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Norse Mythology(14)
Author: Neil Gaiman

“Now,” shouted Thor.

Fenrir strained and stretched the muscles of his legs, and the chains snapped like dry twigs.

The great wolf howled to the moon, a howl of triumph and joy. “I broke your chains,” he said. “Do not forget this.”

“We will not forget,” said the gods.

The next day Tyr went to take the wolf his meat. “I broke the fetters,” said Fenrir. “I broke them easily.”

“You did,” said Tyr.

“Do you think they will test me again? I grow, and I grow stronger with every day.”

“They will test you again. I would wager my right hand on it,” said Tyr.

The wolf was still growing, and the gods were in the smithies, forging a new set of chains. Each link in the chains was too heavy for a normal man to lift. The metal of the chains was the strongest metal that the gods could find: iron from the earth mixed with iron that had fallen from the sky. They called these chains Dromi.

The gods hauled the chains to where Fenrir slept.

The wolf opened his eyes.

“Again?” he said.

“If you can escape from these chains,” said the gods, “then your renown and your strength will be known to all the worlds. Glory will be yours. If chains like this cannot hold you, then your strength will be greater than that of any of the gods or the giants.”

Fenrir nodded at this, and looked at the chains called Dromi, bigger than any chains had ever been, stronger than the strongest of bonds. “There is no glory without danger,” said the wolf after some moments. “I believe I can break these bindings. Chain me up.”

They chained him.

The great wolf stretched and strained, but the chains held. The gods looked at each other, and there was the beginning of triumph in their eyes, but now the huge wolf began to twist and to writhe, to kick out his legs and strain in every muscle and every sinew. His eyes flashed and his teeth flashed and his jaws foamed.

He growled as he writhed. He struggled with all his might.

The gods moved back involuntarily, and it was good that they did so, for the chains fractured and then broke with such violence that the pieces were thrown far into the air, and for years to come the gods would find lumps of shattered shackles embedded in the sides of huge trees or the side of a mountain.

“Yes!” shouted Fenrir, and howled in his victory like a wolf and like a man.

The gods who had watched the struggle did not seem, the wolf observed, to delight in his victory. Not even Tyr. Fenrir, Loki’s child, brooded on this, and on other matters.

And Fenris Wolf grew huger and hungrier with each day that passed.

Odin brooded and he pondered and he thought. All the wisdom of Mimir’s well was his, and the wisdom he had gained from hanging from the world-tree, a sacrifice to himself. At last he called the light elf Skirnir, Frey’s messenger, to his side, and he described the chain called Gleipnir. Skirnir rode his horse across the rainbow bridge to Svartalfheim, with instructions to the dwarfs for how to create a chain unlike anything ever made before.

The dwarfs listened to Skirnir describe the commission, and they shivered, and they named their price. Skirnir agreed, as he had been instructed to do by Odin, although the dwarfs’ price was high. The dwarfs gathered the ingredients they would need to make Gleipnir.

These were the six things the dwarfs gathered:

For firstly, the footsteps of a cat.

For secondly, the beard of a woman.

For thirdly, the roots of a mountain.

For fourthly, the sinews of a bear.

For fifthly, the breath of a fish.

For sixth and lastly, the spittle of a bird.

Each of these things was used to make Gleipnir. (You say you have not seen these things? Of course you have not. The dwarfs used them in their crafting.)

When the dwarfs had finished their crafting, they gave Skirnir a wooden box. Inside the box was something that looked like a long silken ribbon, smooth and soft to the touch. It was almost transparent, and weighed next to nothing.

Skirnir rode back to Asgard with his box at his side. He arrived late in the evening, after the sun had set. He showed the gods what he had brought back from the workshop of the dwarfs, and they were amazed to see it.

The gods went together to the shores of the Black Lake, and they called Fenrir by name. He came at a run, as a dog will come when it is called, and the gods marveled to see how big he was and how powerful.

“What’s happening?” asked the wolf.

“We have obtained the strongest bond of all,” they told him. “Not even you will be able to break it.”

The wolf puffed himself up. “I can burst any chains,” he told them proudly.

Odin opened his hand to display Gleipnir. It shimmered in the moonlight.

“That?” said the wolf. “That is nothing.”

The gods pulled on it to show him how strong it was. “We cannot break it,” they told him.

The wolf squinted at the silken band that they held between them, glimmering like a snail’s trail or the moonlight on the waves, and he turned away, uninterested.

“No,” he said. “Bring me real chains, real fetters, heavy ones, huge ones, and let me show my strength.”

“This is Gleipnir,” said Odin. “It is stronger than any chains or fetters. Are you scared, Fenrir?”

“Scared? Not at all. But what happens if I break a thin ribbon like that? Do you think I will get renown and fame? That people will gather together and say, ‘Do you know how strong and powerful Fenris Wolf is? He is so powerful he broke a silken ribbon!’ There will be no glory for me in breaking Gleipnir.”

“You are scared,” said Odin.

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