When the Jorgen Jorgensen was first acquired by the Pyrmont Boat Club, it came with a mysterious plaque figure on the bow head that had been affixed by the builder in the 80s. It depicted a hairless, dog-like creature who was biting an extended tongue that wrapped around its wrist.
What was the creature and what was it doing on the Jorgen Jorgensen? We were familiar with the biblical account of the tongue being the rudder of the body – could this be the meaning of the image; to tame the tongue lest it restrain your actions? This explanation seemed incongruous with a Viking ship which was essentially a vessel of war so the figure remained a mystery until a Norwegian tourist visited the boat club to have a look at the ship.
He was familiar with the deity depicted on the bow from stories his grandmother had told him when he was a child. And the truth as they say, was stranger than fiction. The animal is a Vargr (Norse for ‘wolf’) called Wearh, a dog of war whose fur has been burnt off during vicious combat.
Wearh is the grandson of Loki who, according to Norse mythology, was a shape shifter who fathered a brood of ferocious wolves and was locked up until the end of the world. One day Odin, the leader of the gods, chanced upon Loki’s monstrous brood. He cast them all into various hells but brought Fenrir the puppy back to Asgard to use as a guard dog.
After many years of loyal service to Odin, Fenrir fathered Wearh who had no such loyalties. He called Odin, “the one who makes mad” and tried to foment revolt against him in revenge for the treatment of his uncles. News of his insurrection reached Odin and he condemned him to earth to engage in never-ending combat.
Wearh was the conduit in which Odin communicated the ecstasy of battle, which inspired the berserks and filled them with such madness that they knew neither fear nor pain. To further punish him for his insolence, Odin restrained his wrist with his tongue to teach him that words have the power to condemn. That is why Wearh is shown trying to bite off his own tongue as he gallops into the flames of war.