Before all these things came to be, Loki, leaving Asgarth, went to live in Jarnvid, the Ironwood. There dwelt witches who were the most foul of all witches. And they had a queen over them who was
the mother of sons who took upon themselves the shapes of wolves. Two of her sons were Skoll and Hati; it was they who pursued Sol, the sun, and Mani, the moon; she had a third son, Managarm, the wolf who was to be filled with the life-blood of men, who was to swallow up the moon, and stain the heavens and earth with blood. Loki wed one of the witches in the Ironwood, Angrbotha was her name, and they had children that took on dread shapes. Now the Dwellers in Asgarth knew that these powers of evil had been born into the world, and they thought it well that they should take on forms and appear before them in Asgarth. So they sent one to the Ironwood bidding Loki bring before the Gods the powers born of him and the witch Angrbotha. So Loki came into Asgarth once more. His offspring showed themselves to the Gods.
The first, whose greed was for destruction, showed himself as a fearful wolf. Fenrir he was named. And the second, whose greed was for slow destruction, showed itself as a serpent. Mithgarthsorm it was called. The third, whose greed was for the withering of all life, took on form also. When the Gods saw it they were affrighted. For this had the form of a woman: one side of her was that of a living woman and the other side of her was that of a corpse. Fear ran through Asgarth as this form was revealed and as the name that went with it, Hel, was made known.
Far out of sight of the Gods Hel was thrust. Oithin took her and hurled her down to the deeps that are below the world. He cast her down to Niflhel; there she took to herself power over nine regions. Thor took hold of Mithgarthsorm. He flung the serpent into the ocean that engirdles the world. But in the depths of the ocean Mithgarthsorm flourished. It grew and grew until it encircled the whole world. Fenrir the wolf might not be seized upon by any of the Aesir. Fearfully he ranged through Asgarth, and they were only able to bring him to the outer courts by promising to give him all the food he was able to eat.
The Aesir shrank from feeding Fenrir. But Tyr, the brave swordsman, was willing to bring food to the wolf's lair. Every day he brought him huge provision; he fed him with the point of his sword. The wolf grew and grew until he became monstrous and a terror in the minds of the Dwellers in Asgarth.
At last the Gods in council considered it and declared that Fenrir must be bound. In their own smithy the Gods made a chain to bind him, and the weight of it was greater than Thor's hammer. Not by force could the Gods get the fetter upon Fenrir; they sent Skirnir, the servant of Freyr, to beguile the wolf into letting it go upon him. Skirnir came to his lair and stood near him; he was dwarfed by the wolf's monstrous size.
"How great may thy strength be, Mighty One?" Skirnir asked. "Couldst thou break this chain easily? The Gods would try thee."
In scorn Fenrir looked down on the fetter Skirnir dragged. In scorn he stood still, allowing the chain to be placed upon him. Then, with an effort that was the least part of his strength, he stretched himself, and he broke the chain in two.
The Gods were dismayed. But they took more iron; with greater fires and mightier hammer-blows they forged another fetter--a fetter that was half again as strong as the former one. Skirnir the venturesome brought it to the wolf's lair, and in scorn Fenrir let the mightier chain be placed upon him.
He shook himself and the chain held. Then his eyes became fiery; he stretched himself with a growl and a snarl; the chain broke across, and Fenrir stood looking balefully at Skirnir.
The Gods saw that no chain they could forge would bind Fenrir, and they fell more and more into fear of him. They took counsel again; they bethought them of the wonder-work that the Dwarfs had made for them in the old days--the Spear Gungnir, the Ship Skithblathnir, the Hammer Mjollnir. Could the Dwarfs be got to make a fetter to bind Fenrir? If they would do it, the Gods promised, they would add to the Dwarfs' domain.
Skirnir went down to Svartalfaheim with the message from Asgarth. The chief of the Dwarfs swelled with pride to think that it was left to his people to make a fetter that would bind Fenrir. "We can make it," he said. "Out of six things we will make it."
"What are these six things?" Skirnir asked.
"The roots of stones, the breath of a fish, the beards of women, the noise made by the footfalls of cats, the sinews of bears, the spittle of a bird."
"I have never heard the noise made by a cat's footfall, nor have
[paragraph continues] I seen the roots of stones, nor the beards of women. But use what things you will, O helper of the Gods."
The Dwarf chief brought his six things together; the Dwarfs in their smithy worked for days and nights. They forged a fetter that was named Gleipnir. Smooth and soft as a silken string it was. Skirnir brought it to Asgarth, and put it into the hands of the Gods.
Then a day came when the Gods said, once again, that they should try to put a fetter on Fenrir. But if he was to be bound, they should bind him far from Asgarth. There was an island that they often went to make sport in; they spoke of going there. Fenrir growled that he would go with them. He came, and he sported in his own terrible way. And then, as if it were to make more sport, one of the Aesir shook out the smooth cord and showed it to Fenrir.
"It is stronger than you think, Mighty One," they said. "Will you not let it go on you that we may see you break it?"
Fenrir, out of his fiery eyes, looked scorn upon them. "What fame would there be for me," he said, "in breaking such a binding?"
They showed him that none in their company could break it, slender as it was. "Thou only art able to break it, Mighty One," they said.
"The cord is slender, but there may be an enchantment in it," Fenrir said.
"Thou canst not break it, Fenrir, and we need not dread thee any more," the Gods said.
Then was that ravenous wolf wroth, for he lived on the fear that he made in the minds of the Gods. "I am loath to have this binding upon me," he said, "but if one of the Aesir will put his hand in my mouth as a pledge that I shall be freed of it, I will let ye put it on me."
The Gods looked wistfully on one another. It would be health to them all to have Fenrir bound; but who would lose his hand to have it done? One and then another of the Aesir stepped backward. But not Tyr, the brave swordsman. He stepped to Fenrir, and he laid his left hand between those tremendous jaws.
"Not thy left hand--thy sword-hand, O Tyr," growled Fenrir, and Tyr put his sword-hand into that terrible mouth. Then the cord Gleipnir was put upon Fenrir. With fiery eyes he watched the Gods bind him.
When the binding was on he stretched himself as before. He stretched himself to a monstrous size; the binding did not break off him. In fury he snapped his jaws upon the hand, and Tyr's hand, the swordsman's hand, was torn off.
But Fenrir was bound. They fixed a mighty chain to the fetter; they passed the chain through a hole bored through a great rock. The monstrous wolf made terrible efforts to break loose. but the rock, and the chain, and the fetter held. Then, seeing him secured, and to avenge the loss of Tyr's hand, the Gods took Tyr's sword and drove it to the hilt through his under jaw. Horribly the wolf howled. Mightily the foam flowed down from his jaws. That foam flowing made a river that is called Von--a river of fury that flowed on until Ragna rök came.