Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Riddle of the Rune Stone


Close to the church in Rök, near Ödeshög in the province of Östergötland, there is famous old runestone worth having a look at. It’s not just “any” old runestone, but actually the longest known runic text inscribed on stone – covering both sides of the large stone. Because of the length and contents of the text, it is also considered as the oldest piece of preserved written Swedish literature. Judging from the runic alphabet used, the runes were probably carved in the early 9th century. The experts still don’t all agree on the interpretation, as the inscription is partially encrypted and thus not meant to be easily read, even back when it was created.

The stone was discovered in the 19th century, built into the wall of the church; and was removed from there a few decades later. The church is from the 12th century, when it was not uncommon to use old rune stones as building material.






In memory of Vémóðr/Vámóðr stand these runes.
And Varinn coloured them, the father,
in memory of his dead son.
I say the folktale / to the young men,
which the two war-booties were,
which twelve times were taken as war-booty,
both together from various men.
I say this second, who nine generations ago
lost his life with the Hreidgoths
and died with them for his guilt.

- - -

For more facts, riddles and possible interpretations,
see Wikipedia: Rök Runestone




  1. Fascinating! I've always had a thing for runes - and old scripts and characters anyway - and there was a time when I was about 13 that I wrote part of my geography workbook at school in runes, just for fun.
    My Mum's first name is Siegrun, which means Victory's Rune. Poignant when you consider that she was born in 1944, the last full year of WWII, in the country that started it all and was about to lose it all, too...

    1. I think there's probably always been something magic about writing... Being able to tell a story using letters or signs :) And the meaning/ origin of names is fascinating, too.

  2. As soon as I have some time, I am going to Wikipedia!! What was the guilt? This is not the entire rune transcription you have printed, right? So interesting!! And also, the writing on the stone looks brilliant and new! Has it been kept up and re-panted? I like that the church has left it outside, where everyone can see it.

    1. I can't make head or tail of the message, Ginny, and even the experts seem to be arguing about the meaning. (See Wiki.) There is a whole outdoors exhibition about it as well close to the stone itself, my photos of printed info are from that. In Swedish, there's even more text to read; but that's not the same as making it all clear :)

  3. You are so fortunate to be able to connect with the history of your country in such real ways.
    People have lived in my region for about 80 000 years. There are many traditional languages in this region, but all they are all oral cultures. The only visible evidence that remains is the abundant rock art. Very little else remains although some oral traditional knowledge is still passed on.
    You are so fortunate to be able to see, read, and know what happened on your country and why. It would have taken such enormous effort to create this rune that I can almost feel its importance. I wonder if I would take that amount of time and care to tell a story.
    I hope this rock is valued and protected. Beware of the dreadful packpackers who touch, desecrate, and deface so many historic treasures.

    1. Sometimes I wonder, Louise, what the Future will think of our time when ours has become the Past. Will all our digital information still be floating around in space, and will anyone be able to decipher it? Or will we be known as the age of "way too much information"? ;) ... We have rock carvings in some places in Sweden too, preceding the runes, but nowhere near as old as those in Australia.

  4. I wonder if they'll ever be able to figure it all out.

    1. I doubt that, Janet. Theories may keep developing, but that's not necessarily the same as Knowing...

  5. Fascinating! However, unlike Meike, I know absolutely nothing at all about runes so this has made me think and, as is said, every day is a school day. Can I ask you, Meike, whether you used a known runic language or languages or whether you made up your own?


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