1. The stone and its runes
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The Roek Stone is without any doubt the masterpiece among the rune stones. It was carved shortly after 800 AD, but later it has been used in a small barn and as a part of the porch at the church of Roek in Oestergoetland
. Roek is situated close to the main roads and "Eriksgatan" - the later coronation street of the Swedish kings - at a branch from Vreta over Bjaelbo to Alvastra being the supposed seats of some of the most important medieval royal dynasties. The name is according to Runverket derived from "Rauk", which is also the name for the rock formations used for the picture stones at Gotland. Since the stone was presented as a whole in 1862 the scholars have been challenged by the long text with its 750 runes and its mysterious connections, which should lead us a couple of centuries further back in time than the Nordic literature.
Varin or his rune master has presented a sophisticated use of the runes, where wrote encrypted text with displaced runic letters and numbers representing letters in a very systematical way. Already 100 years ago Sophus Bugge told how to read this text and that solution has been accepted by the scholars ever since. The system of displacement was already used by Julius Caesar, but has not been found earlier in Scandinavia. Already here we should suspect an assistant of the runemaster being influenced by the Carolingian renaissance and the school of Alcuin, where this play with letters and numbers was very popular at the time of the stone. It is extremely important to notice the systematical setup and use of encryption as it explains the structured way Varin and his rune master were thinking - which we need to understand in order to interpret their text. The set-up of the runes covering all the stone combined with the stanza and encryption system must have been carefully planned. We should therefore expect the text to be structured in the same way - with a clear structure, but with some messages hidden in a complicated way.
For 150 years the discussion has primarily taken place between runologists, linguists and philologists - which is not my area of expertise. For the last 50 years there has only been limited disagreement about how to set up the text of the stone in modern words and order - though a runic text will always be open for alternative reading. Opposite the linguists have never for more than a century reached an agreement about the fully meaning and purpose of the text. Many scholars prefer today that the stone will remain an insoluble mystery! Others are trying to find new ways of reading the text. However - instead of breaking up the text again and again in order to make it fit another half explanation, which will not survive "Ockhams Razor", we may search for the explanation in other scholarly areas than Norse literature.
Based on the translation by Helmer Gustavson, Runverket (Riksantikvarieaembetet, "Roekstenen", 2000) I have set up and tried out a simple solution regarding the interpretation of the text - assuming that Varin used ordinary riddle systems, common Norse legends and European history. In 1998 Gun Widmark
has confirmed this text to be the closest to an official Swedish translation - a kind of an independent consensus-translation. This translation is very close to Wessén's work 50 years earlier and it had been combined with several interpretations before Helmer Gustavson chose his version without being tied up by a personal interpretation. In the attached diagram the text is presented in an English translation.
In November 2005 Bo Ralph published a preliminary interpretation of the Roek Stone, where he criticized the current reading of the text. The interpretation was presented at seminars in 2006, and the papers from these three seminars have been published in 2007 (Ralph 2007a, 2007b and 2007c). As a linguist he felt an understandable doubt about those having to rely on the translation without being able to analyze the original language (Ralph 2007c, page 10), but this problem should be solved as all ambitious linguists for the last 150 years have published their own versions of the problems regarding the text. Quite opposite the problem may be that decrypting, solving riddles and evaluation of historical context may depend on other qualifications than linguistic. Rather is it a strength that the text is tested against possible interpretations by readers being unbiased by own translations as there is always a risk of circular reasoning as pointed out by Helmer Gustavson in Oslo 2006.
At that seminar at the University of Oslo in April 2006 Bo Ralph emphasized that the current way of reading the text has at least ten major uncertainties. In the following discussion Helmer Gustavson, Michael Barnes and other scholars criticized some of Bo Ralph's examples, but all agreed that it is necessary to try other ways of reading as no interpretation has been accepted as reliable until now. It was also generally agreed by all including Bo Ralph that his new proposal as presented did not overrule the existing consensus due to lacking knowledge about the local language, the meters of that time etc.. Later in articles and reviews Michael Barnes and Michael Schulte have opposed some of Bo Ralph's most important arguments
It has to be realized too that a perfect spelling and grammar - if we knew a such at a local place at a certain time - shall not be expected in a work where letters and text shall also follow strictly a complex structure of encryption and set up. The carver had to use the freedom of poets not always to follow the grammatical rules - which has been accepted by most translators of the stone.
Bo Ralph shall be credited his scholarly claims that the text appear to be riddles, that parallels and explanations may be found outside the Swedish borders and that the way out of this kind of deadlock could be a reevaluation of reading and translation. That was exactly what was needed when he wrote his articles in 2005/2006.
In 2006 - contemporary with Bo Ralph - Joseph Harris, Harward, published his more traditional reading of the stone where he in general accepted the current translation. Some elements in the last stanzas he did read differently from Wessén, but these translations are biased by his work with the Icelandic poem, Sonatorrek, which he regards to be a later parallel.
Runverket has especially expressed doubt about the expressions "tumiRonubsakaR", "uiauari", "onurthifiaru", "NIT", "goldin", "mukmini" and "Sibi". Consequently I have referred to versions and discussions presented by other linguists in the last two cases, but except a few cases where the original words are used directly from the stone the rest of the text is used unchanged in order to perform the following test as independently as possible.
2. The suggested structure
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As mentioned the complicated encryption is accepted by nearly all scholars. Varin or his rune master combined the new Futhark (the short-twigged Roek Runes), the old Futhark and six kinds of "encrypted runes". The encryption is only placed in the "frame" of the backside and when necessary he placed keys among the runes to show where the system changed. The encryption and the setup of the runes are used both to hide messages and to tell how to read the text. This use is not obvious to the unprepared reader. Consequently the setup will be described currently with the interpretation in this article as it can be regarded more like a confirmation than a guideline to us. A summary of the encryption system can be found in the attached
table and the explaining note
The break down of the text into statements and the order to read them below is consequently based on the version from Runverket, which follows the markers and the way the runes lines are placed at the stone. It appears to be the logical order of reading except for the two last lines which could also be read in the opposite order as suggested by Bo Ralph and Joseph Harris. In both the plain text in Roek runes and in the coded "frame" the first line to be read is marked with an unusual letter in the middle of the line. The numbering below is not following the stanzas, but is instead following the numbering of the stone itself and the statements according to the independent structure based on the repeated word "sakum" (I say / I tell ...).
Varin used in his stamements the initiating word "sakum". Sakum was succeeded by interrogative pronouns like "which" - except in the last stanza. Between these two parts of the expression he varied between "mukmini" and a statement number. The word "that" was placed after "sakum(m)ukmini" as this expression was used as a key showing a new encryption system. In other cases "that" was placed before "sakum". When the expression was placed inside a runeline it was supported by a separating mark in the front. These standardized expressions must be a key to the structure of the text too, which was in 2010 confirmed by Elena Melnikova (Melnikova 2010) - mentioning also that in Riddle no 1 and 14 "that" after "sakummukmini" mark the two major sections of the text. Most scholars have earlier underestimated the consequences of this very clear and indisputable structure in a text which appear to be jumping and incoherent when read as a usual poem. The setup with frames, the stabilizing "sakumukmini"-key, the special marks and the increasing complexity in coding does also indicate that the rune lines are read in the right order by Runverket.
The character and purpose with the encrypted frame is explained in chapter 7.
It is extremely important to be aware of that very clear structure which is independent of the translation and interpretation. It is improbable that the text shall not be read and interpreted in accordance with that structure.
Reading the translated text most scholars agree that the text is written in stanzas. Seven of them - those being initiated by "sakum" - are written in a kind of the metre ljodahattr (if this part of the text shall be regarded as metric and not as a prosimetrum). Two other stanzas which appear to be a part of another statement ar written in the old metrical verse fornyrdislag or a kind of it.
When reading the content of the text we are missing the explanations promised by "sakum". We are probably reading the first half of a dialog, which was usual in Norse poems and sagas - riddles with questions and answers. Norse examples are Vafthrudnismal and the dialog with Gestumblindi in Hervarar Saga, but riddles were also used as a teaching method at the contemporary Carolingian court (headed by Alcuin of York). The obvious and simple explanation is that the reader should try to answer the question and then find the correct answer hidden in the following text - probably in the following riddle - to keep the order of the dialog. This structure is already indicated by the last statement. Here the interrogative pronoun is missing as a riddle could not be answered in a next statement.
Four of the seven stanzas are in addition initiated by "mukmini" translated by Runverket as "the young people", while Wessén used "folk memory". Joseph Harris has suggested "hints for the young lad", but this as well as the expression "the young people" has been opposed by Michael Schulte in a recent article (Schulte 2008 b), where he convincingly defended the translation "folk memory" of Wessén - also confirmed by Elena Melnikova (Melnikova 2010). I will use this translation which will here show up to be covered by the more specific expression "common myth or legend" - written short as "myth" in my articles. By choosing the narrow meaning the test will be independent of the translation as all the translations will cover myths and legends, but it was probably clever by Gustavson to choose the most comprehensive meaning in the consensus published by Runverket.
Varin varied the system by compressing some of the riddles. Here he gave his reader a clear hint by numerating the riddles with 2, 12 and 13 - showing that 9 riddles were missing when reading the text as it appears at the first glance. Some scholars have suggested that the Roek Stone belonged to a group of unknown stones in the neighborhood, but that is unlikely as the stone contains both the beginning and the end of the text string. Also the 9 missing riddles shall in some way be represented on the stone - a second layer of the text - and it shall be possible to explain them in the same way as the 7 "sakum"-riddles.
It shall also be noticed that demonstratively many numbers are used at the stone - especially in the content of the frame at the backside. 16 numbers at all - just like the number of riddles and the number of runes in the new Futhark. These figures are probably important if we want to understand the stone and its purpose.
Below the text is explained based on the key structure at the table above, which is simple, obvious and independent of the translation and interpretation of the text as it is only based on the initiating "sakum", "mukmini", interrogative pronouns, statement numbers and special signs separating the runes.
Whether these assumptions about the structure are right or wrong can only be demonstrated by testing the principles on the existing translations - which of course below is the independent consensus-text from Runverket. When a translation is uncertain - as here - the text shall provide us with answers to all the questions, with a likely coherence and context and with a purpose behind the stone - and in the principle we shall be able to explain all the text. That was from the start the primary purpose of the chapters below. Due to the very systematical way the carver worked with set up, keys and encryption there is no reason to expect woolly philosophies. They were popular at the later shift between paganism and Christianity, but we do not know them from the pagan societies of the 9th century.
As a lot of articles and books about the stone have been written and 40 different interpretations have been presented, I am only able to make comments to some of the more recent articles - as explained by Joseph Harris (Harris 2006), who primarily refers to Niels Aage Nielsen (Nielsen 1969) and Lars Loennroth (Loennroth 1977). These two articles are referring and reflecting the former articles and discussions about the runologic and linguistic problems, which there is now a kind of consensus about. Of course most of the elements I use in my explanation have been mentioned in these articles, where the purpose of the stone is most often explained to be an appeal to revenge, a demonstration of poetry, old legends or a kind of skaldic memory. None of these are obvious and convincing explanations for a gigantic work of this kind - especially as they all leave a lot of questions open, which most of these scholars admit. If the explanations below are accepted it is not regarded as necessary to oppose all these earlier articles - except what is mentioned below.
has earlier suggested that the text of the stone probably consists of a special kind of riddles and answers (Greppa-minni) - but his solution is depending on another order of the text than generally accepted. Also Bo Ralph is regarding the text to be riddles and has argued convincingly for the use of riddles in a way, which will also cover this paper. However the reading of a substantial part of the runes has to be changed in order to fit his explanation about cosmic philosophy, the sun and the moon and parallels with the Exeter Book - an explanation which is primarily inspired by the use of the figure "12" in the second stanza. His hypothesis is that the rest of the inscription shall be interpreted in the same way. The parallels have forced him to a dating in the late 10th century, which was opposed by the runologists in Oslo and by Michael Barnes in an article (Barnes 2007). His most important argument against the current translation is the spelling of the name Theodoric, but his arguments against the spelling by following strictly the linguistic theories are contradicted by the many ways the name was spelled in our sources and it is also opposed by Michael Schulte (Schulte 2008). His interpretation is for the moment presented as an idea or hypotheses without any total reading or explanation of the text. In his latest article from December 2007 Bo Ralph predicted that parts of his suggested riddle system will remain unsolved. In that case his explanations will hardly ever be convincing
. Still in April 2013 he has not published further explanations.
In addition to the text from Runverket I have primarily referred to the very detailed explanations by Lars Loennroth (1977) and Niels Aage Nielsen (1969), who have both been close to several elements of my interpretation, to Joseph Harris (2006) and Bo Ralph (2007) and to linguistic comments regarding the translation by Ottar Groenvik (1983-2003) and Gun Widmark (1992-98).
3. The family - Riddle no. 1-11
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Purpose - Introduction
Most scholars have underestimated the importance of the first stanza, which is nearly undisputed except for the word "faikiAn". Instead they are caught by their own sophisticated interpretations of the following complicated stanzas. The text is:
After Vemod stand these runes +
but Varin carved (painted), the father
after his dead (doomed) son.
It is nearly identical with the kind of memorial text found at a substantial part of the later rune stones and memorials, except for the use of the word "faikiAn" (doomed?) for "dead" and the order between the dead and the carver. The first line in high runes formed as a "header" writes: "After Vemod stand these runes". As it is obvious from the way the runes are set up that the rune master was working very systematically with keys and encryption, it is also obvious that the "header" is a key to the text telling us that the readable content of the runic text of the stone must be related to the memory of Vemod. We shall never forget that introduction when interpreting the rest of the text as this must be the primary purpose of the stone.
The way to split up the sentence with the "unnecessary" "+"sign and the uncertainty of "faikiAn" may have reasons too, which we will return to later.
The mythical sword - Riddle no. 1
Riddle no. 1 about two war-booties is a traditional riddle:
I say the folktale,
which the 2 war-booties were
which 12 times were taken as war-booties,
both together from man to man.
We need to focus on the important clue that two items should follow each other as war-booties every time - rather than the specific number 12, as this number is not identified anywhere regarding "valraub". The riddle must focus on two items with a connected character as the very point following their owner on battlefields. An answer could be a sword and its sheet, but would the sheet always follow a conquered sword? The answer must be the legendary sword, which had to kill each time it was drawn from its sheath - made and damned by the dwarfs. Tyrfing was its name in Hervarar Saga, where it changed owner 6 times due to the use of violence
. Varin's finer point may have been that 2 items were mentioned - each item being a war-booty 6 times - making totally 12 war-booties. The character of "valraub" at these changes of ownership and their number can be discussed, but according to Hervarar Saga many old legends were told about this famous sword. Consequently it is not important if our version of the saga told about 6, 12 or another number of war-booties.
Later it will be demonstrated that the sword was regarded as a kind of key to the text - giving both associations to the Gothic kings and to the EinherjaR. For that purpose the figures 2 and 12 may have been used as pointers - just like the sword in the Hervarar Saga tied the different story lines together.
In the end of Hervarar Saga we are told that "Angantyr was king over Reidgotalandi for many years" after he had defeated the Huns with Tyrfing
in his hand. Though Hreidgothland in the 13th century was regarded as Jutland it is obvious from the content of the saga and the place names that this Angantyr operated in the regions of the Danube and the Dnepr as the Ostrogoths and the Heruls did. Herman Reichert has proposed that the Hreidsea was the Adriatic Sea, but as some "Hreadas" in Widsith were combined with the river Vistula the Hreidsea could be the Baltic Sea or the Black Sea as well. In the following list of kings attached to the saga Angantyr was mentioned and "from him are descended lines of kings"
Therefore it is obviously no coincidence that the next riddle of the stone is mentioning the Hreidgoths 9 generations ago. Neither is it a coincidence that the stanza in the "metre of the past" attached to this riddle is telling about the most famous Gothic king of all, Theodoric the Great. It must be his sword we are looking for as the hidden answer - though the connection is legendary and not historical - but that was how it was regarded by the Scandinavians too at that time.
Aake Ohlmark was of the opinion that it was the sword Gram together with the ring Andvaranaut which also ended at the Gothic kings. Accordingly it will not change the connections.
The Theodoric riddle - Riddle no. 2
The answer to Riddle no. 1 shall be confirmed in Riddle no. 2, which includes an auxiliary stanza:
This I say as the second,
who 9 generations ago
lost his life with the Hreidgoths,
and died at them for his guilt.
chief of sea warriors,
over the shores of the Hreiðsea.
Now he sits armed
on his (Gothic) horse,
his shield strapped,
leader of Marika.
It has to be noticed that the auxiliary stanza is divided into a "then"-part and a "now"-part. The first part serves to place and date the event in Riddle no. 2 at the time of Theodoric 9 generations ago. At that time he "ruled" (maybe intentionally very close to the word for "to ride") the beaches of the Hreidsea (the border sea of the Hreidgoths). Consequently the logical conclusion has to be that the second part about the horse nine generations later must refer to a statue of Theodoric on horseback. By a coincidence (or rather because of the very fact that it was famous at that time) also we know that statue. In 801 AD - around 9 generations after Theodoric, who died in 526 AD - Charlemagne moved an equestrian statue of Theodoric from Ravenna to Aachen. The dating by the runologists to the first half of the 9th century based on runes and language, comparison with Oseberg and Gokstad and a combination with the 9 generations has ended up in a general agreement about the dating of the stone to the first decades of the 9th century - except for Bo Ralph and a few other scholars
It is not likely that Varin mentioned the statue in order to identify Theodoric, as he was well-known by all Scandinavians. The purpose was to emphasize that Theodoric was sitting "armed on his (Gothic) horse" with his "shield strapped". Accordingly he should be expected to carry his sword in its sheath - and every Scandinavian knowing the legends of Tyrfing (or whatever the name was at that time) would have believed that the Hreidgotic king was carrying Tyrfing in its sheath at such a statue. That fits in with the fact that Theodoric in other Germanic legends as the OE Waldhere and the later Didrik Saga was connected with magic swords and "graven images" in copper of himself with his horse and sword in Rome and Ravenna
, though the names of the magic swords changed under time. Consequently the answer of Riddle no. 1 was confirmed in the second stanza of Riddle no. 2 - if the reader knew a version of the legend on which the well-known Hervarar Saga was based.
