Garm, Fenrir, and The wolves of Ragnarok: same or not? (a comparison)

This one is pretty long compared to usual. But, it is a look at the often asked question of whether or not Garm & Fenrir are the same wolf.

This week’s discussion is sort of a two in one… possibly. There has been an ongoing debate for quite some time on the topic of whether or not Garm (or Moongarm) and Fenrir are the same wolf. This is understandable when you consider that many of the translators all tell the same portion of tales about a giant wolf but some say Garm, some say Fenrir, some say Fenriswolf, and some just say “the wolf”. But, again, these tales are all so similar in detail that it’s relatively clear they are telling the same event regardless of which name they give to the wolf. So to look at this, we can start with what we know for sure is Fenrir’s story. Fenrir is the wolf son of Loki and Angrboda. When Odin and the Aesir could foresee that Fenrir would play a major role in Ragnarok, they took him from his home and brought him to Asgard. They then raised him, and when they saw how big he was getting, started a plan to bind him. Skip forward, they do bind him where he can’t get free. Tyr loses his hand for it. And then they take him and time him to a rock and shove it deep below ground, and cover it with another rock, and put a big sword in his mouth to hold his jaws open so that he can’t bite down. But then, he does break free at Ragnarok. Now, in Gylfaginning from the Prose Edda, there are apparently Four wolves mentioned. We’re told early on about Garm’s existence along with Skoll and Hati. Then we have the story of Fenrir and his binding. But then the actual Ragnarok story is where things get somewhat blended. It says after the fighting between kin that one wolf will catch the sun, then another will catch the moon and all the stars will disappear from the sky. And then, the whole earth will shake and “Fenriswolf will get free”. Fenriswolf and Midgard Serpent arrive on the battlefield. Then Yggdrasil will shake and Odin with his spear “will make for Fenriswolf”. Thor tries to stand with him but is too busy with the Midgard Serpent. So this Fenriswolf  (Fenrir) kills Odin. Then “the dog Garm” will have also gotten free and he and Tyr battle each other to the death. So, in this telling, Garm and Fenriswolf are two different wolves. And Garm is even being referred to as a dog as opposed to actually calling him a wolf. This is also said of him in the Poetic Edda. In Grimnismal (or the Lay of Grimnir) of the Poetic Edda, we’re told Garm is the best of all dogs. And in Baldr’s Draumer (Baldr’s Dreams) we do see a giant blood-stained dog standing guard when Odin rides through the road to Helheim to call upon the dead witch. Most, if not all, of the main translations used say “dog” here. So that does fit with Garm and the connection to the dead where he is said, even in the Prose Edda, to eat of the dead. And again, Fenrir’s mouth is held open where he can’t shut it. So it would hard to eat that way. Then, it also says in the Prose that from the clan of wolves in the Ironwood “will come a most mighty one called Moongarm. He will fill himself with the life blood of everyone that dies..” So from this perspective Garm and Fenris are two different beings. But then, back to the Poetic Edda, we have Voluspa. This poem is where, I believe, a lot of the confusion comes from. It does say “wolf” in this one on all accounts. But it starts out saying that one of Fenrir’s descendants would soon eat the sun, which is what Skoll and Hati do. But then it also says he feeds on the dead, which goes back to Garm and the dog of Helheim aspect. From that point on, the only wolf named is Garm when it says Garm howls loud, the fetters break “and the wolf run free” as a refrain throughout the end of the poem. But everything it says “the wolf” does is a combination of what the Prose Edda tells us all the wolves do. But, as we said, we know from both Eddas that Fenrir and Garm are said to reside in two different places and serve two different functions. And Garm, along with Hati & Skoll, are all said to be descended from “Fenrir’s brood” or more generally speaking, the wolf children of the giantess of the Ironwood. So, again, who’s who? It is an interesting topic. But the truth is, it really doesn’t have to be resolved to follow your path. And UPG is something we just have to accept happens in a path that has gaps and holes in it like the Norse. (as long as it doesn’t directly contradict the lore or harm anyone, I’m all for that). But for me, I personally feel them all as separate wolves. I somewhat like the idea of this wolf pack coming together for a common goal. That’s what packs do even in the real physical world, in Nature. So it would make sense. And maybe in Voluspa, Garm’s howling is what breaks the chains of the other “the wolf”. We really don’t know. It could well be that they are all the same, even Skoll and Hati, and that being verbally shared stories and the Eddas being compilations of various writings (as opposed to one writer of all tales) that different people in different areas or families told it a slightly different way with different names so that years later it seemed like different wolves. Sort of like in the Christian bible how YHWH became Jehovva, became just “God”.  The important part is to find what these wolves mean to you. To some they are just pure strength. To some they are needed destruction or forces of nature. To some they are vengeance. So, whether they are one or many, what do the wolves of Ragnarok mean to you? What lessons do you take from them? Think about it for a bit and meditate on it and see what you come up with. Who knows? You may be surprised. ** So, sorry this one was way longer than usual. But I hope you enjoyed it. See you again soon.

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