THE BINDING OF THE WOLF
OKE looked like a god and had many of the wonderful gifts
which the gods possessed, but at heart he was one of those
giants who were always trying to cross Bifrost, the shining
rainbow-bridge, at the heavenly end of which Heimdal kept
guard day and night, with eyes so keen that in the darkness
as easily as in the light he could see a hundred miles
distant, and with ears so sharp that he could hear the
noiseless blossoming of the grass in the deepest valley, and
the growing of the wool upon the backs of sheep browsing
along the hill-tops. Loke
 had the mind of the gods, who were
always working to bring order and beauty into the world, but
he had the heart of the giants, who were striving to undo
the good and cover the earth with howling storms and icy
desolation. After he had been in Asgard for a time he wanted
to get back to Jotunheim, where his true home was. There he
married a terrible giantess, and three children were born to
him, more repulsive than their mother,—Hel, the
Midgard-serpent, and the Fenris-wolf. These monsters grew to
be very strong and horrible to look upon before the gods
thought of destroying them; but one day, as Odin looked over
the worlds from his throne, a shadow fell upon his face, for
he saw how powerful the children of Loke were becoming, and
 knew they would work endless mischief and misery for gods
and men; so he sent some of the gods to bring the monsters
to Asgard. It was a strange sight when Loke's children were
brought into heaven,—Hel's terrible face turning into
stone every one who looked, unless he were a god; the
Midgard-serpent coiling its immense length into great
circles over which the glittering eyes wandered restlessly;
and the Fenris-wolf growling with a deep, cruel voice. Odin
looked sternly at Loke, the evil god who had brought such
savage beings among men, and then with a dark brow he cast
Hel down into the dusky kingdoms of the dead, and hurled the
snake into the deep sea, where he grew until he coiled
around the whole earth; but Fenrer, the wolf, was permitted
 grow up in Asgard. He was so fierce that only Tyr, the
sword-god, could feed him. He roamed about Asgard, his huge
body daily growing stronger, and his hungry eyes flashing
more and more fiercely.
After a time another shadow fell upon Odin's face, for
Fenrer was fast becoming the most terrible enemy of the
gods, and the oracles who could look into the future, said
that at the last great battle he would destroy Odin himself.
So Odin called all the gods together, and as they came into
the great hall the wolf crouched at the door, with a look
that made even their strong hearts shudder.
"Our most dangerous enemy is growing stronger every day
under our roof and by our hands," said Odin, "and we shall
cease to be
 gods if we are so blind as to nourish our own
"Kill him!" muttered some one.
"No," said Odin; "although he is to devour me, no blood
shall stain the sacred seats of the gods."
"Chain him!" said Thor.
That was a good plan, they all agreed, but how was it to be
"Leave that to me," answered Thor, full of courage, for he
had done many wonderful things, and there was nothing of
which he was afraid.
That night the fires in the great smithy blazed and roared
so fiercely that the heavens far around were lighted with
the glow, and in the dusky light the strong forms of the
gods moved to and fro as they worked on the chain with which
they meant to bind the Fenris-wolf. All night Thor's mighty
 on the hard iron, and when the morning came the
chain was done, and they called it Leding. Then the gods
called Fenrer, spread out the chain, and asked him to show
his wonderful strength by breaking it.
The wolf knew better than the gods how strong he had grown,
and that the breaking of Leding would be a very small matter
for him; so he permitted them to bind the great links around
his shaggy body and about his feet, and to rivet the ends so
fast that it seemed as if nothing on earth could ever break
them apart again. When it was all done, and Thor's eyes were
beginning to smile at his success, the wolf got quietly upon
his feet, stretched himself as easily as if a web of silk
were cast over him, snapped the massive
 chain in a dozen places, and walked off, leaving the gods to
gather up the broken links.
"He has grown terribly strong," said Odin, looking at the
great pieces of iron.
"Yes," answered sturdy Thor, "stronger than I thought; but I
will forge another chain, which even he cannot break."
Again the red glow shone in the sky over Asgard, the fires
flashed and blazed, and the great hammers rang far into the
night, and the next day the mighty chain Drome, twice as
strong as Leding, was finished.
"Come, Fenrer," said Thor, "you already famous for your
strength; if you can break this chain no will ever be able
to deny your strength, and you will win great honour among
gods and men."
 The wolf growled as he looked at the great chain, for he
knew that the gods feared him and wanted to make him
harmless. He knew also that he could break the chain which
they had forged with so much toil to bind him with, and so
he let them fasten him as before. When all was done, the
gods began to smile again, for they had made the strongest
chain that ever was or could be made, and now surely the
wolf was forever harmless.
