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Hel (1889) by Johannes Gehrts

"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.


Poetic Edda

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

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]


Bruce Lincoln brings together Garmr and the Greek mythological dog Cerberus, deriving both names from a Proto-Indo-European root *ger- "to growl" (perhaps with the suffixes -*m/*b and -*r)[7].


  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. pp. 289. ISBN 978-0-226-48199-9. 


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Garmr. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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