The Binding of Fenrir, How Gleipnir Maintains Frith, and UPG in Heathenry
Disclaimer: Due to the nature of UPG (unverified personal gnosis), I must comment that my interpretation of the Binding of Fenrir and its meaning are my own personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other human, god, other deity/entity, or organization.
In Norse lore (often referred to as mythology), Fenrir was a son of Loki who lived in Asgard with the gods. Only Tyr was brave (or kind) enough to care for the young pup. Odin received a reading from a Seer who told him that Fenrir would swallow him during Ragnarok and that would be his demise. The gods decided that to avoid this, they would need to bind Fenrir on a remote island. They played this as a game with Fenrir - the first chain was mighty but Fenrir broke through and boasted of his strength. The second was stronger, but Fenrir still broke this bond and continued his boast. Finally, the gods went to the dwarves who constructed a fetter made from six things: the noise a cat makes when it moves, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of a bird. When Fenrir saw this fetter, he grew suspicious as it appeared to be small and delicate, and refused to allow the gods to place the fetter on him unless one of them put their hand in his mouth, to be bitten off if he could not get out. Only Tyr was willing to do this, and put his hand in Fenrir's mouth as the other gods placed Gleipnir. Once placed, the more Fenrir struggled, the stronger and tighter Gleipnir became. When he realized that he would not be freed, Fenrir looked at Tyr and bit his hand. The gods then stuck a sword in the wolf's mouth to keep it open and left him in the earth. All of the gods except Tyr left laughing and relieved.
Now, many think Fenrir deserved what he got as he represents evil in the lore because he is said to destroy Odin in Ragnarok - but I believe that the undoing of Odin by Fenrir is self-fulfilling prophecy. Fenrir was boastful, but he was young and not causing problems and will not cause problems until Ragnarok. I supplant that Fenrir swallows Odin because Odin orchestrated his binding, and that he would have had no reason otherwise and may have even been on the gods' side if he were not bound. I believe that Tyr stepped in both to sacrifice one of the most important parts of himself for the greater good, and because he cared for Fenrir and wanted to be there for him - and this may have saved Fenrir's life.
There are a few lessons we can get from this story, some more complex than others:
1. If you seek to know the future, the future will be in flux and things may happen that wouldn't have.
2. Boast about good things that lift up your community and the global community - but selfish boasting is detrimental to all.
3. We can look at Gleipnir as the binds that hold society together: frith, or peaceful community; communication; kindness; and understanding. Ragnarok occurs when these break down, and thus society breaks down.
So, Bound By Gleipnir speaks to my own understanding of social bonds and kindness, contributing to society, fighting for what is right, and self-sacrifice for the greater good.
A Note on UPG
UPG stands for unverified personal gnosis, which is a feeling, notion, or sincerely-held belief in a component to a story from the lore that isn't otherwise accounted for elsewhere in original literature relating to Norse paganism/heathenry. UPG can be notoriously subjective and varies greatly from person to person, thus we learn to listen to one another's UPG but to also hear it analytically and decide for ourselves how, if at all, that particular UPG may fit into one's own practice. In this case, the analysis behind the gods' actions and the relationship between Tyr and Fenrir are my own UPG.
Helrune, Seo. 2023. “Why Not Both? Bridging Reconstructionism and Gnosis.” Thetroth.Org. 2023. https://thetroth.org/resource/why-not-both-bridging-reconstructionism-and-gnosis-seo-helrune/.
Kowalsky-Grahek, Ben. 2023. “The Troth Updates Events Policy and Removes Exclusionary Language.” Thetroth.Org. June 15, 2023. https://thetroth.org/official-announcements/troth-removes-ban/.
The Rational Heathen. 2018. “Why Unverified Personal Gnosis Should Not Be Dreaded.” April 28, 2018. https://www.rationalheathen.com/2018/04/28/why-unverified-personal-gnosis-should-not-be-dreaded/.
The Troth. 2023. “Good and Evil.” Thetroth.Org. 2023. https://thetroth.org/resource/good-and-evil/.
Wagonner, Ben, and Paul Mercurio. 2021. “Tyr | Norse Gods | The Troth.” Thetroth.Org. 2021. https://thetroth.org/resource/tyr/.