Gather around brothers and sisters for I have another tale to tell. One of great sacrifice and the binding of a great beast. The beast known as Fenrir and to have played a vital role in Ragnarok.
As the all-father returned to Asgard from a long absence. All noticed that he looked more grave and majestic than ever. He spoke to no one but his wife Frigg. He told her of all the things he had seen and heard.
Loki was away when Odin returned so all father began to take steps to place the brood of the trickster and the witch of the iron-wood somewhere where they could do no harm. One was Fenrir, not yet fully grown; Odin had brought to Asgard and given in charge of Tyr. Even though Tyr was one of the strongest and bravest of the Æsir found that as Fenrir kept growing even he had trouble keeping him under control.
Let The Games Begin
After consulting together, the Gods decided to bind him with iron chains. There was a smithy in Asgard, with the best facilities for making all kinds of metal things, such as chains, swords, shields, axes. With this smithy, the gods forged a chain larger and stronger than any that had ever been seen in Asgard. They brought it fo Fenrir in the disguise of the game asking him to amuse them by showing his strength.
Fenrir was very proud of his strength; and as soon as he saw the chain, he knew he could easily break it. So he agreed to be bound. When the Gods finished, stretched his limbs, and the chains instantly broke in several places. The Gods, pretending to not be concerned, considered it a good joke, and praised the wolf for his strength saying they would try the game again someday.
Failures Are Lessons
Now they realized that to make a chain stronger enough to bind the wolf would be no easy task. This time the most skillful workers in metal were brought in to forge the strongest chain they possibly could. When finished they declared that none that strong had been seen in all the nine worlds. They went to Fenrir as before and he saw the new chain. It was so heavy that it took several Gods merely to drag it along the ground.
Fenrir’s suspicions were aroused. He refused to be bound. So the Gods appealed to his pride until his strength swelled within him and eager to show his power. He let them wrap his body with the iron links until they covered his whole body. Then Fenrir rolled on the ground and stretched his huge limbs, and the bonds burst as if they were made with brittle metal.
The Gods hid their feelings the best they could and praised the strength and courage of the wolf more than ever. Odin, with his great wisdom, realized how important it was that Fenrir should be bound. Knowing that Asgard could not produce a chain strong enough to hold Fenrir they sent Skirnir to the home of the dark elves to get one.
As great as the Gods are the elves and giants know more about some things then they did. And indeed the dark elves must have been very wise and skillful to have made a chain which they gave to Skirnir. How they got the materials to make the chain is a mystery; for it took six things seldom seen in Asgard or Midgard, namely: the footfalls of a cat, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of birds. One could believe almost anything of a chain made of such things.
It is no wonder that is was as soft and smooth as a silken string, and that its strength was greater than that of any chain made since the nine worlds were formed. Skirnir returned very quickly considering the distance he had to travel. And the Gods were happy when he returned with the delicate, silken string. They felt sure of success now. The Gods planned to disarm the suspicions of Fenrir by telling him they planned an excursion to a rocky island for the sole purpose was for amusement. The amusement consisted of primarily trails of strength. They ran races, leaped over barriers, shot bows, wrestled, and, in short, did most things to test a man’s strength and skill. After the winners were decided they all sat and jested with each other.
The Final Trick Played On Fenrir
One of the Gods drew the magic chain and said: “They say this cord is stronger than it looks”. All the Gods soon joined in to try to break the magic chain and they all failed. Skirnir said, as though struck by a sudden thought “let Fenrir try. He had strength in breathing chains if he can do nothing else”.
So one of the Gods held up the cord asking Fenrir if he’d try to break it. The wolf refused the trail for he suspected treachery. Then the Gods taunted him, saying that only a coward would refuse to be bound by such a cobweb. Their taunts stirred at Fenrir’s pride; and finally agreed to let them bind the chain around him if one of their numbers would put his right hand into his jaws while it was being done, as a pledge of their good faith.
Upon this, the Gods looked at one another in dismay but after a pause, Tyr stepped forward knowing what was going to happen. He stepped up and thrust his right hand into the wolf’s jaws. Saying with a laugh “You see it is only a joke, Fenrir.” The wolf let them bind him, and with the magic cord bound around him, the Gods moved away. All but Tyr, for they knew the struggle would be terrible. The wolf now struggled his limbs and found the more he struggled the tighter the bonds got. He bit Tyr’s hand off at the wrist and rolled on the ground rending the air with his howls of rage and despair.
When he had worn himself out with his desperate struggles the Gods secured him and took him to a dark cave in the region of torture in Niflheim. He was chained to a rock and his jaw was kept open with a sword with the hilt on his lower jaw and the point on the roof of his mouth. From his mouth flowed a poisonous river. There he would remain until Ragnarök, the twilight of the God should come.