Field of Science

Fossil Legends - The teeth of the Moon Wolf

Another post inspired by the celebrated "Thorsday", featuring the balefully breed of Fenris.

In Norse mythology Mánagarmr, often identified also with Hati (the "Enemy"), is according to one version of the myth one of the wolf-sons born from the union of the Fenris wolf with the giantess Angrboda.

According to myth Hati chases the moon every night across the sky, until the time when he as Mánagarmr, grown to terrible size by devouring the flesh of the dead, will finally swallow it, initiating so Ragnarök - the end of the world.

The great Austrian palaeontologist Othenio Abel (1875 - 1946) depicts in his book about the use of fossils in myths and superstition a possible representation of Mánagarmr or a similar myth on one of the columns in the church of Berchtesgaden (Bavaria)
Abel reports also the myth connected to this sculpture: In the rocks of Europe can be found strange teeth, felt d
own, so the legend, from the sky during new moon, when the wolf tries to catch his prey. But until this time he was never big enough to swallow it, so he has to release the moon and continue his hunt until the next month.

Abel continues to philosophize about fossils, and speculates if maybe this legend was inspired by the recovery of large triangular teeth from sedimentary rocks, teeth, as we tody know, from ancient sharks - the so called Glossopetrae of the ancient people.

Fig.1. "It has been in earlier times that the many sculptures on the capitals of columns in Romanesque churches in Germany have been considered nothing more than products of imagination. Today we know, that these pictures possess a deeper meaning and that they express mythological ideas of our ancestors. This capital of a column (according to E. Jung, 1922) in the cloister of the church of Berchtesgaden depicts the moon wolf Mánagarmr. The triangular shape of the teeth of this abomination is strikingly reminiscent of the triangular shape of Carcharodon - teeth, to nothing other animal, known by our ancestors, can it be compared." (from ABEL 1939, 208)

Fig.2. Steno's figure of a dissected shark head, comparing the recent teeth to the Glossopetrae (one of the ancient names given to the yet not recognized fossil teeth), from "Elementorum myologiæ specimen, seu musculi descriptio geometrica : cui accedunt Canis Carchariæ dissectum caput, et dissectus piscis ex Canum genere" (1667).


ABEL O. (1939): Vorzeitliche Tierreste im Deutschen Mythus, Brauchtum und Volksglauben. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena: 304

ABEL, O. (1923): Die vorweltlichen Tiere in Märchen, Sage und Aberglauben. Braun Verlag, Karlsruhe: 66

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