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Geri and Freki

Geri and Freki

Geri and Freki are the wolves of Odin, to whom the god gives his food when he is in Valhalla, himself being satisfied with wine and mead only. Their names mean "the greedy" and "the ravenous" respectively. They lie at Odin's feet and help him in war.

Etymology

The name Geri means "the greedy" or "the predatory, the gluttonous". The name Geri can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic adjective "geraz". Attested are Burgundian "girs", Old Norse "gerr" and Old High German "ger" or "giri", all with the meaning "greedy".

The name "Freki" can be traced to the Proto-Germanic adjective "frekaz," attested in Gothic faihu-friks meaning "covetous, lustful, greedy," Old Norse frekr meaning "greedy," Old English frec meaning "covetous, greedy, voracious, pert," and Old High German freh meaning "greedy."

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John Lindow interprets the two Old Norse names as nominalized adjectives.

Bruce Lincoln traces "Geri" back to the Proto-Indo-European stem "gher", which also underlies "Garmr". The dog Garm guards the entrance to the underworld and plays an important role in Ragnarok.

Symbolism

Researcher Michael Spiegel associates Geri and Freki with the ancient Germanic people, among whom "wolf" names were often used, such as Wulfhroc (Wolf-clad), Wolfhetan (Wolfskin), Isangrim (Gray Mask), Wolfgang (Moving like a Wolf), Wolfdregil (Running like a Wolf), Vulfolaic (Dancing with Wolves).

Spiegel also points to the all-German role of the wolf cult, which is concentrated in Scandinavian mythology and weakened with the Christianization of Europe. He also draws parallels between Geri and Freki and depictions of wolves in other Indo-European cultures.

In India of the Vedas period the wolf is the companion animal to Rudra, for the Romans to Mars, for the Germans to Wotan. Geri and Freki are not just animals, but mythical creatures embodying the physical power of Wotan.

Representing (not exclusively) the functions of the gods of death and war, Odin is associated with the wolf, an animal renowned for feeding on corpses on the battlefield.