Theodoric was an important hero and the ideal of Charlemagne, who died in 814 AD. Many Scandinavians visited the Carolingian court - especially the Danes. Of course we cannot prove what people in Goetaland knew about Theodoric, swords and statues in the 9th century, but we can find this information in many later sagas at a time when the statue in Aachen had been removed again for centuries (Theodoric lost around 840 AD his heroic image at the Frankish court due to his Arian belief). We can also see from the Gotlandic picture stones and the earlier bracteates that many of the later pagan Germanic myths already at that time were known in Scandinavia. Consequently "unlikeliness" cannot be used as an argument against the interpretation above.
The dead king
In Riddle no. 2 the question is asked who 9 generations ago died for his guilt among the Hreidgoths at the time of Theodoric. As we are missing Riddle no. 3-11 his identity may in the first case be indicated in the separate stanza attached to Riddle no. 2 - an unusual stanza as an intentional break of the system. It has to be noticed that this stanza two times is telling of whom this Theodoric was the chief. That may look like a waste of space at the stone, but the double answer may tell us that at least one of the answers did also cover the dead person, who was either a chief of the sea warriors or of the Marika - or maybe of both as a chief to whom Theodoric was superior.
It must be obvious from the connection and the wording of the text that the person who "died with/among the Hreidgoths" was not Theodoric himself. Especially the statement that he died because of his guilt does not fit the usual picture of the heroic king. We know that Frankish Catholics later around 840 AD in writing promised Theodoric eternal perdition due to his Arian belief and his execution of Boetius
, but at that time the statue was removed. Accordingly the statue and the guilt would not both be mentioned at the stone. At the time of the Roek Stone Theodoric was honored by the Franks in Aachen, but first of all the stone was placed in Scandinavia where the pagan people would under no circumstances accept that their hero should incur guilt by those reasons - or believe he died of it. The target of that riddle must have been another person who was known for such a mistake.
According to a letter from Cassiodorus to the Herulian king in 507 AD Theodoric took the Heruls under his protection and adopted their king as his weapon son: "Highest among the nations will you be considered who are thus approved by the mind of Theodoric ... in adopting you we are also throwing round you the shield of our protection." (3.7). It was even mentioned in the letter that the Herulian king received horses, spears and shield from Theodoric - meaning that he fought under the weapons of Theodoric, which were normally painted at the shield [Notitia Dignitatum].
Procopius told in 553 AD about the Herulian king, Hrodolphus, who was killed in 508/9 AD by the Lombards - a year or two after the letter from Theodoric. His death and the defeat of his people was according to Procopius caused by his unfair breach of the treaty with the Lombards and by his disrespect of the clear omens from the gods known by all barbarians. In 790 AD - 25 years before the stone was carved - the Lombardian historian of Charlemagne, Paulus Diaconus, quoted the Herulian messenger telling about the defeat of the Heruls in this way: "Woe to thee, wretched Herolia, who are punished by the anger of God."
The consequence of this catastrophe was according to Procopius that the royal family and some of their followers migrated to Scandinavia, where they at their arrival settled at the Goetes
. That will explain why the stone in Goetaland told that Hrodolphus "lost his life with the Hreidgoths and died at them for his guilt". Both historical sources mentioning Hrodolphus/Rodolfo told about that mistake - being one of his characteristic features. When the Goths and especially Theodoric in the 9th century were the heroes of the Germanics, a Scandinavian would be proud of an ancestor being honored as the weapon son of Theodoric. We could ask why it was honorably to die because of own guilt, but it was even more problematic that he died under the protection of the great Theodoric. Procopius told that Hrodolphus was forced to do so by his soldiers - and also Paulus confirmed his situation - it simply became the standard explanation following the story about the two heroes that Theodoric could not protect him when he neglected his gods though Hrodolphus in all other aspects was an honorable man. His ancestors had lived with the consequences of the fall of Hrodolphus and his people in the Mar-region for 300 years. Therefore that unusual remark could be used to characterize Hrodolphus in the riddle at the Roek Stone - a clear parallel to the descriptions by Procopius and Paulus Diaconus.
That will explain the expression, "Chief of sea warriors", in the Theodoric-stanza. The Goths were not known as sea warriors, but the Western Heruls we feared as pirates along the western coasts of Europe in the 5th century like the later Vikings
. At the time of the Roek Stone - the Viking Ages - the people of Varin were probably operating as sea warriors too. If Varin was a descendant of Hrodolphus he would gladly regard Theodoric as chief of the sea warriors due to his adoption of Hrodolphus.
We could never dream of a better historical explanation of the text in Riddle no. 2 documented by an author of Charlemagne 25 years before the stone was carved (partly based on Origo Longobardorum ca. 650), a letter from Theodoric and the contempory history of the Byzantine Procopius, who even told that the family of Hrodolphus settled in the environment of the Roek Stone. The reason is no pure luck. Varin simply referred to two heroes who were famous both in the Dietrich cycles of Germanic lore and by the Carolingan historians at the time of the stone. We will even get further identification later, when the riddle is answered in the hidden Riddle no. 3.
Theodoric was also mentioned as leader of the Marika. The scholars have presented a lot of explanations regarding "Marika", which is the runic diminutive form of a name translated by Runverket as "Maeringa" - being the usual North Germanic version of such a name. This version is known from the OE poem
"Deor". Here "Þeodric held for 30 winters Maeringa burg; that is known by many". Maringa Burg is interpreted as the Italian city Ravenna being held by Theodoric for 33 years
. Due to the nationality of Theodoric himself Maerings have been intrepreted as his family or his people, the Goths, though no Gothic historian has ever mentioned that name - and though nobody can explain why.
If we accept the translation above, the use of "leader of the Maerings" (skati marika) at the Roek Stone does not support that Marings were the family of Theodoric, and neither does the use of the name Hreidgoths at the stone support that Maerings was a name of these Goths. That explanation is a shortcut in lack of other known possibilities.
While the other statements of Deor - even the one about Ermaneric - includes a relatively long explanation, the rule of 30 winters by Theodoric is only clarified with the unknown name "Marika" and "known by many" - the last indicating a well known legend. It would make more sense to write about the peace of Theodoric in those 30 winters than to waste space in the poem on the unusual and in that case unnecessary name if it did not refer to something else than the well-known identity of Theodoric. Under all circumstances there is no reason in Deor why Maering should not refer to another group than the family of Theodoric or his people.
We shall also notice the expression "áhte" (= held, had). "Ruled" was a more natural expression to use regarding the peaceful period created by Theodoric. This may indicate that Theodoric had conquered this stronghold of the Maerings. Actually his conquest of Ravenna is a famous legend itself. The former king in Ravenna, Odoaker, was in several sources called Rex Herulorum
though being a Sciri himself as a substantial part of his soldiers in Italy were Herulian mercenaries. After some defeats Odoaker and his army were sieged in Ravenna in 491 AD. The chancellor of Theodoric, Cassiodorus, told later about an event during the siege where “Odoaker left Ravenna with the Heruls in the night across the Candidiani Bridge and met his lord Theodoric in a memorable battle”. That Gothic/Herulic battle became later famous in the Germanic legends as the “Rabenschlacht”, but the Heruls had no luck to break out and were sieged for two years in Ravenna (Raben). They never lost, but Odoaker was murdered by Theodoric under peace negotiations arranged by the bishop of Ravenna. That may be the reason why the stronghold in Ravenna (Raben) was called "Maeringa Burg" in the legends by the Goths and other Germanics - the stronghold of the Heruls.
Opposite the Goths the Heruls are sparsely recorded in the historical sources and we have many problems, when we try to separate their different groups. The purpose of the nickname, Maeringa, may have been to distinguish the Eastern Heruls from the Western Heruls being until 454 AD the only Herulian mercenaries in Roman service. The name should probably be spelled Marika/Maringa as we know that spelling from a silver buckle from the middle of the 5th century AD with the runic inscription "marings"
, which was found in Hungary south of the Danube near the mouth of river March. The "s" at the buckle could point at both Heruls and Goths, but at that time the runes would most likely point at the Heruls as the Goths had developped their own alphabet.
The name Marika could refer to a people from the marshes around river March or "Marus" as Tacitus in 99 AD called the river in Annales
. With this old name for a swampy area (OE Marsh / ON Myr) it makes sense that the people with the name "Marings" lived in this "Mar"-region (in Slavic Morava / later Germanic Maehren). At the time of Odoaker and Theodoric this area was regarded to be the Herulian kingdom. In the 9th century - the time of Deor - the Slavic people of this region were called "Maroara" in OE.
In Scandinavia the ON word "maeringR" is found in a few Norse poems as "noble men". The word may appear as a parallel to the runic word "ErilaR" which may be connected with the Heruls and the word "jarl". At that time the Heruls had disappeared as a separate people in Northern Europe.
The interpretation of the Roek Stone would not be changed if "Marika" meant "The Noble Men" or "The Famous" instead. Actually the etymology of the name is explained by the scholars as "The family of Valamar" over "The Famous", "The Frightening", "The Border People", "The Horse Riders" to "The People of the Sea" - all these expressions can linguistically be connected with "mar".
It is tempting to call both Theodoric and Hrodolphus "skati marika" - "Lord of the Maerings" - as a double answer together with "chief of the sea warriors", but the name is a problem for historians and linguists to solve. It is not my area of expertice. Therefore "leader of Marika" is not used here as an argument for the connection between the Roek Stone and the Heruls in Scandinavia - we have already plenty of arguments.
It shall be noticed that most scholars under all circumstances accept that Marika connects the Roek Stone with Theodoric and Deor. It is, however, important also to notice that it has no influence on the identification of Hrodolphus and the interpretation of Riddle no 2 if the Marika were Goths or Heruls - both explanations will fit the interpretation above.
Instead we shall look for the 9 missing riddles and we may in that way be able to get an answer to Riddle no. 2 in accordance with the tested system.
Nine "missing" riddles - The first layer
It is hardly a coincidence that we find 9 generations mentioned in the very riddle after which the next 9 riddles (and answers) are missing - especially as the answer to Riddle no. 2 should be a person dying at that time. The 9 missing riddles are simply these 9 generations. In our case we have already been able to identify Hrodolphus as the first of these ancestors
We have now read all the text at the front side, but the back side begins with Riddle number 12. It is obvious that if the content shall have any relation to the "header" - which is a "must" with such a text in the "header" - the line of generations has to be the family of Varin, who is mentioned himself in the first unnumbered stanza - or rather the line after the "header" being marked by the "+"separator in the first. As a riddle this line can bring us to Riddle no. 12 at the rear side of the stone.
In this connection we shall notice that the header was written in high letters, and the only other tekst in high letters is "Skati Mariki" just before we should jump from Riddle no. 2 to Riddle no. 12. There must be a purpose behind the size of those letters. The translation was "leader of the Maerings" which may count Theodoric and his weapon son Hrodolphus and maybe even the descendants of Hrodolphus - the nine generations. In other words the high letters connecting Vemod and varin with "Skati Marika" (both as the people of Theodoric and Hrodolphus) should give us the idea that this family would solve our riddles. The letters are also making "the memory of Vemod" and "Skati Mariki" the most important part of the text in roek-runes - the last placed at the top of the side of the stone.
Riddle no. 11 itself must deal with the dead or doomed son and the obvious question which every reader will ask as the first: "What happened to him?" Especially the unusual use of the word "faikiAn" (rather doomed than dead) made this sentence a riddle. In that case this riddle shall be answered in Riddle no. 12. As we will see later Varin raised the stone because Vemod probably lied dead on the battlefield among 20 kings.
As mentioned Theodoric wrote to Hrodolphus two years before his death: "We send you our judgment that you are worthy to be our son. Highest among the nations will you be considered who are thus approved by the mind of Theodoric." It was a knowledge which would be told for generations in the family of Hrodolphus. In that way the message above from Varin was that Vemod was a descendant of a king who 9 generations ago was called worthy to be the son by the legendary Theodoric the Great himself - the greatest hero of both the Scandinavians and their Christian threat, Charlemagne. Could we expect a more probable purpose at a rune stone in memory of a dead son in the beginning of the 9th century?
That must be the simple explanation how the first layer of the text is constructed. We do not need more in order to understand the front side of the stone. We are, however, curious about the names of the other 6 or 7 ancestors as we know Hrodolphus, Varin and Vaemod. Also that message the carver has provided for us.
The "missing" names of the generations - The second layer
In this situation we shall remember the unusual "+"sign above before the line where the name of varin was mentioned. What was its purpose? In Riddle no. 15 two initiating "+"signs were used to mark the shift to encrypted runes inside the lines (the displacement code and the mysterious NIT) and also the beginning of Riddle no. 2 and 3 inside the runelines were marked with "+" and bullit. Back we have the unnecessary "+"sign before the second line of the first stanza with Varin and a "+"sign and "x"sign in Riddle no. 13 - the two last signs are marking beginning and end of the separate stanza in a kind of fornyrdislag containing 8 names. Did Varin tell us by using these "+"signs where we should find the 9 generations - himself and his 8 ancestors in Riddle no. 13. The "+"signs may have been used by the rune master to mark that the text contained displaced information - both regarding the setup of the runes and of the text. (The signs + and x were unknown as mathematical operators in Europe until the 15th century.) We should simply search in the text until we found these markers and would in that case end up at the frontside again in the first stanza with the "+" sign before Varin.
The Theodoric stanza is in the divergent metre, fornyrðislag. It consists of 8 short lines. The next divergent stanza is the additional stanza after the "+"sign in Riddle no. 13 (also partly in fornyrðislag - the metre of the past) containing also 8 short lines with 8 names in a text being pure nonsense - 4 fathers with each 5 sons of the same first name. As Sophus Bugge asked 100 years ago: "How can anyone believe that?" - but no one has reacted on his obvious question. The purpose is probably to let us see a connection between the 20 kings and the 4x5 first names - but as a false track, which is an often used method in riddles as emphasized by Bo Ralph (Ralph 2005). The plural form in apparently all the names of the sons must be a part of the trap, as Biorn as plural BirnaR among the fathers indicates that such grammatical rules can be ignored. If the text is set up in long lines these 4 lines have identical structures - forming 4 rows and 4 columns as a modern data matrix. Actually they appear as columns of both letters and words if they are aligned to the right. This is especially interesting as Varin placed an "s" more than used in the other lines behind Haruth. In that way he got six runes in all four names of the fathers, forming real columns - like Alcuin below - if the runes were aligned to the right. Probably we have here got the names of the 8 missing generations, as we do not find so many names elsewhere at the stone.
It is important to notice that this complicated reading order is marked independently of our interpretation of the text - it can be regarded as a confirmation. The matrix can be decomposed to 8 riddles in this way (where the 4 figures "5" are reserved for later explanation - indicating that the 8 names were heroes):
Matrix - Riddle no. 13|
Sons - 5 - Fathers
* suniR (plural) = son | son
When we try to place these 8 names in the right chronological order, we have to notice the last column in the matrix which must have a purpose too. "Sons" in each line immediately indicate that the last name is the father of the line. In that way the first ancestor must be Radulf, his son must be Valke/Valkar etc.. The plural allow us to use the expression "sons" twice in each line. According to the general system each of the 8 names shall be a part of a riddle: "Who was the son of the name?" The first line will be "The son of Radulf?" and the answer hidden in the next riddle, "The son of Valke?", will be "Valke" etc..
Of course Varin did not know a modern data matrix, which makes it easy for us to break up and rearrange the order, but he worked with stanzas having a similar function. This was probably inspired by Alcuin's Porfyrian acrostics being used to set up poems in horizontal and vertical lines of letters - being popular at the contemporary court of Charlemagne
. An example is Alcuin's "Sancta Cruce" at the left containing acrostics and maybe number symbolism. 20-30 years earlier than the Roek Stone Alcuin of York established a school at the court of Charlemagne teaching beside politics and religion also classical knowledge like logic, mathematics and poetry. He was a key figure in the Carolingian Renaissance and his ideas became widespread due to his pupils. One of his favorite teaching methods was riddles and answers, but he also used number symbolism and coding. Therefore it is not surprising that Varin used such ideas to place messages in the text - and the mentioning of the statue of Theodoric is confirming that he or one of his rune masters (at a time less than 20 years before the arrival of Ansgar in Birka) were well informed about the culture at the court of Charlemagne, just as we know from the Frankish annals that members of the Danish royal family joined the Frankish court while others escaped to the Suiones.
Already Sophus Bugge, Magnus Olsen and Hugo Pipping found by counting the runes combinations of especially the figure 24, but also the figure 16, which they regarded as an indication of number magic or numerology (see also chapter 5)
. They found such combinations in several places - but especially in the last 3 stanzas, in the names of the 8 kings and in the cross formed cipher runes. The three authors later tried to show this regularity on many rune stones, but they went too far and were later convincingly opposed by scholars like Anders Baeksted. Also Anders Baeksted, however, had to accept the strange coincidences of regularity mentioned above. Regular proportions of the number of letters in the rows was also the way used by Alcuin to construct the acrostic texts. The regularity may be traces of acrostics rather than number magic. This could indicate that the matrix - especially the names of the fathers were Varin broke the grammatical rules to fit a 4x6 matrix - may contain more messages than I have been able to explain with the reconstruction of Riddle no. 3-10
We have already answered Riddle no. 10, "Who was Gunmund's son?", with Varin. It was just here in the first stanza we found the "+"sign which may show where to proceed after the "+"-marked stanza with the 8 names. As mentioned that makes the stanza both the first and the last stanza of the front side - a way to read which may even be supported by the size of the text in the last line being just as high as in the first stanza - a torque-like circle.
