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Dog who guards the gate of Hel


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 Garmr of hounds

Grímnismál, Bellows Translation

He may be pushing the relatively loose definition of ‘god’ we’ve already established here, but Garmr is the best of hounds and needs some love. Garmr is the ever-faithful hound of Hel, guardian and herald of Ragnarök. While Heimdallr blows his horn, so too does Garmr raise his head and howl within his home, the cave Gnipahellir.

While the Poetic Edda tends to differentiate Garmr from Fenrir, the Prose Edda and Snorri sees them as one and the same:

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

Gylfaginning, Brodeur Translation

Which is interesting considering that Snorri also writes in the same piece:

Then said Gangleri: "This certainly I can perceive to be true: these things which thou hast taken for proof, I can see; but how was the fetter fashioned?" Hárr answered: "That I am well able to tell thee. The fetter was soft and smooth as a silken ribbon, but as sure and strong as thou shalt now hear. Then, when the fetter was brought to the Æsir, they thanked the messenger well for his errand. Then the Æsir went out upon the lake called Ámsvartnir, to the island called Lyngvi, and summoning the Wolf with them…

Ultimately, then, whether you see Fenrir as Garmr is up to personal interpretation, though it seems common to see them as two separate beings among modern heathens. Garmr is loyal, called best of hounds, and Hel companion, roaming her halls and seemingly acting as a guardian for the dead – although, whether his duty lies in stopping the dead leaving or others from entering is unclear. In Baldr’s Dreams, we (probably*) encounter Garmr again, covered in blood and howling at Odin as he passes. It's possible that Garmr’s lack of action here could be indicative of Hel’s permission to enter her realm, but that is, again, up for interpretation.

So, Garmr, best of hounds! How do you see him? What does Garmr mean to you or your practice?

*as he isn’t named, merely called a hound.

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