The Wolf as a Symbol

wolf in norway

In the Iron Age, also known as the Viking Age, it was thought that some people could transform into predators. They had the characteristics of these animals, and were powerful humans. The wolf was one of the mythical animals that was dangerous, but had courage and strength. In Norse mythology the wolf is held with high regard. Odin had two wolves as companions and he took wolf ham as a shaman.

The male name, Ulv, was also widely used from the 400s. It gave strength and fruitful hunting to those who bore the name. In war, the wolf was seen as a role model because they are fearless and skilled pack hunters. The most fearless warriors therefore dressed in wolf hammers and were known as berserkers. Both weapons and jewelry were adorned with wolves, most likely to transfer some of its characteristics to the owners of the objects.

There are images of wolves or dogs on all petroglyphs. Maybe this is because they managed to tame some wolves making the wolf an ally rather than an enemy. We also see this in Norse mythology, where they distinguish between the tamed wolves of Odin and the wild wolves that were untameable - the Fenris wolf itself.

In the beginning of the Middle Ages, the wolf was a feared but respected predator. It was closely linked to the war ideal of the time, as well as to regular animal husbandry of cows, sheep and reindeer naturally changed the attitude towards the wolf. In the new worldview introduced by Christianity, man was the ruler of nature and respect for the wolf changed into fear. Several stave churches from this time are adorned with the myths of Odin's son killing the Fenris wolf.

In the exhibition, we illuminate how views of wolves have changed through the ages, up to present day and show several objects from our archaeological collections with images of wolves from both the Viking and Middle Ages.