The identification of Hrodolphus by name
The first runic name in the row, Radulf, is as close as it can be the Germanic spelling of the Greek Hrodolphos and the Latin Rodolfo. It is in this way confirmed that we are on the right track. They are not just two similar names. It is a name combination, Radulf/Theodoric, which is found both in the history and at the stone - tied together by the same story line, as Hrodolphus died when he let down his agreements and the clear omens of his gods while he was under adoption and protection of a superior king - the famous Hraidgothic king
. The time span between the time of Theodoric and the time of the stone is the same as the 9 generations, the 9 missing riddles and the number of "free" names at the stone pointed out by the "+"markers. Procopius even told that the family of Hrodolphus settled in the region, where the stone was found later more than 1000 kilometres away. These elements provide us with a very strong identification, which is unusual in the old history. It has been missed because the Swedish scholars have been focusing on the Goths and have ignored - with a few exceptions - the "primitive" Heruls.
To avoid unnescessary discussions the Marika are not mentioned here as an identifikation of Hrodolphus, but it is generally accepted that the name is under all circumstances connecting the Roek Stone with the legends of Theodoric.
We shall notice the names in the line of ancestors after Radulf too: Valke, Rugulf, Raidulf, Harud, Hoisl, Biorn and Gunmund. The names made already Sophus Bugge (1910, page 96-102) to mention the Heruls - but not as a family line. Hreidulf and Rugulf are names of the same character as Radulf (Hrodolphus). The first part of Hreidulf is the same as Hreidgoths and the name Rugulf is according to Axel Olrik (Bugge 1910, page 263) known from the eldest gravestones in Austria. If ValkaR is plural Valki or Valke is unknown in Scandinavia, but in Eastern Europe and Frisia Valka/Valko was known. If ValkaR is not plural of the ON Valdar, the Herulian/Lombardian Walthar and the EG Odoakar are parallels. Haruth must be the same as the Herulian name Aruth mentioned among the 14 Herulian names by Procopius
. The alpine-sounding Hoisl is like Valke unknown in Scandinavia according to von Friesen, while the two last names, Biorn and Gunmund, are typical royal Nordic names of the 9th century. However Gunmund (Kunmunt) must also be the name Cunimund - in the 540'ies the name of a king of the Gepides to whom Datius escaped with his group of Heruls. As the Germanic people used common names it shall only be argued in relation to the Roek Stone that the order of the names show a plausible chronological development from the East Germanic culture of Theodoric until Varin's own time in Oestergoetland. Varin's own name may be derived from Tacitus' Varini
in Northern Germany, who according to Procopius
had connections with the Heruls and Theodoric.
Could Hrodolphus and the family line be known by Varin? There are at least three possibilities:
1) According to the scholars Niels Lukman and Bardi Gudmansson the Heruls brought some of their East Germanic legends to Scandinavia being remembered by their descendants. An example is the saga of Dietrich of Bern (Theodoric) were the noble Rodolf von Bekelar (Pöchlarn, where Herilungoburg was mentioned in 832 AD) was the best man to the wife of Attila in a late distorted version. In Niebelungenlied he was caught between his oat to the wife of Attila and his duty to his daughter, who was married to a Burgundian prince. Rodolf was killed in a meaningless battle, and afterwards Dietrich sent out Hildebrand to save his body for a burial. His connection with the Huns appears to be a general mistake regarding the Heruls in Scandinavia - probably because they had followed the Huns (also to Scandinavia) until 50 years before Hrodolhus died.
2) The Roek Stone is showing that a rather impressive tradition of using runes appear to have been existing around the family of Varin, and we know from Venantius Fortunatus that runes were also carved in wood, which could still have preserved the names of their old ancestors at the time of Varin. The line of ancestors was important regarding inheritance and probably also regarding the right to be king. The royal genealogies were the first to be written down when the Christian writers arrived - but the genealogies could of course be manipulated.
3) Paulus Diaconus, who was prepared to be sent with an envoy to the Danish king by Charlemagne some decades before the Roek Stone, spent a great effort on Hrodolphus in his History of the Lombards. As the statue of Theodoric in Aachen was known by the carvers of the stone, they could also know the story of Hrodolphus - being well known in Aachen.
Accordingly it is very likely that Varin had the necessary knowledge to tell this story - and the last to be forgotten in the family was probably that their ancestor had been adopted by the famous Theodoric.
We can conclude that we have a line of likely names, but we do not have any possibility to identify the 7 of them.
The historical sources for these probable connections between Varin and Theodoric may appear rather complicated. The separate identificationes of the Heruls are shown at following sheet.
Attached a table can be
downloaded in pdf
showing the historical texts. The Marika have until now been regarded to be the Goths of Theodoric which will also make sense, while the other six all can identify the Heruls - including all the lines of the riddle itself. This is a very high degree of certainty in the identification when discussing the history of that time.
The historical sources used in this connection can be regarded as reliable. It is a letter from Cassiodorus, the chancellor of Theodoric, and the "History of Wars" by Procopius, who was the secretary and juridical advisor of Bellisarius, the superior general of Justinian. Procopius had close contact with the Herulian mercenary officers serving Justinian. He also told he spoke with eyewitnisses when the members of the Herulian dynasty in Scandinavia, Datius and his brother Aordus (Hord), were called back to Singidunum in 548 AD - 3 years before Procopius ended his story. Weaker sources confirming parts of the headlines are Jordanes, Paulus Diaconus and Origo Longobardorum. We do not know where the Heruls finally settled in Scandinavia and how many they were, but there is no doubt that the royal dynasty and their followers settled at the Scandinavian Peninsula and that thir followers were integrated in a Scandinavian people
The test of the riddle structure is not dependent of our choice among the historical explanations and also the use of the markers (+ & x) was unnecessary - these markers were not noticed when the system of the missing riddles was reconstructed first time in this article and can rather be regarded as a confirmation. We do under all circumstances have surprisingly much information confirming that the principle is followed regarding the missing riddles. Maybe I first time solved the problems a little backward, but in the Viking Ages the readers knew the name of Varin's father - making it much easier to solve the riddles.
Lars Loennroth has claimed that the text did not mean that the man in Riddle no. 2 died because af his guilt, but that he was still involved in the battles 9 generations later
. If his claim is correct it may be a parallel to the claim by Snorri that the Ases and the Svear invoked their king, Odin, when they went into battle. Also the divine Gothic "ansis" mentioned by Jordanes were heroic ancestors, and Rimbert mentioned the ancestor, Erik, being recognized as a god in Uppsala in the 9th century. Lars Loennroth's translation does not exclude the interpretation above, but his explanation is unlikely.
It is wise and necessary to question the basic text as Bo Ralph did in 2006/7 - with the Theodoric-stanza and the last stanza as examples. New translations are possible as more or less convincing parallels, but if the current translation shall be refuted the arguments shall be based on proven linguistically mistakes by the former translators. At the Oslo-seminar (mentioned in chapter 1) it was claimed by several scholars and agreed by Bo Ralph that the knowledge about the local language and the fornyrdislag of that time is too limited for that purpose - at least regarding the proposed examples.
The historical and philological basis does not justify a critique of the current translation regarding this stanza - rather is the translation supported. Without being recognized by the translators of the consensus version the translation has hitten a well-known cycle of legends and its historical background, where nearly all words are used in the right context. Using the sagas, Frankish literature, Theodoric, Deor and the works of Procopius we are able to identify and use the 2 war booties, the 9 generations, "died with the Hreidgoths", "died for his guilt" (or "ruled/put up the battle"), Theodorik, "sea warriors", Hreidmar, Kute [horse] (equestrian statue), "armed", "shield strapped", Marika, Radulf and other Herulian names in these few stanzas. As example all the words in the two stanzas of Riddle no. 2 are a part of the explanation except maybe the unnecessary but correct word "bold". That kind of completeness does strongly support the consensus-translation in spite of the general risk of circular reasoning.
The two layers
We shall notice that Varin put several hints into the text to let us solve the problem with the hidden riddles. First of all we got the correct answer to riddle no. 2, Radulf, in a stanza with 8 names in a clearly wrong connection - a name which may even be pointed out by the 3 old "t"s as described in note 3.18. Then he wrote the numbers the 2nd and the 12th combined with the "9 generations", the high letters in "skati Marika" in the end of riddle no 2 combined with the header, the unused "+"signs and the set-up of the lines. People knowing the ancestors of Varin would even know to use some of the 8 names.
As demonstrated we could let out the names in Riddle no. 13 as being too much of Alcuin-style - the expression "9 generations" would still be the 9 missing riddles leading directly to Riddle no. 11 about Varin and Vemod and the answer in Riddle no. 12 in the simplest possible way in a first layer. The solution with Varin and his 8 ancestors will not be dependent of a mistake regarding the family, and neither will our choice of Hrodolphus as the answer to Riddle no. 2 be dependent of a mistake regarding a possible second layer in Riddle no. 13.
4. The death of Vemod - Riddle no. 12-13
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We can now proceed to Riddle no. 12:
This I say as the twelfth,
where the horse of GunnR finds fodder
on the battlefield, there 20 kings lie.
Here it is generally agreed that the horse of Gunn is a so called "kenning" - a symbol of the wolf of the Valkyrie at the battlefield. Such kennings were frequently used in the ON poems, but it is unknown why the wolf was called a horse at that early stage of the kenning - later the horse at the battlefield was Sleipner, which Odin used to bring the dead heroes to Valhall. The riddle is in the present tense and thereby the obvious answer to Riddle no. 11. Varin raised the stone because Vemod lied dead on the battlefield among 20 kings. He could be lying between them or he could be one of them - and the 20 kings could be a kenning for the dead heroes as explained in Chapter 5. All the possibilities will be in accordance with the following interpretation.
The question in Riddle no. 12 is the place where this battle took place. The only place name at the stone is "by a coincidence" found in the following stanza and riddle - Siulunti, which makes sense both interpreted as Sjaelland (the Danish name for the island of Sealand), Sinlendi/Sillende (the Frankish/Anglo-Saxon name for Southern Jutland) or maybe Sjolund in Uppland. All these names make sense.
Riddle no. 13 and its auxiliary stanzas sounds:
This I say as the thirteenth,
which 20 kings sat on Siulunti
4 winters, of 4 names, born 4 brothers.
+ (matrix – see Riddle no. 3-10)
ValkaR 5 Raþulf sons
Hraiþulf 5 Rukulf sons
HoislaR 5 Haruþs sons
KunmuntaR 5 BirnaR sons
Now the myth ... all ... ainhuar ... ....
As "who" in Riddle no. 13 must deal with the 20 kings of this riddle, the reader will first believe the answer is "4x5 brothers" in the stanza attached. This could make sense if the four names in the third column referred to common names for the 5 sons in the line. These 4 names could be their surnames - being the first names of their 4 fathers with the suffix "-son" - but this method would leave out the 4 names in the first column as nonsense. 5 brothers could not have the same first name. The individual names of these 20 kings were probably unimportant in relation to the topic of the stone, as the stanza may have been constructed as a part of the trap being mentioned earlier. Furthermore the answer should first be expected to be found after the next “sakum” - but that will be a circular argument in relation to the test af the system.
As the last line of this section is spoilt its meaning and function can be discussed. Though the first part of the line has normally been interpreted "Now I say the memories completely. Somebody ... after asked", it is quite certain that the line is not opened with the separator, "sakum", but with an "n". Accordingly we must regard this line as a part of Riddle no. 13 - a closing remark of the Roek-rune section. Similar text can be found in Havamal 164 and Vafthrudnismal 55 closing rows of related stanzas
Based on the remaining upper parts of the runes in the fragmentary line scholars have in the last half of the line reconstructed the word "Ainhuar" (Runverket), meaning "everybody". However, Ainhuar is similar with Einherjar being spelled Einheria in Grimnismal
. We should in such a case expect AinhariR, but the name and its spelling in Goetaland around 800 AD is unknown. Accordingly we cannot use this doubtful information in relation to the interpretation.
Under all circumstances we shall look for the answer to Riddle no. 13 in Riddle no. 14 after the next "sakum". In Riddle no. 13 we were asked who the 20 kings were, but at their time "king" could cover princes, petty kings and chieftains too. The word "who" clearly asks for the name/names of this group – i.e. the name of the family of Vemod or their individual names. As will be explained later a family name in Riddle no. 14 will correlate with the custom of that time giving the royal families a divine origin. We have no certain knowledge making us able to check the name of the family of Vemod, but under all circumstances the name of a group or family in Riddle no. 14 will be a sufficient answer in relation to the test of the system of riddles. Actually such a family name, Ingoldings / Ingvaldings (jgOldiga) is found in Riddle no. 14 - confirming our expectations.
A possible explanation
In the first decade of the 9th century the pagan Danish king Godfred was fighting against Charlemagne and his allied in Holstein. Earlier Paulus Diaconus told that Charlemagne would subdue the Dansh kings worshipping Odin and Thor. After Godfred was murdered in 810 AD Denmark was ruled by the two cousins, Hemming succeeded by Harald. Both wanted an alliance with the Christian Charlemagne, and later Harald was even baptized by the son of Charlemagne. In Annales Regni Francorum, which is the source for the rest of this chapter
, we are told that the sons of Godfred had lived "in exile at the Sueones", but in 813 AD they attacked Harald "with troops gathered from everywhere" - probably especially from their exile in Sweden. Harald gave up and escaped in 814 AD to the Franks. The next year (the summer 815 AD) a Frankish army penetrated Southern Jutland (Sinlendi)
in order to punish the sons of Godfred. The Franks had no success as the brothers and their army retreated to "an island" (Lejre was a centre at Sealand). It is therefore likely that also Swedish troops stayed in Sinlendi/Sillende (or maybe at Sealand) in those winters. As Varin invoked the pagan god Thor at the Roek Stone (see later) it is likely that Varin supported the sons of Godfred against this Frankish attempt to a Christian expansion in Scandinavia, and that this was the reason why Vemod died in Siulunti in a battle between these candidates to the throne. According to the Frankish annals many members of the royal family were killed in those wars - especially in the internal fights in 812 AD. As mentioned above 20 kings may be a kenning for the dead heroes in general - but it would probably also be easy for Varin to find 20 dead heroes from the Ingoldings in Siulunti (Sillende/Sinlendi or Sealand) fitting his play with words and numbers.
The wars about the throne can be counted to last 4 winters, where Vemod or the sons of Godfred were involved. In 819 AD the annals told that they were 4 brothers as an elder brother was killed in 814 AD - which must be before Vemod died as four winters were mentioned. Maybe the two last figures "4" in Riddle no. 13 pointed at these sons of Godfred - as the explanation of the death of Vemod. It has to be mentioned that we do not know any connection between these Danish brothers and the 8 names in the following stanza - which should neither be expected due to the "real" connection of these names. As mentioned some of these names were even unlikely as names from any Scandinavian dynasty in the 9th century.
If this Danish explanation is correct the stone was erected around 815/16 AD, but the interpretation is not dependent of that identification. The interpretation is not changed if Vaemod died in a battle unknown to us.
In this way we have found a likely explanation on the line "4 winters, of 4 names, born (of) 4 brothers", but the use of the same figure three times instead of two probably had another reason which will be explained in a later chapter explaining all the figures in Riddle no. 12 and 13.
The runic "jgOld(i)ga", written in the old Futhark
, can be translated as "the Ynglinga-family" or the "family of Yngve" as the names have the same root, IngvaldR
. Already Tacitus presented the broad tribal name, Ingviones. Maybe the most obvious reading is "the family of Ingeld" - a well known name both in the Swedish Ynglingasaga, in the Danish "Uphaff allra frasagna" (Saga of the Skyldings) and Saxo and in Widsith. All these names may be connected with the god Ing. According to Runverket the name may refer to a local chieftain in the nearby Ingvaldstofta, but "-toft" is normally regarded as a later settlement and it is more likely that the stone later inspired local parents to give their children the names Ingvald and Sibbe. It is tempting also to look at the Herulian dynasty, but their followers were probably integrated in a Scandinavian people and we have no historical records about their destiny since an embassy in 548 AD according to Procopius found many there of the royal blood. The stone is just showing the presence of one branch of the Herulian dynasty in Ostergoetland 270 years later. Under all circumstances we have so many possibilities that we are not able to identify the name.
It has to be stressed that the intrepretation of a runestone does not imply that the names are identified in other sources. It is unnecessary and usually impossible. Both "Siulunti" and "jgOldga" have a natural place in the interpreted text above and we do not need - and could not expect - to be able to understand where and with whom Vaemod was killed. We have been lucky that we in this case may understand a bit of the background.
Under all circumstances the proposed system of the riddles is respected with a likely answer placed in Riddle no. 14, though the total text of Riddle no. 13 after its initial question may not be fully explained due to the spoilt line, which may have concluded that he had now told all about the death and the ancestors of Vemod.
5. Ancestors and gods - Riddle no. 14-16
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The last three decrypted stanzas involve the pagan gods known primarily by us from the 400 year later Christian sources. Before we discuss those stanzas and the later confusion it may be nescessary to establish an overview by reading the decrypted text as riddles and answers using the kenning "verr Siffjar" = Sifs husband = Thor. The reorganized text will be:
"I say the folktale:
Which of the Igoldga was repaid by a wife's sacrifice?
Vilin it is.
Which great warrior was born the son Vilin, who could knock to death a giant?
Thor, Sif's husband, protector of the vie.
Gave birth 90 years old"
We shall all the time keep in mind this message of the stone ifself - though we know other internal relations between the gods from the Hrungnir Myth in Snorri's Skaldskaparmal. The relevant relations between the goods are those Varin believed - not the later learned reconstructions.
Later in Chapter 8 it will be examined if the last cryptic line was a riddle. As the parents are already indicated the question most likely should be "Who was that child?" The answer must according to the text be "Vilin's brother", and exactly that expression was an old kenning from the 10th century: "Bróður Vílis" = Odin.
