Fenrir in Norse Mythology

In old Norse mythology, Fenrir is the name of the enormous wolf freed from his shackles at Ragnarök—-the end of the world and the end of the deities. He slays the god Odin and is himself killed by Vidarr, Odin'son, in the final battle. 

Fenrir —”FEN-rir;” is the brother of Jörmungandr, the World Serpent, and the half jötunn, half goddess Hel. He is also numbered among the children of Loki, the god of mischief. His mother is the giantess Angrboda.

Who is Fenrir?

The gigantic wolf Fenrir, also known as Fenrisúlfr or Hróðvitnir, translated as “fame-wolf,” features prominently in Norse mythology. He was born from the union between the demonic god Loki and the giantess Angerboda. 

Fenrir is the parent of the wolves Skoll and Hati Hróvitnisson in the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda.

Additional details concerning Fenrir are included in the Prose Edda, such as the fact that the gods confined him because they were aware of prophecies predicting tremendous danger from Fenrir with his rapid growth.

The Fate of Loki’s Offsprings, including Fenrir

At the start of the binding of the son of Loki, the gods discover that Angrboda is nurturing Loki’s kids in Jotunheim—the land of the giants.

The three offsprings are the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and the goddess Hel, who is half human and half blue, decaying corpse.

In his disgust, Odin throws Jörmungandr into the ocean. He assigns Hel “charge of the Nine Realms,” commonly interpreted to suggest that she will rule over the spirits of those who died of sickness or old age. He sends her to the underworld realm of Niflhel beneath the ice land of Niflheim.

The gods keep and rear Fenrir as a pet, but when his size explodes, only Tyr would feed him, sparking an unlikely bond between the two.

An illustration of the wolf Fenrir biting the right hand off the god Týr, from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript.
An illustration of the wolf Fenrir biting the right hand off the god Týr, from an Icelandic 18th century manuscript

The Æsir Gods Conspire Against Fenrir

Seeing Fenrir’s increasing size in light of the prophecy, the Æsir gods decide it would be prudent to restrain the wolf. They challenge Fenrir to a test of strength and tell him they don’t think he can break loose from the constraint. 

Fenrir submits to being shackled but then quickly frees himself. Next, the gods try again with a chain they name Dromi, which is even more robust, but Fenrir still easily breaks it.

Fenrir has created no difficulty and is living happily with the gods up to this point. But Odin is desperate to restrain the wolf before he gets too enormous and powerful to manage. 

The gods dispatched the deity Skirnir to the dwarves in their blazing forges under Midgard with a request for a constraint that Fenrir could not break. 

The dwarves respond with the Gleipnir — translated as “entangler” chain.

The Final Chaining of Fenrir and the Biting of Tyr’s Hand

To test Fenrir’s might with the Gleipnir, Odin, with the other gods, invite him to the Lyngvi amid the enormous lake Amsvartnir.

Fenrir is doubtful of the new constraint because it resembles a woman’s hair ribbon, and it would be dishonorable to escape from such a feeble chain.

Fenrir thinks the gods are playing a prank on him, so he demands that one of them place their hand in his mouth and leave it there the entire time before he accepts to be tied.

The gods’ hesitation only makes Fenrir more dubious. Therefore, the god Tyr—Fenrir’s friend, offers to stick his hand in Fenrir’s mouth.

After being restrained, Fenrir struggles to free himself. The more he tries to get free, the more tightly the ribbon grips him until he eventually snaps his jaws shut and bites off Tyr’s hand.

He was shackled to a rock with a sword and will remain there until Ragnarök (Doomsday). That is when he will inevitably break free and hurl himself against the gods.

From his dripping mouth came a frothing flood of “Expectation”—Old Norse Ván, as he howled furiously and incessantly.

The children of Loki
The children of Loki: Jörmungandr, the wolf Fenrir, and Hel, Willy Pogany, 1920

Ragnarök: A Day of “Retribution” for the Gods

Fenrir will struggle against Odin, the supreme deity, and swallow him during Ragnarök, as told in one myth account.

According to some versions of events, Odin’s son Vidar will exact revenge on the wolf by stabbing him in the heart. Others have him tearing his jaws apart. 

In the poetry written in Norway and Iceland throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries, Fenrir plays a significant role. The poets express their anxiety over the day that he will escape his prison.

Who Kills Fenrir During Ragnarök?

Vidar, Odin’s son, will exact revenge on the wolf for his father’s death. Vidar kills Fenrir by stabbing him in the heart or ripping his jaws apart. That brings an end to Ragnarök.

What Does Fenrir Represent in Norse Mythology?

Fenrir is the embodiment of unbridled violence in Norse mythology, which not even the gods can tame. Gleipnir tames Fenrir, but the wolf will grow to adulthood, break free, and slay Odin.

Although he killed Odin and brought about the end of the world, Ragnarök, Fenrir was not considered an inherently evil entity in Norse mythology. 

The Scandinavian Germanic Norse people, typical of their myths, saw players like Jörmungandr and Fenrir as inevitable and a component of the natural flow of existence.

Fenrir’s Symbol

Fenrir has appeared in many artistic representations as a symbol. He is often depicted as a wolf who breaks free from his shackles or as a giant wolf who kills a soldier—typically assumed to represent Odin.

The gloomy nature of Fenrir is reflected in his eyes, which are either pitch black or blood-crimson.

Fenrir Tattoo Meaning

Tattoos of the Fenris wolf are a symbol of fortitude and bravery.

Remember that this monstrous wolf is so terrible that even the Norse gods and Viking warriors fear it. It is also destined to consume the entire planet.

Fenrir can also represent the struggle against oppression and misfortune, the sundering of even the strongest bonds in the world. Albeit, this interpretation depends on the tattoo’s style.

Fenrir’s tattoos can also symbolize fate, as the mythological creature is destined to kill Odin and bring about the end of the world before meeting his end at the hands of Vídar.

A Fenrir tattoo can also represent a successful and glorious outcome.


Ana has always been interested in all things Norse mythology, Vikings and tales of ancient Germanic myths. An avid reader of books on Norse mythology, she also enjoys watching movies and TV shows based on Viking culture, and she secretly watched every Norse god-inspired MCU production as well!

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