Geri and Freki


Geri and Freki (from Old Norse, where both names mean "the greedy" or "the ravenous"), in Norse mythology, are two wolves that accompany the God Odin. After a successful battle, Odin walks over the bodies of his defeated adversaries while Geri and Freki devour their bodies.

During their dinners, Odin gives all the meat to the wolves, as he feeds only on mead.

They are attested in the works Edda poetics, a 13th century compilation of older sources, Edda prose, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in the poetry of the scalds.

The pair have been compared to similar figures found in Greek, Roman and Vedic mythologies, and have also been associated with beliefs surrounding the Ulfhednar myth.

Etymology of Geri and Freki

The meaning of the names Geri and Freki has been interpreted as "the greedy" or "the ravenous".

The name Geri can be traced back to the protogermanic adjective *geraz, attested in the Burgundian girs, Old Norse gerr, and Old High German ger or giri, where all mean "glutton."

The name Freki can be traced back to the adjective from the Protogermanic *frekaz, attested in the Gothic faihu-friks "ambitious, greedy", in Old Norse frekr "gluttonous", in Old English frec "eager, greedy, gluttonous, audacious" and in Old High German freh "greedy".

John Lindow interprets both names as nominalized Old Norse adjectives.

Bruce Lincoln traces Geri back to the stem of the Protoindo-European language *gher-, which is the same as that found in Garm, a name referring to the dog guarding Hel's kingdom and closely associated with the events of Ragnarök.

Geri and Freki in the Eddas

In the poem Grímnismál from the Poetic Edda, the god Odin (disguised as Grímnir) provides the young Agnarr Geirröðsson with much information about the Norse worlds, about Yggdrasil, and about Odin's companions. In one passage, he says that he feeds Geri and Freki while the god himself consumes only wine.

The two are also mentioned through the kenning "dogs of Viðrir (Odin)" in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, verse 13, where it is reported that they walk the field "eager for the bodies of those who have fallen on the battlefield."

In the Gylfaginning (chapter 38) of the prose Edda, the enthroned figure of Hár explains that Odin gives all the food on the table to his wolves Geri and Freki and explains that Odin does not need food, for to him wine is both meat (food) and drink. Hár then quotes the aforementioned verse from the poem Grímnismál in support.

In chapter 75 of the Edda prose book Skáldskaparmál there is a list of names of wargs and wolves that includes Geri and Freki.

In the poetry of the scalds Geri and Freki are used as common names for "wolf" in chapter 58 of Skáldskaparmál (quoted in works by the scalds Thjodolf de Hvinir and Egill Skallagrímsson) and Geri is used again as a synonym for "wolf" in chapter 64 of Háttatal, Edda's prose book.

Geri is used as kenning for the word "blood" in chapter 58 of the Skáldskaparmál ("the beers of Geri" in a work by the Þórðr Sjáreksson scaldo) and for "carrion" in chapter 60 ("piece of Geri" in a work by the Einarr Skúlason scaldo).

Freki is also used as kenning for "carrion" ("meal of Freki") in work by Þórðr Sjáreksson in chapter 58 of the Skáldskaparmál.

Theories about Geri and Freki

Historian Michael Spiedel links Geri and Freki with archaeological finds depicting figures wearing wolf pelts and frequently found wolf-related names among Germanic peoples, including Wulfhroc ("Wolf-Tunic"), Wolfhetan ("Wolf-Shadow"), Isangrim ("Gray Mask"), Scrutolf ("Wolf-Suit") , Wolfgang ("Wolf-Step"), Wolfdregil ("Running-Wolf") and Vulfolaic ("Dancing-Wolf") and myths about wolf warriors from Norse mythology (such as the Berserker).

Spiedel believes that this points to the pan-Germanic cult of wolf-warriors centered around Odin, which diminished after Christianization.

Scholars have also noted that wolves would be Proto-Indo-European deities. Mythologist Jacob Grimm noted connection between Odin and the Greek god Apollo, since for both ravens and wolves were sacred.

The philologist Maurice Bloomfield further linked Geri and Freki to two Yama dogs from Vedic mythology, and saw them as a Germanic adaptation of Cerberus.

Elaborating on connections between wolves and figures of great power Michael Speidel said, "This is why Geri and Freki, the wolves at Odin's side, also stood beside the thrones of Anglo-Saxon kings.

Wolf-warriors, like Geri and Freki, are not just mere animals but mythical beings; as followers of Odin, they are part of his power, and he made them wolf-warriors."