The shift to the ancient and secret runes in the runic frame around Riddle no. 12-13 is probably marking that we are now going back into the world of the ancestors (the ancient runes in Riddle no. 14) and the gods (the secret runes in Riddle no. 15 and 16). Riddle no. 14:
I say the folktale,
which of the Ingoldings,
was repaid (given) by a wife's sacrifice.
The answer regarding the 20 kings indicate that "igOldiga" in Riddle no. 14 were the family of the these heroes and probably - but not necessarily - also of Varin and Vämod. We are back in the past - the mythical world.
Like the myth about the magic sword in Riddle no. 1 all these riddles are initiated by "mukmini", and a possible solution was already published many years ago. The explanation was presented by Niels Aage Nielsen
in his book "The runes at the Roek Stone" from 1969 - a development of some ideas by Magnus Olsen back in 1921. He explained Riddle no 14 and 15 by referring to the Hrungnir Myth in Skaldskaparmal - a part of the Prose Edda written by Snorri in the 13th century
N.Aa. Nielsen concluded that Sif, the wife of Thor, had made an offer by allowing Thor to get a son with the giantess, Jernsaxe, in order to save his life. Also Gun Widmark
has later concluded that "kvan" must be understood in the way that the offer was made by a woman - i.e. when a wife stepped aside for a more fertile woman. This may explain Riddle no. 14 if the word "goldin" (from "gjalda") can be interpreted "who of the Ingoldings was given by (received in exchange for) the sacrifice by a wife". Runverket has called the meaning of this word uncertain, and Lars Loennroth has mentioned the possibility of a very broad meaning in the 9th century. Brate referred (Bugge 1910, page 294) to the use of "gjalda"/"goldin" in Hervararsaga, Chapter 7 (8), where the verb meant "to receive in exchange" for a sacrifice. Ottar Groenvik has in 1990 handled the word "gjalda" in a separate article, where he in addition to the former reading "paid back" or "paid" added "give", "transfer" or "giving back". In his mind Vemod was given (dedicated) to Thor
, but also in that case the expression will cover that Magni was given as a son to Thor in exchange for the offer by Sif, as N.Aa. Nielsen claimed.
The illegitimate son of Thor saved when he was three nights old the life of his father by removing the big foot of the dead giant Hrungnir. Afterwards the son said: "I think I could have beaten that giant to death with my fist, if we had met." This saga episode must be the one Riddle no. 15 is referring to by the text about the son "He could chrush a giant" - or more dicectly translated from the runic "knuoknat iatun" with "knock out/to death a giant".
Riddle no. 15:
I say the folktale,
which great warrior is born a relative.
Vilen it is. He could crush a giant.
Vilen it is. N I T
Apparently an answer is demonstratively repeated twice by Varin: "Vilin it is", but we were looking for Magni. Magni (Great) was his name in the Hrungnir Myth. According to N.Aa. Nielsen the name Vilin was the same as the name of Odin's brother, Vili, meaning will and strength. Snorri's Gylfaginning mentioned Vili and Ve as the brothers of Odin helping him at the Creation, but according to Snorri's usual source, Voluspa from around 1000 AD, these helpers were called Hoenir and Lodurr
. In this connection it is interesting that in Snorri's version Odin chritizised Thor that he gave a famous horse to his son with a giant instead of his father. Already here it sounds like a learned reconstruction by Snorri from a text where Thor favorised his giant son for his ligitimate son - which did not fit Snorri's late universe. These changes in the West Nordic sources four centuries later than the Roek Stone are making it obvious that Vilin as suggested by N.Aa. Nielsen could be the giant son of Thor in the Hrungnir-myth at the much earlier East Nordic stone. Maybe the names were already mixed up at the time of Varin since he presented a demonstratively clear answer twice without using encryption as in the rest of the stanza. The new name Magni may have replaced Vilin, when Snorri wrote Edda 400 years later, as the name Vilin in the same work replaced Lodurr from Voluspa. These family members and their names had no importance in the Norse myths and could easily be changed.
After realising the structure of the riddles in the big section written in Roek-runes, the structure of the riddles in Riddle no. 14-16 and their answers are obvious. Following the principles from the previous hidden answers to the riddles there was no doubt that answer to Riddle no. 14 was "Vilin it is"
. Also the answer to Riddle no. 15 is more obvious than in the earlier riddles:
I say the folktale: Thor|
Sibi | Protector of the vie|
Gave birth | 90 years old
The answer to the question of a father's name in Riddle no. 15 must be "Thor" or "Sibi", and from the Hrungnir Myth we know that it is Thor.
The reading of Sibi has been a problem as the suffix "-i" normally is the masculine gender, but we have to notice that Sif's name according to Snorri was Sibil
, and that nobody knows her role or name form in Goetaland in the 9th century.. Earlier a general consensus regarded Sibi as a local priest or chieftain
, but today most scholars refer to "sefi" or "sifja" as a brother-in-law or "relation by marriage"
. Ottar Groenvik did in 2003 - after having argued for a nickname to Thor - return to his original suggestion about "Sif's husband"
- Thor. Snorre mentioned in Scaldskaparmal "verr Sifjar" (verr=man) as a name for Thor - also found in Grettir's Saga - making the masculin "Sibi" probable as a short version of this name.
Whatever Sibi means "Sif" or "Sif's husband" the elements of the riddle can be combined in a way making Thor the answer to Riddle no. 15 once or twice as Sif could not be the great warrior. If the answer is Sif's husband all the "Sakum mukmini"-riddles mentioned above are answered with double answers.
N.Aa. Nielsen's suggestions are in this way clearly answered in Riddle no. 15 and 16 - and it can only be regarded as a strength that he was not aware of the general principle of riddles and the support from Voluspa being later pointed out by Gro Steinsland. I agree in his interpretation in spite of the uncertainty regarding Magni/Vilin
, as it is obvious that the answer shall be the giant son of Thor. It is demonstrated that a change of names under all circumstances took place without consequences as Magni, Vilin and Lodurr were unimportant figures in the Norse mythology. More important persons had double names or got myths transferred from other figures in the sagas.
As there is no interrogative pronoun and no place for an answer the interpretation of the two last lines in Statement/Riddle no. 16 is discussed separately in a later chapter.
The expression NIT is not translated as the very special use of the futhhark and setup is marking a separate expression. The formula must be one of the incantation formulas being usual in older runic inscriptions. It is probably marking that the next riddle contained an invocation.
Lars Loenroth has, however, read it as "nyti" by finding an "i" in the frame and combined it with the second "Vilin it is" - meaning that he "enjoyed" to crush a giant
Joseph Harris (Harris 2006, 91) has accepted the reading "nyti" as: "May he enjoy this monument", which is rather unconvincing. He has even turned the meaning of Riddle no. 15 around arguing that the giant killed Vilin - in order to prove his general Sonatorrek-theory - but he admits that the most "colloquial" and likely reading of Riddle no. 15 is: "Who was born a relative - a young warrior (drængi) - Vilin it is ..." (Harris 2006, 88). In that case "young warrior", "Vilin it is, knew how to slay a giant" and "Vilin it is | nit / enjoyed" can be read as three different expressions for a descendant of "who". This may be a better translation than the one Wesén presented, but the interpretation will be the same.
Lis Jacobsen and N.Aa. Nielsen also read "niti", but in the meaning "obstacle" (he who prevented the death of Thor). All three ways to read the expression make sense and will not change the interpretation of the riddle above.
6. The test of structure and reading
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As mentioned the final Riddle no. 16 can never be answered in the tested system. Therefore it is now demonstrated that the very simple principle with riddles and hidden answers has been followed all the way through the riddles of the stone. The answers appear as well-founded and plausible with a logical coherence between the stanzas.
It is extremely important to realize that the structure based on "sakum" and the separating marks is independent of the reading of the text. It is also regarded as a strength that the generally accepted reading published by Runverket was made by scholars who did not know the interpretation being tried out here. Often the interpretations are based on a reading by the same scholar - or maybe in reverse. Even the independent encryption system and its markers make up an integrated part of the interpretation.
Weaknesses - except for the general uncertainty about the reading of the text and especially the words pointed out by Runverket - are primarily the damaged text behind the question in Riddle no. 13, the missing understanding of "NIT" and the shift of name between Vilin and Magni, but none of these uncertainties are falsifying the solution and possible explanations are presented.
The basic structure is so simple, the number of explained questions so high and the coherence so convincing that this interpretation of the structure imply a certainty at a much higher level than the solutions presented until now - though some of my answers may be insufficient and not fully unequivocal due to missing information from the past.
The use of riddles and answers was widespread both in the School of Alcuin, in the later ON sagas and poems, and without answers also in the later English Exeter Book. Furthermore in "Bosa Saga and Harrouds" (Link) written down around 1300 AD the reader was in clear words encouraged by the author to read names written in a code of runic letters and figures. Today no one is able to interprete the expression, which looks like NIT at the Roek Stone and the secret runes at the Goerlev Stone, but in this later saga the author confirmed in wording the principle of code and riddles.
It is in this way confirmed that the consensus translation by Runverket can be fully explained by the interpretation above except the last two lines, which are falling outside the system and which are still discussed among the scholars. That will not influence the test of the system and the reading above. The inscription may, however, contain more complicated information too.
7. Kennings and prayers
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Myths and numerical kennings
As earlier mentioned the first information at the back side of the stone (Riddle no. 12) is the generally accepted kenning for one of the Valkyries and her wolf at the battlefield. The Valkyrie and her wolf were involved in selecting the brave warrior fallen in the battle from where he was brought to the Valhalla of Odin. At the Valhalla he was received by a Valkyrie with a drinking horn with mead. He became an Einherja. The role of the Valkyries is known from the Norse poems and they are recognized at several Gotlandic picture stones from the Viking Ages - some of the pictures may even show the wolf and the horse bringing the warrior and/or Odin to Valhalla.
It is tempting also to search for a legend about the 20 kings dying in a battle, but such legends are unknown. Instead we should notice that 20 kings are mentioned 2 times in Riddle no. 12 and 13 just after the Valkyrie. We know a connection between 2x20 kings and the Einherjar from the relatively late Sorla Thattr
. Freja wanted her necklace Brisingemen back, but Odin put up the condition that 2 kings followed each by 20 kings should fight against each other. They should fall and go to Valhalla where the Valkyries served mead and meat. Next day they should walk out and fight again - repeating this until the Twilight of the Gods, when they should fight with the gods against the giants. These were the first of the Einherjar - the warriors of Odin in Valhalla. The most important wish of a warrior was to be an Einherjar when he died, but that was only possible if he died bravely in a battle
If we read Snorri's version of the legend about Hogne and Hedin
another remarkable connection appears. These two kings and their people fought a battle called Hjadningevik. Every morning Hild, the daughter of Hogne and later a Valkyria, awoke the dead warriors to a new battle until the Twilight of the Gods - another version of the Einherjar. The battle was started in spite of a peace offer from Hedin. Unfortunately Hogne had already drawn his sword Dainsleib. This sword had exactly the same history and character as Tyrfing in Hervarar Saga. The answer to Riddle no. 1 (the sword of the dwarfs and the Gothic kings) is also in some legends the sword causing the eternal fight between the Einherjar, whom the 2x20 kings in Riddle no. 12 and 13 probably referred to. In this way the magic sword from the dwarfs in Riddle no. 1 is pointing both at Theodoric in the first of the family-riddles and at the Einherjar in the first riddle about the death of Vemod - exactly as the episodes in Hervarar Saga were connected by the sword. This is hardly a coincidence - especially as Hogne in some of the legends was connected with Oestergoetland where the Roek Stone was carved and the people were mixed up with the Goths. According to Erik Nylén this legend with Hild and the warriors can be found at two of the Gotlandic picture stones
. Accordingly it was a well-known story worth to be carved in a stone just 200 kilometres from the Roek Stone.
Because of the kenning the 20 kings shall probably be regarded in a figurative sense as the dead heroes following the superior king - probably one of the sons of Godfred in the case of Vemod.
Does the number of war-booties get its final meaning in this way? Are the figures "2" and "12" in Riddle no. 1 Varin's "pointers"
against Riddle no. 2 and 12 where the stories of the sword are beginning in different layers - a key confirming in this way for the right reader where to begin the reading of the two hidden layers about the 9 generations and the Einherjar?
The answer to Riddle no. 13 in the first layer of the text was "Ingoldinga", but the 2x20 kings make also sense as a "numerical kenning" (or numerical riddle) with the answer "Einherjar" in a more hidden layer of the text. Skaldskaparmal by Snorri did only present examples of principles for kennings - not a final list of kennings. These principles are followed by the 2x20 kings.
Already here a reader recognizing these kennings would at that time believe that Vemod died as a hero. Theoretically the Einherjar could even have been mentioned in the last spoilt line of Riddle no. 13.
With regard to the use of the figures 2x20 as a kenning it is tempting to test all the provokingly many figures in Riddle no. 12 and 13 (5, 5, 5, 5) = 20, 20, 20, 4, 4, 4) in a numerical play too. A kenning for Valhalla has been tested, but it is placed in note
as the explanation is not regarded convincing. It is too uncertain and complicated and we do not need the answer "Valhalla" as "Einherjar" and "Valkyrie" are sufficient for the message above. Therefore we will use the figures for another purpose in the next chapter.
The frame and the number 24
The numerical kennings shall not be regarded as number magic or numerology like the theories of Sophus Bugge, Magnus Olsen and Pipping mentioned in Chapter 3. It is difficult for us to accept such general theories about play with numbers except for two strange coincidences of regularity at the Roek Stone.
The stanza with the 8 names in Riddle no. 13 has already been mentioned. This regularity may be regarded as signs of acrostics in the stanza with the names of the ancestors. If so it is a job for linguists to solve.
We shall, however, also notice an observation by von Friesen, who did not pay much attention to the other signs of number magic. He mentioned regarding the backside of the stone that the 5 coded lines with each 24 runes (totally a big hundred) together with the right side (where he also showed 24 runes) made up a frame around the regular text at the backside
. The numbers of runes in the first 5 lines of the frame (Riddle 14: yellow lines; Riddle 15: orange lines) can impossibly be a coincidence (probability for that coincidence ~ 0,0074% in these 5 lines only). The number is even intentionally formed by using a binding rune and two kinds of cipher code in the uninterpreted formula, NIT.
Line no. 27 and no. 28 has each 3 outstanding crosses with each 4 legs (ciphers). Line no. 26 at the right side seen from the back side (possibly forming a last part of the frame) is written in cipher coding being read as 14 rune-letters. If we count it as separate signs counting each rune as its two carved ciphers as at the top, we will find 41 signs in line no. 26. However, in line no. 27 in the same riddle we will also rather unexpected find 5 usual runes and in line no. 28 2 usual runes between the crosses making a total of 48 signs (runes or ciphers) + 24 ciphers in the crosses - or 3x24 signs in Riddle no. 16 (Red lines).
The text inside this encrypted frame is precisely the Riddles no. 12 and 13 with the hidden family-line, the death of Vemod, the Valkyrie and the 2x20 kings (the Einherjar) as a hidden layer of the text. It was even here we found the 9 ordinal figures in the former chapter with the sum 72 - or if we combine the elements: 3 x 24. In the first layer they were separated into 20 and 4 for the two purposes there.
The frame above - The encryption and the numbers are presented at the right - click for pdf.
Maybe he placed the 6 outstanding crosses with totally 24 legs at the top of the frame as a sign of the "divine entrance" at the "back side" leading the gods down to the 3 lines of each 24 encrypted runes. They formed together with 2 other lines of each 24 runes and a combined line of 2x24 signs (picking up the letters needed in the crosses) a frame around a content in roek-runes provokingly full of ordinal figures forming also 3x24.
Statistically it is very close to be totally impossible (less than 0,00001%) that all the 8 lines of different length and character in the frame by coincidence should consist of 24 signs or in the last riddle a function of 24 signs. There must be a purpose behind - a purpose hidden for most readers.
The Futhark incantation
We have to consider that 24 was the number of runes in the old Futhark alphabet of Odin. This Futhark is often found isolated in early runic texts (i.e. Kylver, Vadstena and Goerlev) - indicating that it was used as an incantation formula. The number may here at the Roek Stone symbolize this old divine formula without making confusion and waste of space at the stone - and without being understood by ordinary readers. It is a simple kind of number symbolism referring to a well- known formula. According to Peter Godman also Alcuin was very fond of play with numbers as a part of his renaissance (Note 3.16)
The Futhark must be the answer when we look closer at the provokingly big and artistic looking sign marking the first line to be read in the frame of the back side (Line no. 21). As it is placed as the rune "þ" in "þat" in the standardized initiation of the stanzas (sakumukmini þat) the sign should according to Michael Barnes be a cipher rune representing 3+3, but the sign appears as 4+4 pins. The reason is of course that the sign is formed by 3+3 "f"-runes where the pins of the f-runes are combined just like the bind-runes at the stone. This f is the first letter of both the old and the new Futhark alphabet.
Also at the Gummarp-stone in Blekinge this "f" was used 3 times ("Haduwulf set 3 staves fff"). In that case the "f" was translated by the runologists as the rather meaningless "feha" (cattle/richness), but combined with the expression "3 staves" (lines) a reference to a Futhark incantation will make more sense - with regard to their use of the "Futhark". The group of rune stones in Blekinge from the 7th century was earlier connected with the arriving Heruls (i.e. von Friesen). Also at the earlier Kragehul Spearshaft, the Lindholm Bracteat (both with Erilar), the Sealand Bracteat 2 and at the Goerlev Stone we find formulas with 3 repeated runes.
"Haduwulf set 3 staves fff" at the Gummarp Stone is especially interesting as also the ordinal figures inside the coded 24-figur-frame at the Roek Stone are forming 3 x 24 (Futhark), which could mean the same as "3 staves fff".
