Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Vikings and what they told us

The Jelling stones in Denmark
Having started on my TBR shelves with the Viking tale of Röde Orm (Red Serpent) I would like to linger a little bit in the time of the Vikings. They had their own written signs cold runor which were based on sound rather than alphabetical letters. They were engraved on stones. Thousands of these stones have been found where the Vikings lived and normally they are a memory stone of kings, queens, family or just a tale from their expeditions. They are not necessarily placed by a grave. Most of the stones are found in Sweden and date to the 11th century. The oldest stone though was found in Norway and is from the 4th century and might indicate that the runor was used before the Viking time.
Harald's stone with the image of Christ

Most stones are found in Sweden around the valley where Stockholm is now situated and in the south of Sweden. However, two of the most famous are situated in Denmark. They are called the Jelling stones (named so because they were found in the Danish town of Jelling). The smaller and older stone was raised by Gorm the Old who was the last pagan king of Denmark and in memory of his queen Thyre. The larger one is from the first christened Harald Bluetooth (which play a part in Röde Orm). The stone has three sides; one with an animal image, one with an image of the crucified Jesus Christ and the third has an inscription which reads:



King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.


Close to where I used to live in Blekinge (south east of Sweden) there are also runestones. These ones are slightly different and not as beautifully carved as other stones.  The other peculiarity with the biggest of the stones is that it contains a curse! The Björketorp stones are placed next to a burying field from the younger iron age and dated to around 7-8th centuries A.D. The biggest stone is four meters high which makes it one of the highest runestones in Sweden.

The stone is carved with the futharken which was a script used during the 4-8th centuries A.D. It seems there actually was a common language in Scandinavia during the Viking time which is called urnordiska (something like original Nordic language). The translation could be the following (my own translation from Swedish not from the runes(!) so take it for what it is):

"Mighty runes secret I hid here, powerful runes. Whoever breaks this memorial be constantly plagued by angryness. Betrayal death shall hit him. I predict depravity. "

Might be careful not to disturb anything!


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