Fenrir was a terrifying wolf being in Norse mythology. He was the unlikely offspring of Loki, the trickster deity of ﬁre, and a female giant named Angrboda.
Fenrir was the oldest of three siblings. The other two were Jormungand, the giant serpent, and Hel, a sister who was literally half alive and half dead—one side of her body was living, the other a corpse.
The Norse gods feared all three of these monstrous beings, so they captured them in the middle of the night from Angrboda’s hall. The gods brought the three monsters back to their home in Asgard. There, they threw Jormungand into the ocean and Hel into Niﬂheim, the underworld. Hel ruled the world of the dead until Ragnarok, the ﬁnal battle at the end of the world. Fenrir remained in Asgard.
The gods learned of a dangerous prophesy that claimed that Fenrir and his kin would one day bring about Ragnarok. They caught Fenrir and caged him before he was fully grown. Tyr, god of war, was the only one who had the courage to feed and take care of the ﬁerce creature.
As Fenrir grew into his full, terrible size, the gods knew they must take further action before he broke free. They made a chain of iron links, called Laeding, and challenged Fenrir to try to break free. Fenrir easily broke Laeding. The gods made a second chain, far thicker and stronger than the ﬁrst, and called it Dromi. Fenrir broke that chain, too, with frightening ease.
The gods then realized that they had to use magic. They ordered a magic chain from the dwarves. What the dwarves wrought was Gleipnir, a chain as thin as a spider’s strand. It was made out of the footstep of a cat, the roots of a mountain, the beard of a woman, the breath of ﬁshes, the sinews of a bear, and the spittle of a bird. It was stronger than any other chain. The gods lured Fenrir to the Island of Lyngvi and challenged him to break Gleipnir. By now, Fenrir was suspicious, and he would not allow them to bind him. Finally, Tyr offered to put his right hand into Fenrir’s mouth to show there was no trickery involved.
The gods bound Fenrir with Gleipnir. When he could not break free, he bit off Tyr’s hand. But the gods had won. They tied Gleipnir to another chain and tied that to a boulder, which they drove deep into the earth. Then they placed a sword in Fenrir’s mouth, with the hilt resting on his lower jaw and the point against the roof of his mouth.
There Fenrir was to remain until Ragnarok. A further prophecy foretold that when that ﬁnal battle occurred, Fenrir’s chain would break and he would attack and kill Odin, the chief Norse god. Odin’s son, Vidar, would then slay Fenrir.