Encrypted runes and pointers
The size of the sign in line no. 21 had the purpose to tell where to start the reading, but the quite unusual shape of the sign should probably also make the reader aware of the advanced use of the Futhark in the frame and inside the frame - as incantations and/or as a key to the encryption ("Use the Futhark alphabet in the following text"). The use of sakum(m)ukmini in the beginning of the first and each of last 3 stanzas with each their kind of encryption system works as an indication of how to crack the code, when the system is changing - we know what we shall look for as a beginning, when we have read Riddle. no. 1 and 14 (many people reading runes could probably also read the old Futhark in Riddle no. 14).
The size of the sign has exactly the same function as the big header at the front side - to show where to start reading. At the same place as "th" in the middle of the header we also found the biggest rune of the stone - an old "t". This "t" was used three times in the header, though it does not belong to the new alphabet used at the front side. It was no. 16 in the old alphabet of 24 runes. As the carver of the stone was an expert in runes, it must have a purpose too. Without being aware of the interpretation above Thomas Loefvenmark has suggested that the three runes are pointing at the position of the "R" in Radulf - the first ancestor (note 3.18). This name was the key to understand the front side and break up the matrix.
In Line no 23, 24 and 25 until the "+"sign in Line no 25 the new Roek Rune alphabet with 16 runes was used, but in Line no 23 and after the "+"sign in Line no. 24 the reading of this text ends up in pure nonsense due to the coding. We shall notice the last 8 runes of this nonsense (after the "+"sign in Line no. 24). These runes represent every second rune in the alphabet - the last 6 in the correct alphabetic order. This was probably a key together with "sakumukmini" showing the readers which futhark to use in order to decode the encryption - here the additive cryptographic method being used already between Julius Caesar and his consuls (today used as "Caesar's cipher"), but also the cipher code in the next stanza. By filling up the alphabet with the missing runes removing instead the written runes the text will form real words - or in other words: The key may show that the runes are displaced one place in the alphabet in the nonsense part of these lines. Here the last 6 of the 8 runes are "fþrhis" or decoded "uoknat". If we combine coded and decoded runes (the last in () ) we can read f(u)þ(o)r(k)h(n)i(a)s(t), which are the first 12 of the 16 runes in the new Futhark in correct order - maybe a confirmation of the Futhark being used as key. This way of reading the encrypted text has been generally accepted since Sophus Bugge - without recognizing Varin's systematical use of keys and confirmation.
Fredrik Ousbeck, who has recognized the hidden Futhark in Line no. 24, is regarding this as gnostic or pythagorean symbolism. He is probably going too far that way, but in the theory he could be right that Christian symbols were hidden in the text - in that case unknown to the pagan Varin - by an assistent being educated at the school of Alcuin. In that case it would have been tempting to him to eliminate his "treachery" with hidden Christian symbols - just like one of Alcuins pupils hide "Charlemagne in hell" in a text.
Christian symbols or not, it is tempting to regard the number 24 and the repeated "f"s as symbols of the Futhark-invocation known from runestones and bracteats - probably calling the god of the runes, Odin. 8 times we have "24" and 6 times "f" which together with the 3 times "24" inside the frame and the hidden Futhark in line no. 24 make up a total of 18 Futhark symbols in the frame and its content.
We shall also notice the 10 runes placed similarly after the "+"sign in Line no. 25: "OOssOOsssé. These runes are repeated "o" runes from the old Futhark and "s" runes from the new Futhark representing "n" and "i" as cipher runes in the new Futhark. The last rune looks like an old "é", but is regarded to be the cipher rune 1/1 for "t" - a sign which is also used for the last three cipher runes to be read as "Thur" in the following line, but here written as the traditional runes for numbers. This was the way Varin managed to fill up this line with 24 physical rune signs, but as earlier mentioned the message "nit" is not interpreted. The runologists have regarded it as an incantation formula just before the last stanza, which will also make sense in this interpretation. The "+"signs in Riddle no. 13 may indicate that the text shall be reorganized. Like in the former line the (+)sign before the text may be a key indicating encryption by displacement - changing the reading to ie "iáb" or "iáR" depending of the last sign is being read as 1/1 or an old é. In that case all the three kinds of encryption are combined in this last expression (Old Futhark, displacement and cipher code). It shall be noticed that this rune line is turned upside-down. Maybe the expression after the "+"sign shall be read the opposite way as "tun" or other combinations - and the use of both young and old futhark should be expected to have a function too. The complicated use of the runes in this expression before the last unanswered "sakumukmini" should under all circumstances tell us that it is a separate expression or formula like the earlier "alu", which we will never be able to confirm in a convincing way. The set up clearly indicates that the 3 letters shall not be integrated into the plain text of Riddle no. 15. It is the transition to a last "divine" stanza outside the system of riddles.
The systematical setup and the (+)signs marking the change from normal reading to encryption show that the encryption is not a coincidental solution invented by Sophus Bugge in order to make a text readable.
If we combine the number of 24 and "F"-runes in the frame we will get 14. Together with the decrypted futhark and NIT we will reach a number of 16 possible incantations in the frame - which is the number of signs in the new Futhark alphabet. 16 is also the number of written figures at the stone and the number of riddles. If we leave out the "F"-runes and NIT we will get the number 9, which was sometimes connected with Odin (and the number of generations) - and if we include the "F"-runes and 2x3F inside the frame we will get the number 2x9. It will not be unusual in a play with numbers in the old classical style used by Alcuin that they wanted to construct such perfect numbers. However, opposite the certain 8x24 and 3x24 combined with 2x3F these total numbers of figures may be coincidences, but it is worth to consider as Varin combined the two alphabets - especially as the much later buckle from Skabersjoe in both runelines has "R" 16 times in rows.
The dominating text in the upper line with the three crosses at the backside is "ul niruþR" or in free translation "gave birth, 90 years old". Such a child must of course be divine. Even if we do not believe this use of the number 24 as a symbolic Futhark - though it is repeated to us 8 times in the frame - it is obvious that the text (Riddle no. 12-13) in this physical frame of ancient and encrypted rune lines (Riddle no. 14-16) did under all circumstances connect the content with the gods - as a hidden purpose of the stone.
Was the Futhark in the frame meant to tell the gods that "Valkyria" and "Einherjar" were a prayer - a hidden message to the gods? Did Varin ask the gods to accept his dead son as a hero to be brought to Valhall to be an Einherja - the most important purpose of life for a Norse warrior?
This use of the futhark may appear unrealistic or at least uncertain to many readers though the function is recognized at the bracteates. As may the use of the later known myths appear. We have, however, clear parallels from the Viking Ages.
As mentioned the use of the myths is a well-known scenario from several picture stones at Gotland only 200 kilometres away from the Roek Stone - but neither at these stones the purpose is explained in plain text. At some of these stones is carved a house with 3 doors and several other openings - probably symbolizing the many doors of Valhall.
An excellent example of such a stone is Tjaengvide, which is dated to the Viking Ages by Riksantikviaraembetet (7-800 AD by Lindquist and Nylén and the 10th century by Lisbeth Imer 2004) and sometimes interpreted as "The arrival to Valhall"
. Here we find besides Odin and his horse the dead hero, the Valkyria and her wulf and the fighting Einherjar - just like in the kennings of the Roek Stone being interpreted above. At the left side of the Tjaengvide Stone at the tree we are even able to read "futhorkhn..." in short twigged runes
as hidden in Line no. 25 mentioned above - probably the third independent indication of the incantation formula in the frame above, though this is in the new Roek rune alphabet, just as at the earlier Goerlev Stone. As such Futharks in this way are identified before and after the Roekstone there is no doubt that the Futhark had a meaning at the time of the stone. In short twigged runes we can also read that the stone was erected after the brother Iarulf, who was let down and killed at a voyage
. A doubtful death abroad? Was the death of Vemod a earlier parallel?
Probably these pictures illustrate exactly the same conception of the death of a dear family member - just as it according to the hypothesis above was presented by Varin in these second and third hidden layers of the Roek Stone. Already Wessén indicated parallels between the Roek Stone and the picture stones at Gotland, but in his version the stones just told separate old legends - he did not combine them with the dead warrior and the written purposes of the stones.
Niels Aage Nielsen did in 1969 regard the middle section of the text to be an invocation of Odin in order to bring Vemod to Valhall. He referred to the Gotlandic picture stones and to the older Norwegian Eggjum Stone
. His reason was that he regarded the Roek Stone to follow the same principles as his interpretation of the Eggjum Stone without being aware of the arguments being used in the present article indicating the same purpose.
did in 1996 refer to similarities between the motives on the Tjaengvide Stone and the Sparloesa Stone in Vaestergoetland showing hall, ship and horseman, but his interpretation of Sparloesa referred to Christianity opposite the eight-legged horse at the Tjaengvide Stone, the myths at the Ardre Stone, the last stanzas at the Roek Stone and the comment at the Sparloesa Stone about the divine origin of the runes. As the reading of the Sparloesa Stone is far more uncertain than the Roek Stone and the interpretations are even more varied, we will hardly increase our knowledge about Roek for the moment by comparing with Sparloesa in spite of the interesting connections. The Sparloesa Stone is described in this
The double answers, the keys and the symbolism are rather obvious elements systematically confirming these complicated textual constructions, which would never survive Ockhams Razor as single expressions - constructions being also confirmed by the contemporary parallels at the Frankish court and the fact that the scholars have accepted the reading of the runes suggested by Sophus Bugge. It is quite impossible that all these connections are coincidential. It was probably Varin's intent to confirm that the hidden messages were correctly understood - selfconfirming as a modern crossword, but here by using decryption, set-up, hidden answers and different kinds of hints.
Those who were not able to understand the deep second layer of the text, but were able to recognize the kennings about the Valkyrie and the Einherjar, would read that the Roek Stone was raised in memory of a dead hero being a member of a heroic family joining nine generations ago the famous Theodoric the Great. Only those who were aware of the symbols in the frame would understand that this third layer was also a prayer to the gods to accept him as a hero being qualified to go to Valhalla. Varin did not care if we understood that - it was a matter between him and his gods.
In this way the purpose has been explained by using all the 16 figures on the stone - except for the last figure "90" in the last riddle, which will be explained in chapter 8.
8. Riddle no. 16 - Who was invoked?
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A problem with the interpretation of the encrypted part of the text is that we hardly know anything about the Norse religion in the beginning of the ninth century except that Thor and Odin were the most important gods protecting the Danish king according to the Frankish authors. Most of our detailed picture of the dynamic religion was formed in later Christian times, when the myths had been manipulated by kings, bishops and scalds.
Most scholars regarded Thor as the god being invoked in Riddle no. 16 - also N.Aa. Nielsen
. However the last sentence (ul niruþR), which has the most striking position at the stone above "the frame", calls for an answer. Who was born by whom, and who was 90 years old at the birth? Do we also have to use the last 16th figure at the stone as a numerical identification - this time symbolizing the god being invoked?
Setup of the lines
First of all the way the text in this riddle is placed at the stone should be noticed. The three rune lines meet each other in one point in right angels and the words inside the stanza coded by figures can be combined as the reader may wish - maybe a special point by Varin. The usual "I say the folktale" followed by "Thor" is placed vertically at the small side as the other text lines. "Sibi; Protector of the vie" is placed at the nearly invisible top of the stone, while "gave birth; 90 years old" is placed very decoratively as a marked header at the big surface of the “backside” above the other text
It would be natural and according to the system to begin the stanza with the last vertical line in the frame emphasized by von Friesen. Here "Sakum mukmini" is identical with Riddle no. 1, 14 and 15 - all referring to well-known Norse myths and legends (folktales) as suggested by Wessén
. The sentence is succeeded by Thor - we cannot change that order. Left back we do only have the 2 lines with six decorative crosses - totally 24 legs or ciffers. The invisible top as the protection formula and the big header as the invocation are after "sakum mukmini" forming the sentence "Thor | Sibi; Protector of the vie | Gave birth; 90 years old". In the usual interpretations Sibi is believed to be the protector of the vie, but usually that was the god Thor at other rune stones - never Sif nor an unknown Sibi. As explained in Chapter 5, however, Sibi means "Sif" or rather "Sif's husband" being Thor, making Thor as a double answer the most likely explanation.
Consequently the mother of the child must under all circumstances be a woman connected with Thor. As Sif directly or indirectly is mentioned in both translations, we must expect her to be the mother. The 90 years old person must be one of these parents.
One conclusion is obvious, however, when we read the text. If the stanza was a riddle, the answer should be the name of a son of Thor and Sif. This son would be a halfbrother of Vilin according to the text of the stone itself. We know the expression "bróður Vílis" for Odin used in the following center by Egil Skjallagrimsson in his poem Sonatorrek
- like the Roek Stone a famous work of art about a "loss of sons". The kenning is also known later from Snorri. Varin may have had that general kenning in mind, when he placed Vilin at the Roek Stone. In that way he avoided to mention the name of Odin, which - at least later - was taboo. The three stanzas as a whole simply indicated a that a final answer should be "brother of Vilin - Odin".
Giving birth 90 years old
We need to know if the 90 years correspond with that reading. Therefore we need to find the old myth where a 90 years old person gave birth - especially as the riddle is initiated with “mukmini”. We do only know one myth of that kind - but a widespread one - used both by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Abraham and his wife Sara were not able to get children. Therefore she made the offer to ask Abraham to get the son Ismael with a slave in order to continue the family. Later God helped Sara to get Isaac when she was 90 years old. God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, which he did, but Isaac returned from the mountain and became ancestor to the Jewish branch of the descendants of Abraham
. In the Koran the sacrifice is connected with Ismael being the ancestor of the Arabs - an example confirming the possible change between Vilin and Magni in Riddle no. 15.
It is remarkable to refind exactly that unnatural age of a woman giving birth. This must be the last of the identification numbers - all the other 15 figures of the stone are used for indication of the hidden layers of the text. It is also remarkable that this story is a parallel to the interpretations by N.Aa. Nielsen and Gun Widmark of Sif's offer - though they did not notice this similarity. Did Sif in the old myths - after accepting that Thor got the giant son, Vilin/Magni, with a giantess - get a son in the age of 90?
The other sons of Sif were Ull and Modi in the late myths, but here Ull was not a son of Thor. In that case we will end up with the totally unknown Modin as the open question in the end of the text. That does not make sense.
Was Odin introduced in the Norse religions in the 5th century as a son of Thor borrowing the story of Isaac from the Old Testament? This Odin being hanged by himself as a sacrifice in Yggdrasil and returning after 9 days
. Also Isaac should be sacrificed, but returned. Did this Odin end up as the ancestor of some of the royal families
as a Norse Isaac?
The route of such a story into the Norse myths is impossible to identify, but it will not be unusual in the history of the religions that a myth about an ancestor being known for centuries among the neighbors found its way into the Norse religious myths in a time of changes. In the same way the number of the 12 diars or chieftains of Odin was known earlier as the number of tribes in Israel and in other myths.
The myth was probably removed when Odin changed place, and it would hardly have been accepted in later Christian times when the myths were written down.
The doubt about the name of the child born by a 90 years old - being Odin, Modi, Magni or Ull - was an uncertainty among the readers, which Varin would never have expected, when he constructed the riddle.
The relation between Thor and Odin 800 AD
Odin as the son of Thor is a problem, when we compare with the Edda, but can we be sure that our late Icelandic 11th-13th century picture of the religion was valid in Eastern Scandinavia in the 9th century? This is the relevant question to ask after reading the stone - and several scholars have asked that question without reference to the Roek Stone
. I will only mention a few observations.
In some of the poems - especially the Poetic Edda
- Thor is mentioned as the son of Odin, but primarily in poetic expressions, which may be a late wording or a West Nordic tradition (the first example was probably the Thor kenning "Balder's brother" in Tjodolfs Haustlong (Harris 2006, 83)). It was only in Snorri's Prose Edda
that Thor was placed as the son of Odin in a more important connection for the rest of the text. These are the most important arguments for placing Odin as the father of Thor, but Snorri was uncertain and in the introduction to the same work
he placed Thor in the front and Woden/Odin after him in the family line. In Ynglingesaga, where Odin was the superior king, their family-connection was not mentioned and the shape of Thor had no content, but in the earlier Historia Norwegie (and in Ari's work) Ingui (Ing/Yngve) held that place of Odin. It is therefore important that in the fragmentary manuscript "Upphaf allra frasagna" (which may be a part of the disappeared Skjoldunge Saga) Thor was directly mentioned as the father of Odin and Odin as the father of the Danish and Swedish kings as indicated by the Roek Stone
. Here we also find Ingeld as the son Frode Fredegod. Earlier, in the 11th century, historians as Dudo
and Adam of Bremen
described Thor as the most important god, and both Saxo
and Aelfrid raised doubt about the claims in Edda by referring to the weekdays. Here Odin was the Roman Mercury. Mercury's father Jove was Thor - a problem which Snorri had noticed too. Ottar Groenvik has interpreted Thor as "the eldest of Ases" at the Malt-stone from the 9th century, but that is not supported by Marie Stoklund
Though Joseph Harris (Harris 2006, §9) tried to prove the opposite, the conclusion when reading his article must be that a lot of traditions from different times and places are mixed up in the Norse literature - making it impossible to use manuscripts from the 11-14th centuries to state if Odin was the son of Thor or opposite in Goetaland around 800 AD. Our only information would be the Roek Stone itself - and maybe some of the early poems.
If we look at the genealogy of the gods presented in Christian times by Snorri in Gylfaginnung and replace the father of Odin (Borr (Northwest Scandinavian Voluspa around 1000 AD) meaning "son" (of Buri)) with Thor (Þorr) the brothers Odin, Vili and Ve will be identical with the brothers Ull, Magni and Modi
. In that case we could let the unknown Borr, Ve, Modi and Vili or Magni out of the original world of the gods. This would even explain N.Aa. Nielsen's problem with Vilin and Magni without making much confusion in the myths. Odin could have been son of Thor and Sif at an early stage. The change of roles between Isaac and Ismael in the Bible and the Koran confirmed such changes as possible, just like the example above with Hoenir and Lodurr.
