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. 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]