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Binding of the Wolf

I have a tale of once upon a time,
a tale of long ago and yesterday,
of far away and near at hand.
I have a tale of here and now, of there and forever…

My tale is the tale of the Binding of the Wolf.

Would you hear my tale?

As of the Giant kin, As Laufeyiarson,
Brother of Byleist and Brisinga-thief
Swift-journeyed eastwards, swift-journeyed homewards
To Ironwood's heartland, Angrboda's fief.

To Angrboda's arms he was eagerly welcomed,
To Angrboda's bed lined with arrow-shot spoils,
Three long nights of pleasure, through long winter darkness
Air, Fire, Earth and Frost - the worlds' fate in love's coils.

Then, maiden no longer, grown large in her grandeur,
Once lovely, grown monstrous, once lithe, grown in girth,
And as Sun to the south in her season was turning
The earth bed was shaken with spring's triple birth.

Three times did the earth groan, three times it trembled,
Three times the worlds shook as she birthed the worlds' bane.
Three times she was loved and three times cried out gladly,
Three times the nine worlds were enwrapped in her pain.

Angrboda's bed-joys, now born from earth's shaking,
Sweat-drenched in triumph. Twisting like fire,
Scales for the first and skin for the second,
The third clothed in hair and the hue of his sire.

Sleek, swift and sudden. The serpent was first-born -
He slipped silver-scaled to lie safe in my hands -
His eye was bright-opened, bright-pointed his tooth-hoard,
The bane of Sif's bedmate. The beast Iormungand.

The second flesh-covered, half corpse-blue, half rose-hued.
Her eyes sharp as sword-bite and slender her hand.
My dead she will own for me, oath-breakers hold for me
Nifhel's dark homeland is her lonely stand.

And the last, bright as fire, red-furred as sun's dying -
Fenris I doomed him, the death-spell of Thund,
Dearest I held him, dearest I loved him,
Dearest I feared for him, darkest of hounds.


From Asgard's High Seat the All-Seeing looked eastwards,
The Hanged One considered. The corpse-fed took flight.
His brows became furrowed. He formed the great Council
Called Aesir and Van to the vaults of great height.

"A seeing I've sought out, a seeing I've witnessed,
A vision of war and the wyrd of the worlds.
A seeing of serpents, a seeing of wolf-kind,
A seeing of carnage and carrion birds.

"Three times have I heard the taut cries of Angrboda -
Three times she was taken, three times she lost blood,
Three nights to get them and three to deliver
These giant-born As-get, most monstrous of broods.

"The first the great serpent, encircler of oceans,
The second the goddess. She'll guard the worlds' dead.
The third the wolf Fenris, fire-furred doom of heroes.
Three omens delivered from Angrboda's bed."

Then sent he the Aesir to Ironwood's centre
To claim the three children and cleave from the hand
Of their mother, Angrboda. Many her tears fell
As cub, maid and serpent were stole from her land.

The serpent writhed hard as the hands were laid on him -
Dry-silk was his skin, but sea-salt was his wyrd -
The High One cast furthest. The curse of the seeress -
Iormungand paid the cold price of her word.

To wrap the world's oceans he threw the world's girdler
Fulfilling the fate-words. Then forward he stepped
To the tall child of Loki, the loss-giver, Hella,
Laid hands on the goddess and gave her this charge.
Sent her to Nifhel, sun-lost in darkness
To ward the world's dead till the days of their doom.

The swift-growing goddess was sent to that darkness,
Her realm in the waste where the white root draws in.
Her halls will be filled with those fated to walk there,
The ones with no seat set aside by their kin.

Then the Grey One of Asgard struck out at the wolf child
With spear cast and sword blade. Lopt's son stood his ground.
Then Angrboda's bed mate sprang bravely between them
Biting his shield rim - protecting his hound.

The father of Fenris, the founder of Sleipnir,
Frigge's husband's blood-brother now boldly gave breath.
"What work has the cub done? What word to offend you?
Why speed you to taint Asgard's soil with his death?"

Then the All-High spoke clear. "The red cub is a killer
And fated to deal the death blow to this world.
He'll grow heavy-sinewed, he'll grow to earth's limits
And in the last days his dark purpose unfurl.
"Who'd take on such horror? Who'd hold the great Fell-Beast?
No-one will take such a thing to their land."