Varin's way to mention the 90 years indicates that he knew another version of a Norse religion than the one Snorri presented 400 years later. To Varin Thor seemed to be the ancestor of gods and all people, while his son Odin was the god of the battle, the master of Valhall and maybe some of the royal families. Already Salin and later Ambrosiani and Lars Loenroth have mentioned that Odin was a late god, and also the archaeology may indicate that the Westgermanic Wothan arrived lately in Scandinavia
. Maybe he was placed as Odin in the family of Thor by using a borrowed Isaac-myth in the 5th or 6th century. When Odin became the preferred god of the Viking kings these kings may have moved Odin forward in their divine genealogy
making him an ancestor too. That may have resulted in the mysterious taboo around the name of the main god and a rejection of the Isaac myth as a part of the process. That may be the background for the uncertainty among the old historians, and we shall not forget that the Roek Stone is our best and most direct source regarding the Norse world in the 9th century, if we are able to interpret it - not the Icelandic "reconstructions".
It has to be mentioned that Ottar Groenvik in his new book from 2003
tried to avoid the problems with his own suggestion about Vemod being given/dedicated to Thor. He changed "Vilin it is" to "this is no fault" and "gave birth, 90 years old" was together with “NIT” changed to "neither, that he kills the destructor". First of all he changed a clear "r" to a "t" without reason, secondly he left the last "sakum" without any content and purpose in the text, and thirdly this is against the order in rune line 25 and the order of the changes between the codes. As the stanza may still refer to Magni, my conclusion about the structure above is not influenced if his alternative is correct, but the new suggestion presented by Groenvik is not convincing.
The interpretation of the text as presented above will not be changed if the two last lines are read in the opposite order. Bo Ralph has in 2005 presented an alternative reading of this stanza. Setting up the two last lines in opposite order than usual his reading is: "The giantess does not destroy a family paying attention to the holy". First of all this reading does not influence the conclusion in Chapter 7. As it could be Varins point that the text could be read in both ways like the Frankish acrostics, I do not need to argue against Bo Ralph's alternative, but I do not see the relevance of the sentence in relation to the rest of the text - or to Bo Ralph's own idea for that sake.
Joseph Harris too has read the two last lines in the opposite order as: "I tell the young lad: At ninety, the kinsman, respected of schrines, engendered Thor." It is difficult to explain why Thor shall be separated from sakum mukminni, but it is simply a backwards way to create the solution from Sonatorrek about the loss of the son. Vilin is dead and Thor is to Harris a reborne son. Harris may, however, have a point regarding rebirth.
In 2009 also Ola Kyhlberg presented an interpretation in Stockholm and Rök Församlingshus where the giant should be the Roek Stone itself and Vilen the maker of the stone. According to Kyhlberg Vilen was not a name but a title. Sibbe with the title viavari did also make the stone in an age of ninety! Maybe I did not catch the idea behind that interpretation. We have to avait his paper about it - which is still not published in april 2013.
At this stage we should repeat the first reading and neglect all the more or less learned discussions in Chapter 5 and 8:
"I say the folktale:
Which of the Igoldga was repaid by a wife's sacrifice?
Vilin it is.
Which great warrior was born the son Vilin, who could knock to death a giant?
Thor, Sif's husband, protector of the vie.
(Who was born by one who ) gave birth 90 year old (?)
(Brother of Vili.)"
The text in () is an assumption - not a part of the runic text
The answer is hanging in the air: "Odin"
By letting the stone itself talk we have eliminated 400 years of changes - and the text is making a perfect sense. But still we do not need Odin in the interpretation as Varin did not ask that question. Thor is sufficient as an answer.
9. The purpose of Varin
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The interpretation of the last stanza indicates that its purpose was to invoke Odin - the name hanging unmentioned in the air in the header at the backside of the stone - a second part of the hidden message. Probably that invocation was already the consequence of the symbolic frame of Futhark-incantations mentioned in Chapter 7. That would correspond with the use of the secret runes of Odin at this mysterious stone and the general custom not to mention the name of Odin. Most of all it would correspond with the myth that Odin chose the warriors going to Valhalla - referred in the first part of the hidden message to the gods. An obvious parallel to the mythology at the picture stones at the nearby Gotland.
The invocation of Odin and the prayer regarding the Einherjar appear to be an obvious purpose behind the encrypted runes at such an impressing stone - though the text would be explained by a prayer to Thor, who appear as the protector of the stone. It is very unlikely that Varin should use all his effort in this very secret and carefully planned way just to show his knowledge of poetry, philosophy and old legends, which could be demonstrated in a skaldic poem by every other thula as well. Though being believed by many of the linguists it is quite unlikely that the man financing such a stone was a thulR - Varin was probably a ruler sending his son in war and paying specialists in runes and in foreign culture to raise the stone after him.
It has to be noticed that both the knowledge of Theodoric and his equestrial statue, the guilt of Hrodolphus, the honour as weapon son and the use of riddles, code, number symbolism and acrostics could have been provided by the same source - a man being educated at the school of Alcuin to which also Paulus Diaconus had been connected. Alcuin wrote about his relative Willibrord who already in the beginning of the 8th century received 20 Danish boys to be educated when he visited the Danish king. That may have happened later too as members of the Danish court joined the Frankish court in the end of the 8th century. It is not unlikely that Varin got help from such a Scandinavian who returned to serve his original culture - or persons with similar combinations of knowledge. Such a person would also be able to make a draft on paper or another material, which was nescessary to establish the perfect set-up using all the surface of the stone.
The pagan Varin, who probably based his kingship on his religion, had every reason to follow closely the Frankish culture, religion and politics. The Franks posed a serious threat against Scandinavian kingship - both their Christian religion, their military power and their support to certain members of the royal Danish family. It was obvious to help the sons of Godfred together with other Scandinavian kings and chieftains as told by the Frankish annales - just 15 years before Ansgar arrived to Birka. It was also obvious to raise a political monument like the later runestone in Jelling after his son.
On the other hand there is also a kind of desparation behind the last 3 stanzas in the frame and his hints to a wife's offer and late birth among the gods. These traces of Varin's own emotions are far from the sophisticated planned structure of the stone. Had he lost his only son? Did he let him down by sending him on a dangerous mission? Was he afraid that Vaemod did not die in a heroic manner? Did Vaemod disappear since Varin used "faikan"? Did Varin hope for a rebirth? The last was indicated by Joseph Harris referring to "Sonatorrek" as a parallel (Harris 2006). Was it such a desperation which caused this unique work, though appearing in the surface layers of the text as narratives from the glorious past of the family? We will never know - especially as the explanation of Statement no. 16 is uncertain.
Still Varin could use the "surface" of the Roek Stone to show his own people and his visitors that his kingship and his religion were able to create an art just as sophisticated as the court and religion of Charlemagne. He used it to tell that it was his ancestor who was adopted by Theodoric, the hero of Charlemagne - not a member of the family of Charlemagne - he had no reason to step back for the Frankish emperor. It is no coincidence that the family of Varin and Charlemagne's statue of Theodoric were emphasized side by side in his advanced version of a style being popular at the court of Charlemagne - completed with a clear pagan touch. The stone and its text was in perfect accordance with its historical context.
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The initial assumption of this article was that Varin had structured the text of the stone as a dialog with riddles and answers - a structure which was usual in the Viking Ages, though the answers at the Roek Stone were hidden. In the test above these simple criterions (based on the observation of key words being independent of the interpretation) were followed consequently. The riddles beginning with "sakum" were answered in a way which made the text coherent, made sense and revealed an obvious purpose with the stone - though the broken text behind the Riddle no. 13 could not be read and interpreted. Only very few questions remained open. Several independent explanations confirmed the answers. The memorial stanza was succeeded by the key-riddle. Here the legendary sword was pointing at the famous family from the time of the heroes to the death of Vemod at the battlefield, but it was also pointing at a prayer for Vemod to be received by the gods in Valhall. Exactly what we should expect of a rune stone in memory of a dead son - a very simple message and possibly with the same content as some later picture stones at Gotland.
Only an answer to the last stanza was missing, but that was a given consequence due to the structure of the text and the missing interrogative pronoun in that stanza.
When Varin after Riddle no. 2 broke the system and compressed the 9 similar riddles with only the names in difference, he placed a preliminary answer in the surface layer and placed several hints to the next layer for those who accepted his challenges - without knowing the father and grandfather of Varin.
The prayer and the invocation were presented in secret runes and code as a third layer, but that part was primarily meant for Odin - the inventor of these secret runes - or Thor. At the first glances maybe a surprisingly sophisticated and advanced coding. However Varin's way to use secret runes makes it evident that this was the rune masters way to think - in accordance with Alcuin of York's contemporary ideas about acrostics, symbolism, riddles, mathematics and challenges to the mind, later also met in England and in a more simple way in the style of the Vikings.
The discussion about Riddle no. 16 and the internal position of the gods has no influence on the structure and the rest of the interpretation, as Thor receiving the prayer about the dead Vemod is sufficient as a purpose. The kennings for the Valkyrie and the Einherjar in the stanzas about the death of Vemod - being framed by the invocation - are rather obvious to understand. The identification of Odin can be discussed though the invocation of Odin combined with the prayer to receive Vemod in his Valhalla appear as the obvious purpose, which makes the stone a perfect work of art - and the interpretation nearly as complete as it can be.
As a whole the explanation should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. From a person using encrypted runes we must expect the text to be set up in a sophisticated way, but we should also in that case expect a consequent and logical basic structure behind the text. The message itself is simple, understandable and in accordance with its historical context. The purpose behind a rune stone of this unusual size and cost should most likely be a monumental demonstration of power as the prayer could be written in less expensive ways. The stone is calling for concrete messages in accordance with the introduction stanza - not insoluble mysteries or teaching in myths or abstract philosophy. The stone is no mystery at all - just a long foreseeable text with some coded messages to the gods - carefully marked for those who know.
Originally the purpose with this article was to show the principles behind the structure of the text as riddles by using myths and historical evidence - assuming that the exact interpretation of the riddles would need further investigations by the linguists. However, later analyzes of runes, encryption and set-up and discussions with specialists in religious and European history have confirmed the structure and the answers indicating that the linguists had probably solved nearly all the linguistic problems during their 150 years of discussion. Apparently other skills are needed to solve the riddles and decode the hidden information as our modern society is more specialized than the societies of Charlemagne and Varin. Consequently the evaluation of the final solution is not reserved for linguists and runologists. Of course certain details will never be answered with our knowledge today, but we are lucky that Varin or his rune master put together a system working like a moderne self-answering cross-word. The Roek Stone is an important source which should be evaluated on its own premises from its own time - instead of regarding the stone as a mystery, which can only be solved in accordance with reconstructions based on uncertain Norse sources from later times.
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“Roekstenen” from Riksantikvarieaembetet 2000 (Runverket 2000), which is written by Helmer Gustavson, is the source for the general information and the rune text. This translation was first time presented in 1991.
Widmark 1998. Article in "Forskning och Fremsteg". Joseph Harris and Bo Ralph have in 2006/2007 confirmed that this is still the general opinion. In the theory the rísk exists that the reading of the text to a certain degree has been confirmed by itself - due to the interpretations. The reading of the text has, however, been discussed by so many scholars for so many years, that strong evidence is needed to change it - especially as the current reading can make sense as here with a solution which was not known by the translators.
The first presentation (Ralph 2005) can be found on this website.
At a seminar in Oslo at April 26 2006 between runologists, linguists and philologists Bo Ralph mentioned as a lecturer that the reading of the text is connected with at least 10 major uncertainties - without having time to go through all the examples. Other scholars argued against some of the examples - especially the Theodoric-stanza was discussed. Bo Ralph mentioned and all agreed about the problems with the uncertain reading due to the ancient text making it possible to read the text in several ways. Bo Ralph emphasized that in his opinion the linguistically most correct version shall be used if there is no convincing interpretation of other possible versions - which does not contradict that if there is a more convincing interpretation based on a reading which is not strictly in accordance with a known or reconstructed language of that time (but still acceptable) this reading shall be used. Due to the combination of metrical stanzas, encryption, riddles with traps, futhark incantations, hiding of riddles and the general character of the runes we cannot expect the text to be grammatically correct.
Michael Barnes has later in an article opposed the dating of the runes used by Bo Ralph (Barnes 2007) and Michael Schulte has in a review opposed the reference to Rg-Veda and the translation of the Theodoric-stanza (Schulte 2008 a - commented in note 2.2). Both scholars prefer the reading of Runverket.
The interpretation presented at this website was not mentioned at the seminar in Oslo.
The encryption and the setup of the runes are used both to hide messages and to tell how to read the text. This use is not obvious to the unprepared reader. Consequently the setup will be described currently with the interpretation in this article as it can be regarded more like a confirmation than a guideline to us. This note shall be regarded as a more systematical summary using the final interpretation of the article too - as it is independent of this explanation.
The encryption of the runes was acknowledged already by Sophus Bugge. After a shift in Riddle no. 14 from the new alphabet to the old futhark (except for the first letter) the runemaster used in Riddle no. 15 a famous method known from Julius Caesar and used even today as "Ceasar's cipher", where each letter was displaced x (here x=1) places in the alphabet. In Riddle no. 16 the runemaster used three different kinds of cipher code with figures representing the number of a letter in the alphabet - a well known methode too. In "Ceasar's cipher" the reader needed to know the alphabet and the key cipher. The consequent use of "sakumukmini" as the first word in a stanza after a shift told the reader which system to be used in the stanza instead of a key cipher. Maybe even which futhark to be used was shown after the "+"sign in the end of the displacement lines as a confirmation. After the last "+"sign he used an advanced kind of coding being unsolved until now - probably an incantation.
When having read this article it should be obvious that the human family of Vemod and his destiny was described in riddles by using the usual runes of that time (today called Roek runes). The past origin of this family was in Riddle no. 14 described with ancient runes and the world of the gods (divine ancestors) was in Riddle no. 15 and 16 described with encrypted runes. The first line to be read in the plain text was marked by a big unusual letter. As was the first line of the ancient and encrypted text - but this time the letter itself was an encryption consisting of 6 "f"s. This text was organized as a frame around Riddle no. 12 and 13 at the backside. Together with the ordinal figures of the riddles the high letters in the beginning and the end of the riddles at the front side (including the right side) possibly marked that this text should be regarded as a kind of a circle (formed like a torque) until all the missing riddles before Riddle no. 12 were found - making the first stanza (or its last line after the "+"sign) to Riddle no. 11 too.
Just as the shift to encryption inside a line the beginning of a riddle inside a line is marked by a special sign (+ or bullit) supporting the textual separator, "sakum" and "that". The text, however, contains three more signs in Riddle no 1 and 13 (+ and x). They are regarded to show the position of the 9 riddles hidden at the stone according to the numbering of the riddles. Of course that use can be discussed, but as the textual interpretation indicate exactly the same way of reading, the two methodes do support each other.
The ancient "t" being used at place 3, 10 and 13 among the "modern roek runes" can even be regarded as a "pointer" to important positions like the figures in Riddle no. 1 (Chapter 5).
The complicated use of the runes and encryption above has nothing to do with numerology, holy or magic runes. The only example of the last kind at the Roek Stone is probably the use of NIT, the old futhark of 24 signs as an incantation formula and the figure 24 as a symbol for that formula. This well-known use of the futhark alphabet was probably an incantation of the gods (Odin?) - here placed in the frame at the backside of the stone. Inside this frame was placed a text about the death of Vemod and the names of his ancestors, where kennings together with the incantation may have formed a hidden prayer. Details and parallels are explained in Chapter 7, where von Friesen's problem with counting the signs in the frame as a product of 24 is solved too.
Though I agree in Bo Ralph's overall conclusion that the text is forming riddles I shall comment details from his articles below regarding his interpretation. The articles Ralph 2007a, Ralph 2007b and Ralph 2007c present similar conclusions. As 2007a is a comprehensive article from the first seminar covering also the two next seminars it is used as main reference in the note below. This is also the article being reviewed by Michael Schulte (Schulte 2008 a). References to pages in Ralph 2007b (Oslo) are placed in brackets and to Ralph 2007c (Goetene) in brackets and italic letters.
At page 122 Bo Ralph claims the current dating of the stone to be solely based on the reference to Theodoric, which is not the case. The runologists have based their dating on runes and language too. The runes are a.e. similar with Oseby (835-850AD) and earlier than Gokstad (875-925AD)(Brate 1911, p.231). Michael Barnes has concluded that the stone was carved in the early Viking Ages (9th century) based on examples of the age of the language (Barnes 2007). It appear to be important for Bo Ralph's theories which are based on a mediaval English influence that the stone was carved in the 10th century instead of the first part of the 9th century.
ThiaurikR is read as Theodoric by nearly all scholars, but that reading is eagerly opposed by Bo Ralph at page 126-129 (147-151, 10) as this is crucial for his interpretation too. His most important argument is that the ON "tjoð" should always be a part of the name of Theodoric. That depends, however, of the source the carver knew for this name at the time when the stone was carved - and that may have been an oral transfer of a name from earlier times or from a foreign language. In this connection it is important to notice that the runologists emphasize that the use of the runes was normally based on their phonetic meaning and not on an established spelling of the word. The ON name Tjoðvi was a.e. at the Danish Goerlev Stone (750 AD) spelled "Þiauþui" and Groenvik has argued that "þ" was unnecessary as a phonetic letter before "r". This may be confirmed by the form "Tuirikr" in a poem in younger Faroese. The reading "Theodoric" is discussed in chapter 3 of this website where ThiaurikR is one version between several different spellings of the name being mentioned in note 3.4. of this website. Michael Schulte has in his short review selected this key argument of Bo Ralph - the Theodoric example - and opposed Bo Ralph's explanations (Schulte 2008 a page 100/101): "In linguistischer Sicht verliert Ralphs Kritik an der Standarddeutung übrigens an Schlagkraft, wenn stilistische Unterschiede in runenschwedischen Inschriften konstatiert werden ... Ungeachtet aller Probleme, diesen 'ÞiaurikR' des Roeksteines historisch dingfest zu machen, erscheint die Standarddeutung aus der Sicht des Rezensenten weiterhin vorteilhaft". Schulte did in his review also critisize other parts of Ralph's translation of the Theodoric-stanza.
