Garmr

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"Hel" (1889) by Johannes Gehrts.

In Norse mythology, Garmr or Garm (Old Norse "rag"[1]) is a dog associated with Ragnarök, and described as a blood-stained watchdog that guards Hel's gate.

Attestations[edit]

Poetic Edda[edit]

The Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál mentions Garmr:

The best of trees | must Yggdrasil be,
Skíðblaðnir best of boats;
Of all the gods | is Óðinn the greatest,
And Sleipnir the best of steeds;
Bifröst of bridges, | Bragi of skalds,
Hábrók of hawks, | and Garm of hounds.[2]

One of the refrains of Völuspá uses Garmr's howling to herald the coming of Ragnarök:

Now Garm howls loud | before Gnipahellir,
The fetters will burst, | and the wolf run free;
Much do I know, | and more can see
Of the fate of the gods, | the mighty in fight.[3]

After the first occurrence of this refrain the Fimbulvetr is related; the second occurrence is succeeded by the invasion of Jötnar (giants) in the world of gods; after the last occurrence, the rise of a new and better world is described.

Baldrs draumar describes a journey which Odin makes to Hel. Along the way he meets a dog.

Then Óðinn rose, | the enchanter old,
And the saddle he laid | on Sleipnir's back;
Thence rode he down | to Niflhel deep,
And the hound he met | that came from hell.
Bloody he was | on his breast before,
At the father of magic | he howled from afar;
Forward rode Óðinn, | the earth resounded
Till the house so high | of Hel he reached.[4]

Although unnamed, this dog is normally assumed to be Garmr.[5] Alternatively, Garmr is sometimes assumed to be identical to Fenrir. In either case it is often suggested that Snorri invented the battle between Garmr and Týr, since it is not mentioned in the surviving poetry. Garmr is sometimes seen as a hellhound, comparable to Cerberus.

Prose Edda[edit]

The Prose Edda book Gylfaginning assigns him a role in Ragnarök:

Then shall the dog Garmr be loosed, which is bound before Gnipahellir: he is the greatest monster; he shall do battle with Týr, and each become the other's slayer.[6]

Etymology[edit]

Bruce Lincoln brings together Garmr and the Greek mythological dog Cerberus, relating both names to a Proto-Indo-European root *ger- "to growl" (perhaps with the suffixes -*m/*b and -*r).[7] However, as Ogden (2013)[8]notes, this analysis actually requires Cerberus and Garmr to be derived from two different Indo-European roots (*ger- and *gher- respectively), and in this opinion does not establish a relationship between the two names. However, the two roots are similar enough that a connection can still be argued.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Orchard (1997:52).
  2. ^ Bellows (1923.)
  3. ^ Bellows (1923).
  4. ^ Bellows (1923).
  5. ^ Lincoln (1991:97)
  6. ^ Brodeur (1916).
  7. ^ Lincoln, Bruce (1991). Death, war, and sacrifice: studies in ideology and practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-226-48199-9. 
  8. ^ Ogden, Daniel (2013). Drakon: Dragon Myth and Serpent Cult in the Greek and Roman Worlds. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 105. ISBN 0199557322. 

References[edit]