The lore abounds in animal life. Everywhere you turn there’s a critter! Why were animals included in these works?
First of all our ancestors were close to animals. They relied on them for many things. Food. Warm clothes. Many things had their source in animal life. Today we seem to group animals into much different categories than our ancestors did. Today they’re pets or bred for meat or wild or kept in cages. These categories seem to have the effect of stripping animals of their sacred place in the world. Rarely are they of the wild category that allows them free range of animal expression.
In the lore we encounter animals in the wild for the most part. Animals left to their own devices. The sacred cow who licked the ice block to free the giant was nobody’s pet! Fenrir the wild was subdued and tended to by Tyr but no one could ever call him tame. The ravens of Odin may report back to him but they are left to their own devices much of the time. The Midgard Serpent is never caught and certainly nobody’s pet. These animals are allowed to act as they would do in their wild state. And as such they are free to act in profound ways in the lore. They may contribute to the tales of the gods as their character ordains. They are allowed to contribute to the lore in ways according to their nature.
Then there are the animals in the lore who are tamed and do the gods wishes. Thor’s goats. Freyja’s cats. Odin’s eight legged horse. Skinflaxi. All do the bidding of the gods and serve the lore as characters who round out the tales. No one can think of Odin and not think of his wolves. They provide the stories of the gods with depth. And they help move things along.
So animals play a sacred part in our tradition. Wherever they occur they are there to make things better or worse. Just like humans. Their roles are as important as the roles of the gods. Maybe we should look at them through respectful eyes. Give the animals their due!