At page 129-130 (11) HraithmaraR is discussed. Bo Ralph argues that Reidgotaland was often regarded as Jutland, but that was Snorri's mistake in the 13th century. Bo Ralph ignores that the Hraedas in the much earlier Widsith were fighting against Attila in the forests of the Vistula - old Gothic territory - and in Hervararsaga the Reidgothic kings obviously ruled somewhere in the Danubian region fighting against the Huns. Bo Ralph has apparently left that argument in his latest published article (Ralph 2007b), and his argument that it is unlikely that the word Hraithkutum referred to the distaint Hreidgoths has lost its weight due to the presentation of a historical connection at this website.
At page 130-131 (149-150) "MaeringR" as Goths (or Heruls) is rejected as a methodological mistake by referring to the ON word "maeringr" for "famous man", though Bo Ralph admits that he in this way will get two words with the same meaning (skati marika). As the ON word may be a later word developed from the name of a famous group/people by that name and as it appear to be unattestet as a word for "famous man" in OE ("maére" is attested as an adjective in a.e. Beowulf), though it was known as a name in the early Deor, the mistake could have been made by Bo Ralph as well. A possible explanation of the name is described in Chapter 3 of this website, but the interpretation will not be changed by Bo Ralph's suggestion as "famous men" will make sense too.
After the discussion above an alternative interpretation of the Theodoric stanza is presented by Bo Ralph at page 131-134 (150-153). Bo Ralph solves his problems by introducing kennings for sailing and ship interpreting the stanza: "The brave warrior, chieftain of the seawarriors, is sailing on a ship. The first of the famous is sitting on his ship with the shield strapped." In Ralph 2007b the worthing is a little different, but the content is the same without a satisfactury explanation of the expression "strantu HraithmaraR" in this connection. This way to read the runes must be discussed between the linguists and runologists, but though we can all agree that a ship can be called a "seahorse" we can question how "strantu HraithmaraR" can be a kenning leading to the interpretation mentioned above. This will open for a lot of imaginative possibilities. It is possible to understand Bo Ralph's interpretation, but Varin's reason for wasting space for such a stanza is not explained - being especially important as this text does not appear as a riddle as Bo Ralph has explained all the text to be.
At page 135-138 (139-146, 13-15) the riddles are discussed. Beside quotes from Hervararsaga also riddles from the Exeter Book and from the RgVeda are quoted. The ancient RgVeda Poems being written down in India around 1200 AD are apparently left as an argument in the latest article (Ralph 2007b), probably as it is difficult to show their presence in Scandinavia in the Viking Ages. Neither Michael Schulte is convinced about the reference to RgVeda (Schulte 2008 a page 99/100). It is more realistic to focus on the riddles at the Roek Stone and in Hervararsaga as a result of an influence from the court of Charlemagne or the former English culture, which were closely connected by Alcuin of York - but Bo Ralph has not explained why this influence should come from England 100 years later instead of coming at the time of the "official" dating of the Roek Stone from the Carolingian court and Alcuin, where the use of riddles apparently was broader than in the Exeter Book. At that time the Scandinavians had close contacts with the Franks (according to the Frankish Annals and Rimbert).
At page 125 (156) Bo Ralph claims that the word "faikian" is telling that Vaemod was "doomed" instead of "dead" - which was opposed in Oslo by Helmer Gustavson, who emphasized that the examples are so few that we do not know the exact use of the word at that time. In the riddles of the present website, however, also Bo Ralph's translation "doomed" will make perfectly sense as a part of an open question about his final destiny. Similarily the different readings of "raith" in the Theodoric stanza ("to rule" or "to ride") at page 125-126 (150) can both be used for the same interpretation of this website - making a discussion of these points unnecessary for the interpretation.
The general discussion about riddles is by Bo Ralph exemplified by the riddle in the second stanza - the 12 warbooties. Bo Ralph does not change the general translation of that riddle, but suggests at page 138-139 (140-142, 15) that it is referring to a fight between the sun and the moon. The main arguments are that such fights are described in the English and Indian literature and that there are 12 months in the year - a figure mentioned in the riddle. In Ralph 2007b (140-141) it is even claimed that the answer can not be a warbooty in a riddle of that time as the word warbooty is mentioned, but that claim does not correspond with the contemporary use of riddles by Alcuin (educational purposes according to Peter Godwin) or with Hervararsaga. Of course the answer can be which two items were taken as warbooty - as it is answered at this website.
Bo Ralph's translation of the two last lines in opposite order at page 141 (155-156) is: "The giantess does not destroy a family paying attention to the holy". As it could be Varins point that the text could be read in both ways like the contemporary Frankish acrostics, I do not need to argue against Bo Ralph's alternative, but I do not see much relevance in the sentence or any kind of a riddle (Chapter 8).
The comments above may refer to details as I agree in Bo Ralph's main conclusion (a.e. the summary in Ralph 2007b) that the text is forming "real riddles", just as I agree that we shall always be open for alternative translations. Regarding a detailed interpretation Bo Ralph has only presented one possible riddle with answer as no of the other two retranslated stanzas are explained as riddles. In the other five stanzas only a few alternatively translated words are mentioned without presenting any riddles. Neither has he explained the jump from the 2nd to the 12th statement nor the purpose behind the encryption of some unsecret and unpersonal cosmic riddles after Varin's great effort with making the text visible to everybody. Bo Ralph's interpretation is far from meeting the criteria for a convincing explanantion as defined in Chapter 2 at this website.
That is apparently agreed by Bo Ralph as he concludes (Ralph 2007a, page 139) regarding the second stanza "This is for the moment my basical point" and regarding the rest of the interpretation "My hypothesis is that the rest of the inscription is composed in the same key" ("Min hypotes er att resten af inskriften gaar i samme tonart"). That is further confirmed in Ralph 2007c (page 15), where Bo Ralph is adding that the text has to be analyzed again and to be split up into segments. When professor Sture Allén in a speech in December 2006 at "Svenska Akademien" told, "En helhetstolkning av stenens text ... har nyligen lagts fram av herr Ralph", he must have referred to the overall interpretation that the text consists of riddles. Bo Ralph has never in the articles claimed that he has presented a total interpretation. In the latest article (Ralph 2007b, page 154) the conclusion has even been changed to the statement that some of his separate cosmic riddles may remain unsolved as many of the riddles of the RgVeda. If so his suggestions will bring us farther from the memory of Vemod in the introduction than Wesén did. When Bo Ralph presented his ideas his purpose was to show new ways out of the deadlock - not to end up in a new deadlock with the unnecessary claim that the riddles shall be of a metaphysical content. Bo Ralph shall be credited his scholarly claims that the text appear to be riddles, that parallels and explanations may be found outside the Swedish borders and that the way out of this kind of deadlock is a revaluation of reading and translation. His procedure by critizising the current translation and his suggestions about use of the riddles were exactly what was needed in a situation where convincing interpretations were unknown - which was his situation when he prepared the papers for the seminars Ralph 2007a and 2007b by using a few examples.
Hervarar Saga is known from several manuscripts being compiled in different way by the translators. It is most easy to find Peter Tunstall's English version from 2004, "The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek the Wise" Link or the ON version. The character of the sword is presented in its chapter 1. The name may refer to a sword belonging to the kings of the Tervingian Goths, but the name may be a late invention. The uncertain episodes: Both Hjalmar and Odd had according to Angantyr won the sword (chapter 4 (ON-version III)), which Hervor got in the mound of her father. At Gudmund (The Gepidic royal name Kunimund?) a man took it from Hervor, who won it back (chapter 6 (ON-version V)). 9 slaves won it from Heidrek, and Angantyr won it back.
In 1977 Lars Loennroth wrote about Tyrfing in connection with Riddle no. 1 (Loennroth 1977, page 24). Herwig Wolfram has mentioned Hervarar Sagas use of the name Tyrfing in the Gothic Tervingi-area. (Wolfram 1988, page 27).
Hervarar-saga, chapter XIV and attachment (XV). Peter Tunstall, 2004 (chapter 14 and attachment).
The British/American scholar, Carl Edlund Anderson, has suggested that some of the names used in Hloedskvida from Hervarar Saga appear to be relics of old Germanic names which may be transferred to Scandinavia before the legends of Attila and Theodoric and preserved there. An example is Harvadfjoell (Xarpat-) as a version of the Carpathians - the border region of the Herulian Kingdom. This theory is confirmed by professor Hans Frede Nielsen, Sydjysk Universitet, who has dated the soundchanges to 500 BC.
Wessén 1958, page 44. Wessén's description of the connection with Theodoric is generally accepted (known spelling: Roek:Þiaurik, Deor:Þéodríc, Saga:Þiðrik, Gothic:Thiudareiks, Younger Faroese:Tuirik(ur), Norwegean name:Tjoðrek, Danish runic parallel: ON Tjoðvi spelled Þiauþui (Goerlev 750 AD)). The connection was already noticed by Heinzel in 1889 and accepted later by Sophus Bugge. The original sources were Agnellus (Abbot Agnel of Blachernes) and Walafrid Strabus. According to Agnellus Theodoric was wearing a lance in his right hand and a shield at his left arm. Accordingly he must have worn his sword in its sheath as Charlemagne did at his statuette (not drawn as the horseman at the Sparloesa Stone) - just as we should expect the two items to be taken as warbooties. Otto von Friesen used the different ways to describe his weapons as an argument against Theodoric, but admitted that the argument had no importance. This difference from the real statue seen by very few Scandinavians may have been intentional, as "the shield strapped" over the shoulder was a way to tell in a riddle that the sword was in its sheath without mentioning the sword as these items were the hidden answer of the riddle.
Loennroth, 1977, page 24-26. Bertelsen, 1911, 414. In the later Norwegean "Didrichs Saga" (based on German legends) we can read about a likneski (normally translated as "graven image"): "In Rome he let a 'likneski' of himself and his horse Falka be made and placed it at the top of the town wall. It was made by copper. Another 'likneski' of himself he ordered in the northern stronghold (Ravenna). There he was standing at the tower pointing with his sword at the stone bridge crossing the river. Also in many other places paintings and standing pictures were erected." Also the magic swords Ekkisax, Naglring and the famous Miming are in the Germanic legends combined with Theodoric - the last combination in the Old English Waldhere from the Viking Ages. Often this was combined with the mentioning of 12 giants as in Hervarer-saga. It is obvious that images of Theodoric with horse and sword were a part of the myth about Theodoric in the Germanic parts of Europe - and accordingly the obvious explanation of warbooties and the "Theodoric stanza" at the Roek Stone too.
Elias Wessén in "Teodorik - makt och hjaeltesaga" (Wessén, 1964).
Cassiodorus: Varia IV, 2 (507-511 AD)(Lakatos 1978 - Schwarcz 2005): From King Theodoric to the King of the Heruli: “It has been always held amongst the nations a great honour to be adopted as "filius per arma." Our children by nature often disappoint our expectations, but to say that we esteem a man worthy to be our son is indeed a praise. As such, after the manner of the nations and in manly fashion, do we now beget you. We send you horses, spears, and shields, and the rest of the trappings of the warrior; but above all we send you our judgment that you are worthy to be our son. Highest among the nations will you be considered who are thus approved by the mind of Theodoric. And though the son should die rather than see his father suffer aught of harm, we in adopting you are also throwing round you the shield of our protection. The Heruli have known the value of Gothic help in old times, and that help will now be yours. A and B, the bearers of these letters, will explain to you in Gothic (patrio sermone) the rest of our message to you.”
Procopius Book VI, xiv. "But as time went on they became superior to all the barbarians who dwelt about them both in power and in numbers, and, as was natural, they attacked and vanquished them severally and kept plundering their possessions by force. And finally they made the Lombards, who were Christians, together with several other nations, subject and tributary to themselves, though the barbarians of that region were not accustomed to that sort of thing; but the Eruli were led to take this course by love of money and lawless spirit. ... And Rodolphus ... marched against the Lombards, who were doing no wrong, without charging against them any fault or alleging any violation of their agreement, but bringing upon them a war which had no real cause. ... And when the two armies came close to one another, it so happened that the sky above the Lombards was obscured by a sort of cloud, black and very thick, but above the Eruli it was exceedingly clear. And judging by this one would have supposed that the Eruli were entering a conflict to their own harm; for there can be no more forbidding portent than this for barbarians as they go into battle. However, the Eruli gave no heed even to this, but in absolute disregard of it they advanced against their enemy with utter contempt ... many of the Eruli perished and Rodolphus himself also perished." Procopius' dating of the battle may appear as 494 AD, but the professors Herwig Wolfram and Andreas Schwarcz, the University of Vienna, have reconstructed the dating to 408 AD or probably 409 AD (Schwarcz 2005).
We know that event was known at the time of the Roek Stone, as it was told by Paulus Diaconus in a patriotic Lombardian version "forgetting" that they had been subdued by the Heruls before the battle - he just wrote they had a treaty. Nevertheless also Paulus in 790 AD quoted the Herulian messenger "Woe to thee, wretched Herolia, who are punished by the anger of God". Paulus wrote in Latin "Domini" as a Christian, but in the Scandinavian version a messenger among the followers of Rodolfo would refer the pagan gods like Procopius did. Maybe Paulus was not aware that Rodolfo was pagan as Theodoric was an Arian Christian. The point in the anecdote was later used in other Norse legends too. The defeat and the name Rodolfo was mentioned both by Paulus and in a shorter version also in Origo Longobardorum (ca. 650 AD).
Paulus did not mention the honourful connection between Theodoric and Hrodolphus, but as he emphasized that the Lombards conquered the banner of Hrodolphus called "Bandum", which he had got from Theodoric, Paulus and his contemporaries were probably fully aware of the connection. [Paulus Diaconis, History of the Lombards, Book 1,xx, ca. 790AD]
Procopius Book VI, xiv. "...these men, led by many of the royal blood, traversed all the nations ... Coming thence to the ocean, they took to the sea, and putting in at Thule, remained there on the island [Scandinavian Peninsula] ...And one of the most numerous nations there are the Gautoi, and it was next to them that the incoming Eruli settled at the time of question."
The ravage by the Western Heruls along the Spanish coast in 450 AD and 456 AD is mentioned in the Chronicle of Bishop Hydatius. Dexippos told about the Herulian naval attacks in the Aegaen Sea in 268 AD (Lakatos 1978).
Loennroth, 1977, page 27.
Lakatos 1978. Odoaker was probably a Sciri himself, but as this people was destroyed by the Goths in 468 (Jordanes LXXX) the Herulian mercenaries were the most important part of his own Roman soldiers, when he displaced the last Western Roman emperor (Jordanes XLVI a.o.). Theodoric made Odoaker prisoner and murdered him in 494 AD after a long siege of his stronghold in Ravenna (Jordanes LVII).
Szabadbattayan, Hungary according to Tineke Looijenga (Looijenga 1997, page 96). Exact finding place unknown. According to the archaeologist Alexander Kiss (Kiss 1980, page 112) the buckle can be dated to the 5th century AD after the "Pannonische Hunnenepoche" ending 454 AD, while the runologists date it to the first half of the 5th century. The runes in "marings" are usual runes from the old 24 futhark met ie at the "erilaR"-inscription in Kragehul (Fyn) - except the "lanternrune", which is a bindrune combining "i" and the rhombe for "ng".
Tacitus: Annales (II, 63).
Ottar Groenvik (Groenvik 1983, page 119) has mentioned the 9 generations as a possibility regarding the missing stanzas. Richard Harris (Harris 2006) was aware of that possible explanation too, but he had to give it up as he believed the answer to Riddle number 2 was Theodoric instead of Hrodolphus.
Alcuin of York was a kinsman of the first Danish missionary, Willibrord, whom he portrayed. Around 783 AD he established a school at the court of Charlemagne where he used riddles and answers as a general tool to teach a.o. Pippin, son of Charlemagne. Also mathematical exercises are known from his hand, and acrostics (used by Porfyrius at the court of Constantine the Great) and number symbolism was used in his poetry. About the cross (shown here as an example) Peter Godman wrote in 1985 (Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance, page 20 and 56): "Alcuin's acrostic in praise of the Cross is set within the context of paschal celebration, and the significance of his text is enhanced by the complex symbolism of its shape - the four sides representing, in the manner of contemporary exegesis, all creation; the number of lines and verses, if the two arms of the Cross are subtracted, being 36 (6x6= the square of a perfect figure). When Alcuin the Cross, his invocation is thus qualitatively different from a purely rhetorical appeal to the Muses, for he adresses both the subject and the shaping principle of his poem. ... Symbolism is present too in Alcuin's nature poetry."
Alcuin had a very strong influence on the Carolingian renaissance. A whole school of poets followed his principles. Several examples can be found in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Poetae Latini Aevi Carolingi, Berlin 1881. As example is "Jesus Christus" vertically and horizontally arranged in a cross (Bonifatius) and Iosephus Scotti used "Cruxes". The technique was first used to hide prayers in a text, but later a message could be read as "Charlemagne in Hell". Another kind of acrostic (used earlier by Eusebius) was at the time of the Roek Stone used by Cynewulf, who hide his name in poems in English runes.