But Fenrer knew better than they. He rose slowly, with the
massive links bound closely about him, shook himself
fiercely, stretched himself, and then with a mighty effort
dashed himself on the ground; the earth shook, the chain
burst, and its links flew through the air and buried
themselves in the ground, so tremendous was the effort with
which the wolf freed himself.
 A fierce joy gleamed in his eyes as he walked away with deep
growls, leaving the gods to console themselves as best they
might, for there were no more chains to be made.
Long and anxiously they talked together, but no one could
think of anything which could hold Fenrer until Odin called
to Skirner, Frey's swiftest messenger: "Go to Svartalfheim
as fast as the flash of Thor's hammer, and the dwarfs shall
make us an enchanted chain which even he cannot break."
Skirner was off almost before Odin had done speaking.
Travelling over land and sea he soon came to the dark
entrance of the under-world where the dwarfs lived, and in a
very short time he was in the dusky home of the wonderful
little workers in iron. They were rushing about with black
 faces and dirty hair when Skirner called them together and
said, "You must make for the gods an enchanted chain so
slight that Fenrer will be willing to be bound by it, and so
strong that when he has allowed himself to be tied he cannot
break loose again."
The dwarfs whispered together for a few moments, and then
scattered in every direction; for they were going to make
the most wonderful chain that was ever put together, and
there were many things to be looked after before it could be
done. Skirner sat in the darkness until the busy little
workers had finished the band, and then he carried it
quickly to Asgard, where all the gods were waiting anxiously
for his coming and Fenrer was stealthily stealing from place
to place through the city. Skirner spread the string out for
the gods to
 look at, and they could hardly believe it was
strong enough. It was very long, but so small and soft that
it seemed no more than silken twine; it was made out of such
things as the sound of a cat's footsteps, the roots of the
mountains, the breath of a fish, and the sinews of a bear,
and nothing could break it.
The gods were so happy in the hope of being relieved of
their enemy that they could not thank Skirner enough. They
all went to a rocky island in a lake called Amsvartner,
taking the wolf with them. Thor showed the silken twine to
Fenrer. "You have broken Leding and Drome," he said, "and
now you will break this also, although it is somewhat
stronger than one would think, to look at it."
Then he handed the magic cord
 from one god to another and
each tried to break it, but no one succeeded.
"We cannot do it," they all said after it had been handed
around the circle, "but Fenrer can."
The wolf looked at it suspiciously.
"It is such a slender thread," he answered, "that I shall
get no credit if I break it, and if it is made with magic,
slight as it looks I shall never get loose from it again."
The gods looked at one another and smiled.
"Oh, you will easily break so slim a band as that," they
replied, "since you have already broken the heaviest chains
in the world; and if you cannot break it we will loosen you
"If you bind me so fast that I am not able to get myself
free, I shall get little help from you," said
 the wolf
truthfully enough. "I am very unwilling to have this twine
bound about me; but that you may not be able to call me
cowardly, I will do it if some one of you will lay his hand
in my mouth as a pledge that there is no deceit about this
The gods looked at each other when they heard these words.
Fenrer had spoken the truth, there was no denying that. He
must be chained now, however, or they would all be
destroyed; but who would lose a hand to save the rest?
Thor's hands were needed to swing the hammer against the
giants, and everybody could think of some very good reason
why his hand should not be lost. There was an awful pause,
and then Tyr, the god of honour and courage, who had never
 when he ought to go forward, stretched out his
right hand and laid it in the wolf's hungry mouth.
Then the gods bound the slender cord tightly around Fenrer,
fold on fold, winding its whole length about him and tying
the ends tightly together. It was so slight that it seemed
as if it must break in fifty places as soon as the wolf
began to stretch himself. So perhaps thought Fenrer himself;
but the harder he strove to break loose, the closer the cord
drew about him. He sprang from side to side, he threw
himself on the ground, he stretched his mighty limbs with
all his strength, but the twine only cut the deeper. Then a
mighty rage filled the wolf because he had suffered himself
to be deceived, his eyes flamed with fury, and the foam ran
out of his mouth.
 The gods were so delighted when they found
the wolf really fast at last that they began to laugh, all
except brave Tyr, who lost his right hand.
They took the wonderful silken chain and drew it through the
middle of a rock and sunk the rock so deep in the earth that
nothing but an earthquake could stir it. Fenrer, wild with
pain and rage, rushed from side to side so violently that
the earth rocked beneath him, and opening his tremendous
jaws sprang upon the gods; whereupon they thrust a sword
into his cruel jaws so that the hilt stood on his lower jaw
and the point pierced the roof of the mouth.
So the Fenris-wolf was bound and made fast to the rocky
island, his jaws spread far apart, foaming and growling
until the last great day.