom82 of DeviantART

* There’s some debate happening on our Facebook page about Loki’s relation to Odin, and we found evidence for them being both brothers and cousins. Weigh in on the comments below!

2017-01-28T14:30:57+00:00

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One Comment

  1. Bryanderthal February 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    In Neil Gaiman’s new book “Norse Mythology” he calls Odin and Loki blood-brothers. Norsemyth.org (Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried) concurs.

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