Then alone of the Aesir, alone of these Great Ones,
Praise-worthy Tiw put forth his right hand.
"I'll take on this burden, to foster the wolf-kin,
Though the task will be fierce, if the fates have their say.
I'll teach him of honour, the hall-gift of heroes.
I'll ward him from harm until wyrd takes the day."

To his fostering father grew faithful the red-hound,
Each day without fear they shared flesh and good beer.
Both sturdy and sinewed, both strong and full-bodied,
But ere Sunna grew lowest his strength became clear.

Then the Grey One to Council, full-knowing the fatewords,
Called Aesir and Vanir from each vaulted hall,
All save the Wolf's kinsman, all save the As-Loki,
Debated which way the white wood-slips might fall.

First Leyding they forged, cast in loops out of iron
Great bond-rings they hammered from hottest of ores.
The Wolf scorned the fetter, and from it shrugged swiftly.
The gods sang his praise and stood back from his paws.

Next, stronger they brazed the dread bond they called Dromi
Thick, heavy and new. The Wolf narrowed his gaze.
Decided that still he could strike free with vigour.
And so it was proved. Their proud smith was amazed.

Then trembled the Aesir, all but the Brave-God,
As loosed now from Leyding, and struck from Dromi,
The doom of the All-High, the doom of the Grey One,
Ragnarok's darkness, the Death-Wolf walked free.

Once before the All-Seeing had sought out the seeress,
Now spoke he the verses that spread out fate's cords.
And when they had heard the harsh wyrd from the All-High
Both Aesir and Vanir were one in their words.

I feared for the world's bane, my ragged-backed storm-child,
The Hanged-God's last holder, whose heart was so bold.
Still young and untested, in trial of great danger -
Unfettered, his life-thread more precious than gold.

So I told them the way my dear wolf could be warded
I gave them the binding. The boldest of all
Would be fettered and chained by the foes of his kindred
To preserve him from harm. Thus I spoke in the hall.

"The sound of a cat - as it slinks through the night.
The beard of a maid - ere a mother of sons.
The mountains deep root - now from rock it must spring.
The sinews of bears - for their strength is like stone.
The breath of a fish - as it flies through the sea.
The spit of a bird - as it sings in a cage.
These six well-combined by a smith of great fame
In the caves of the dark-elves - Gleipnir it is named."
So Skirnir was sent to the swart-elves' dark kingdom
The fell bond was forged and brought back in a day.
They called to the wild one to witness its wonder
And test it for strength. Thund's bane smiled and said nay.

"This ribbon so slender - the swart-elves have touched it.
I'm loathe to accept it. The honour is small.
For either this strand will be snapped in a moment
Or cannot be broken. Your bluff will I call.

"Reputation I lacked. But with Leyding and Dromi
I held myself proudly. You praised me in song.
But this slender making - it must be enchanted.
It stinks of dwarf magic. Assure me I'm wrong.

"Or else, if to follow this fate you determine,
Let one of you pledge me the price of your hand."
The trembling Aesir took council together
But his hearth-mate came forward and held out the band.

So turning to Tiw, most trusted of benchmates
The Wolf bowed his head and agreed to be bound.
The fostering guardian, the friend who had fed him,
The Brave One, the hero, held high his right hand.

And the Wolf, red-furred terror of trembling champions,
Twisted and turned within tightening coils.
The more he pushed outwards the more it pulled inwards
Close-wrapped in the dwarf-band his wolf strength was foiled.

Iron-hard, earth-fast, elven dark magic,
Gleipnir had triumphed. They turned now to make
Their anchor. A chain to a rock to a boulder
Set deep in the island in Asgard's great lake.

But the Victory God, the guide of all travellers,
The North Star, the pointer of praiseworthy men
Held fast to his pledge. No fear as his kinsman
Bit clean at the wolf-joint. The wyrd was fulfilled.

Many shapers would pause at this point in the story.
The wolf is well-bound. The wonder is gone.
But this tale's but half over - the trust-break will fester,
And the wyrd of the world is awaiting Lopt's son.

For beyond the white winter this wolf will come walking
Gleipnir must unravel, the wild one break free.
Fenris unfettered to fight in the end days,
Death bane of the Grey One. The world's gift from Loki.

© 2003 Jezreell

APT - Association of Polytheists Traditions

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