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Sophus Bugge 1910, Magnus Olsen 1921 and several works of Hugo Pipping based on an observation by Ludvig Wimmer. According to them the regularity could be no coincidence. Anders Baeksted criticized these theories about number magic in his doctoral thesis (Baeksted 1952), but he and von Friesen had to leave back some combinations of nx24 runes as "strange coincidences". It will be investigated if there are further signs of acrostic methode and confirmation of the later mentioned numerical riddles, but Baeksted confirmed
In 2002 Thomas Loefvenmark, Oestersund, presented a hypothesis regarding the old "t" in the first line (being rune number 16 in the old Futhark) and the runes in Line no. 17. It was later presented at the open Arkeologiforum. According to his hypothesis the 3 t'es in the first line pointed at 3 double runes around the name Radulf - forming a word "fathis" which could be "ancestor". This explanation is complicated, but other examples of this kind may possibly be identified at the stone too. As he had no time to finish and publish his theory it shall not be claimed as an argument here. It could be regarded as an extremely advanced version of acrostics and coding, but an argument against it could be that the "t" in the middle was chosen by decorative reasons or to mark the first line to be read, just like the unusual rune in the first of the coded lines. However, that will not explain the two other old t'es.
- that the remarkable 6 final crosses of secret runes in Riddle 16 had 24 "legs",
- that each rune line forming the coded Riddles no. 14 and 15 identifying the family gods contained 24 runes (page 246),
- and that the names of the "fathers" in the "data matrix" consisted of 4x6=24 letters while the names of the "sons" formed 2 groups of 16 letters (page 176). In note 5.6 will be demonstrated further regularities of this kind.
I have tried to use his observation in another way by following the ideas of Sophus Bugge. In the first line the arrow-like "t", which is not a part of the alphabet used here, is found at place number 3, 10 and 13. It is not found elsewhere among the 600 Roek-runes. As mentioned this rune "t" is number 16 of the old Futhark. After the runes in this first line is placed an unneccassary "+"-sign. When we repeat the reading of the front side in order to find the 9 missing riddles we will find this unusual information, which may give us the idea to step 16 times to Line no. 17 and the unusual "+"-sign of this line. After the "+"-sign we will find 8 names - 8 of the 9 missing riddles/answers. This sequence is closed by a "x"-sign and when we return to the first + it is followed by the name Varin - the last missing Riddle no. 11 is the first stanza without number. The total of the placenumbers of the 3 t's in the first line is 26, and the rune at placenumber 26 in Line no. 17 is the first rune of Radulf, which may be a way to point him out as the first name to read among the 8 names after the +, a line of ancestors to Varin. Also Thomas Loefvenmark's methode pointed out this Radulf as an ancestor.
As the figures 3, 10 and 13 are inside the interval of riddle numbers in Roek-runes (1-13) a third way could be that they may represent riddle numbers. As Riddle no. 3-11 do not exist the arrows may point out that a sequence beginning with Riddle no. 3 and ending with Riddle no. 10 shall be found in the existing Riddle no. 13 - showing up to be names. When we return we will again read Varin as the next name.
Actually also Jordanes mentioned a Scandinavian king, Roduulf, who preferred the court of Theodoric for his own kingdom - probably the source of Cassiodorus regarding his description of the people of Western Scandinavia, which was used by Jordanes in Getica. We do not know his destiny or any connection with the name Marika, but the guilt may be connected with his abdication and he may have been a former chief of some sea warriors in Scandinavia. Aake Hyenstrand regarded the two kings as identical [Hyenstrand 1996, page 49]. Most non-Scandinavian scholars disagree as Roduulf of Jordanes was described as a king leaving the Ranii or another Norwegian people, while Procopius' Hrodolphus was killed as a current leader and king of the Heruls in Maehren already a decade before Cassiodorus wrote. Under all circumstances the story line of the Norwegean Roduulf does not match the storyline of the Roek Stone.
Procopios Book VIII, xxvi.
Tacitus: Germania, chapter 40. The name is also found in the Poetic Edda - a.o. Varinsey and Varinsvik, which probably has the same background.
Procopius Book VI, xv.
Cassiodorus: Varia III, 3 (Lakatos 1978).
The Swedish professor in English, Alvar Ellegaard, wrote in 1987 an article "Who were the Eruli?" in Scania, where he claimed that the Heruls in Scandinavia were a warriorband, who returned to Illyria in 548 AD. It must be regarded as a provocation as his historical arguments did not make sense in relation to the only source he emphasized as reliable - Procopius. Many Swedes received gladly his claim, but he was opposed by international historians as Herwig Wolfram and Andreas Schwarcz. This is described in my article
Loennroth, 1977, page 22-23.
Loennroth 1977, page 50, N.Aa. Nielsen 1969, page 37 and Wessen 1952, page 50-51.
"Einheria" from "Grimnismal" (XXIII) in "Den aeldre Eddas Gudesange" (Poetic Edda) from the 12th century (Aeldre Edda 2001, page 60).
Albrechtsen 1976, page 17-22.
The son of Charlemagne sent up an army through "Sinlendi" (Southern Jutland) in 815 AD. The similarity between "Sinlendi" in the annals, which Ottar (Niels Lund: Ottar and Wulfstan 1983, page 24) called "Sillende", and "Siulunti" at the Roek Stone is not investigated (Friesen 1920, page 70-71, and Nielsen 1969, page 14). It would make even more sense if the place was Sillende with Hedeby behind Dannevirke instead of the usual translation, Sealand.
The stanza was written in the old Futhark. The j=jara-letter=j/y/i used in the name "jgOldga" disappeared according to Peter Skautrup (Peter Skautrup 1944, page 49) around 600 AD due to sound-changes contemporary with the changes at the rune stones in Blekinge. This may indicate that this family name was kept from earlier times in runes.
De Vries mentioned that "Ynglinga" could be be written "Ingul-inga", which is very close to "jgOld(i)ga".
In Historia Norwegia (12th century AD), which was based on Ari, the name Ingui (Ari: Yngve of Troy) was placed as the father of Njord and grandfather of Frey in the front of the genealogy of the Ynglinga-family instead of Snorri's Odin. Snorri on his side called Njord's son Yngve-Frey giving in this way name to the family. Ingui/Yngve was probably the same name as behind the "Ingaevones" of Tacitus (1st century AD), the "Ingwina" of Beowulf and "Ingui" in the Anglo-Saxon genealogies.
The name may be combined with the nearby Ingvaldstorp, but it is unlikely that this village was established by an ancestor to Varin as the Roek Stone is from the very earliest stage of the "-torp"-names (Andersson 1999).
N.Aa. Nielsen 1969, page 52.
Nielsen 1969, page 46-60.
Snorri Sturlasson, Prose Edda: "Skaldskaparmal" (XVII) around 1220 AD.
Widmark 1992, page 32.
Groenvik 1990: "To viktiga ord i Roekinskriften".
Voluspa 18. In Steinsland & Meulengracht 2001, page 45, Hoenir and Lodurr were suggested to be an earlier name for the brothers of Odin. Vili and Ve were mentioned in Lokasenna as lovers of Frigg, but their family relation was not mentioned before Snorri. Lokasenna is just known from one of the manuscripts.
Gun Widmark made a point out of Sophus Bugge's different translation "Do you want this?" Widmark 1992, page 34.
Runverket 2000. Normally the protector was a god.
Gun Widmark could accept this in combination with a male brother-in-law. (Widmark 1992, page 32). Lars Loennroth mentioned the direct translation of Sif, "relation by marriage" (Loennroth 1977).
Groenvik 1983, page 128, Groenvik 1992b and Groenvik 2003.
Snorri Sturlasson, Prose Edda: Prologue (III) around 1220 AD.
Used in general by Groenvik as an argument against N.Aa. Nielsen (Gronvik 1983, page 127).
Loennroth, 1977, page 29.
Sorla Thattr about "Hogne and Hedin” (chapter 2) from Flateyjarbok (around 1400).
7.2. Nielsen 1969, page 38-44. Magnus Olsen and Niels Aage Nielsen had earlier touched the idea about the Einherjar, but this was in connection with an invocation of Odin in the middle of the text.
Snorri Sturlasson, Younger Edda: "Skaldskaparmal" (XLIX), ca. 1220. Nielsen 1969, page 38-43.
Nylén 1988, page 52. The stones from Hammars (I) and Smiss (I) (8-9th centuries).
The figure “12” as a possible pointer was suggested by Lars Loennroth 1977, page 37.
As some of the figures are used as kennings, it is tempting to test the provokingly many figures in Riddle no. 12 and 13 in a numerical play too - especially as Varin also used + before these riddles (which has always been used for the matrix). Alcuin was fond of number symbolism and made also 56 mathematical exercises. Later such plays can be found in the Norse Grimnismal, which has i.e. the stanza: "Five hundred doors, and forty more, I think, are in Valhalla. Eight hundred Einherjar will at once from each door go when they issue with the wolf to fight" ("Fimm húndruð dura ok um fiórom toegom, svá hygg ek at Vallhoello vera; átta hundruð einheria…" - "Grimnismal" (XXIII) in Poetic Edda (12th century). Quoted also by Snorri Sturlasson's in the Prose Edda: "Gylfaginning" (XL), around 1220 AD). This example is not chosen by coincidence. If "hundred" is calculated as the ON "big hundred" (120) the number of doors will be 640. If we look at the figures in Riddle no. 13 (here appearing in columns - as Alcuin arranged his letters - if the short lines of the stanzas are aligned to the right) we find 20, 4, 4, 4 in the first stanza and 5, 5, 5, 5 in the next. If we add the figures in each stanza and multiply these two totals we will get 32x20 = 640. The number 13 of the riddle is not used as it is an ordinal figure. If we used + and x as mathematical operators they would lead to the same result, but according to our current knowledge they were unknown in Europe until the 15th century. It was probably a coincidence as the carver chose these crosses to separate the elements he wanted to use in Riddle no. 13. If we multiply the number of kings with the total of the following figures we will also get 640. That was - as mentioned - the number of doors used by the Einherjar in Valhalla if Grimnismal used the usual "big hundred".
The formula could ie. be formed by the number of letters in name columns of the "data matrix" (6+10)x((7+9)+(6+6+6+6)), which also contain the columns 4x"fim(5)" already used and "suniR" with 4x5 letters. If "fim"/"five" is substituted by "5" the total number of signs in the data matrix will by a coincidence be 4x24. (Based on Anders Baeksted 1952, page 176 and 246.)
Friesen 1920, page 2-16, and Baeksted 1952, page 232. The 5 encrypted rune lines in the frames at the backside do all contain 24 separate runes (some of them a combination of more letters).
Friesen 1920, page 2-16. At the left small side Bugge and von Friesen were also able to combine the letters in 1x24 or 2x24 (when combining with "ftiRfra" regarded as encrypted runes), but this was not convincing and probably unnecessary.
Nylén 1988, page 70 (8-9'th centuries), but Lisbeth Imer has dated the stone in the 10th century primarily based on the few runes and their language as the iconography could be the 9th century as well (Imer 2004).
Brate 1925, page 37.
Half of the text is probably missing according to Brate: "... raisti stainin aft Iurulf brudur sin siku i far tuirkus o fil".
Nielsen 1969, page 46.
Hyenstrand 1996, page 156.
Nielsen 1969, chapter 6.
Runverket 2000, page 22.
This is the reason for replacing Runverket's translation "mukmini" = "the young" with Wessén's "the folktale", which is one of the four possibilities mentioned by Lars Loennroth (Loennroth 1977, page 22).
The Old Testament. First book of Moses, Chapter 16-25.
Egil Skjallagrimsson composed the scaldic poem "Sonatorrek" about his own suffer after his loss of the second son around 960 AD - 150 years after the stone. It was known from his later saga, but according to this saga his daughter, Thorgerd, kept the poem in runes.
Also Snorri mentioned Odin as brother of Vilin several times.
Poetic Edda: "Havamal's Runesong". 12th century.
Odin was the ancestor of Skjold in some sources, but in Heimskringla he was not the ancestor of the Ynglings.
Loennroth, 1977: "There is thus hardly any doubt about the fact that the primeval Earth Goddess was thought to be his [Thor's] mother, but the idea that Odin was his father is not necessarily an old one, for there are many indications that Odin's status as the "Father of All" and the highest ruler of Asgard is a late development in Norse literary tradition."
Poetic Edda, 2001, i.e. page 17, 135, 156 and 170.
Snorri Sturlasson, Prose Edda: "Gylfaginning" (VI, IX, XXI).
Snorri Sturlasson, Prose Edda: "Prologue" (III).
Friis-Jensen 1984, page 43.
Dudo of St. Quintin. Gesta Normannorum, 1015 AD (chapter 2), translation Felice Lifshitz, 1997.
Adam of Bremen: De hamburgske aerkebispers historie.
Saxo 2000, 6.5.4.
Groenvik 1992a. and Stoklund 1994.
Snorri Sturlasson, Prose Edda: "Gylfaginning" (VI, IX) and Skaldskaparmal (IV).
Bernhard Salin: "Heimskringlas tradition om asernes invandring" in ”Festskriften aat Montelius”, Stockholm (1903). This view was also described by Dumezil (Dumezil 1962, page 23-25) in spite of his opposite opinion. Later a.o. Ellis Davidson (Davidson 1984, page 56) has advised a late arrival of Odin, and Herwig Wolfram (Wolfram 1988, page 111) has concluded that Odin can first be recognised in Scandinavia in the 6th century. Archaeologically this appear to be represented by the change around 500 AD, where burial and sacrifice customs changed and the bracteates became widespread - which is later than Salin's suggestion. This was probably an introduction of the West Germanic Woden, and the one-eyed god found as wooden figures in the bogs may have been an earlier god with attributes transferred to Odin.
A similar development of Indra in connection with the expansion of the warriors is emphasized by Dumezil (Dumezil 1962, page 31), though this comparison of Odin and Indra will contradict his own general theories.
Index / Next / Previous / Text
Adam von Bremen: De Hamburgske aerkebispers historie (transl. C. Hinrichsen 1968)
Albrechtsen, Erling 1976: Vikingerne i Franken - Skriftlige kilder fra det 9. aarh.. Odense.
Andersson, Thorsten 1999: "Haelja, Roekstenens By" in Runor och Namn. Uppsala.
Baeksted, Anders 1952: Maalruner og troldruner. Koebenhavn.
Barnes, Michael 2007: "Roek-steinen - noen runologiske og spraaklige overveielser" in Maal og Minne 20, 2007, Oslo.
Bertelsen, Henrik 1911: Thidriks Saga af Bern. Koebenhavn.
Brandt, Troels 2004: Danernes Sagnhistorie (Appendix: Roekstenen). Koebenhavn.
Brandt, Troels 2007: "Roekstenen - Gaader og svar" in "Kult, Guld och Makt". Vaestergoetland.
Brate, Erik 1925: Sveriges Runinskrifter. Stockholm.
Bugge, Sophus 1910: Der Runestein von Roek in Oestergoetland, Schweden. Stockholm.
Davidson , H.R. Ellis 1984: Nordens guder og myter. Stockholm.
Dudo. Normandiets Historie (transl. Erling Albrechtsen 1984)
Duemmler, Ernest 1881: Poetae Latini Aevi Carolini (MGH). Berlin.
Dumezil, Georges 1962: De nordiska gudarna. Stockholm.
Friesen, Otto von 1920: Roekstenen vid Roeks kyrka. Laest och tydd. Stockholm.
Friis-Jensen, Karsten og Claus Lund 1984: Skjoldungernes Saga. Koebenhavn.
Old Testament, The
Godman, Peter 1987: Poets and emperors. Oxford.
Groenvik, Ottar 2003: Der Roekstein. Frankfurt am Main.
Groenvik, Ottar 1992a: "Malt-stenen" in Arkiv for Nordisk Fil.. Lund.
Groenvik, Ottar 1992b: "Ordet Sibbe" in Maal og Minne. Oslo.
Groenvik, Ottar 1990: "To viktiga ord i Roekinskriften" in Arkiv for Nordisk Fil.. Lund.
Groenvik, Ottar 1983: "Runeinnskriften paa Roeksteinen" in Maal og Minne. Oslo.
Harris, Joseph 2006: "Myth and meaning in the Rök inscription" in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 21, Cambridge.
Hoefler, Otto 1963: "Der Roekstein und die Sage" in Arkiv for Nordisk Filologi. Lund.
Hyenstrand, Aake 1996: Lejonet, draken och korset. Lund.
Imer, Lisbeth 2004: "Gotlandske billedsten" in Aarbog for Nordisk Oldkyndighed 2001. Koebenhavn.
Jacobsen, Lis 1961: "Roekstudier" in Arkiv for Nordisk Filologi. Lund.
Jordanes: Getica (transl. C.C. Mierow 1908).
Lakatos, Pal 1978: Quellenbuch zur Geschichte der Heruler. Szeged.
Lindqvist, Sune 1942: Gotlands Bildsteine. Stockholm.
Looijenga, Tineke 1997: Runes around the North Sea ... AD 150-700. Groningen.
Lund, Niels 1983: Ottar og Wulfstan. Roskilde.
Loennroth, Lars 1977: "The Riddles and the Roek Stone" in Arkiv for Nordisk Fil.,Lund.
Melnikova, Elena 2010: The sakum formula of the Roek inscription.
Nielsen, Niels Aage 1969: "Runerne paa Roekstenen" (From Mediaeval Scandinavia 2). Odense.
Nordgren, Ingemar (ed.) 2007: Kult, Guld och Makt. Goeteborg.
Nordgren, Ingemar 2004: The wellspring of the Goths. New York
Nylén, Erik 1988: Stones, Ships and Symbols. Hedmora.
Olsen, Magnus 1921: "Til Roek-inskriften" in Arkiv for Nordisk Filologi. Lund.
Paulus Diaconus: Longobardernes Historie (transl. G. Bang 1897)
Procopios: The Wars (transl. H.E. Dewing 1914)
Ralph, Bo 2005: Humanistdagboken 18. Goeteborg
Ralph, Bo 2007a: "Roekstenen och spraakhistorien" in Acta Academiae Regiae Gustavi Adolphi XCVII. Uppsala
Ralph, Bo 2007b: "Gaaten som loesning" in Maal og Minne 20, 2007. Oslo
Ralph, Bo 2007c: "Goter eller gaater - Om Roekstenens runinskrift" in "Kult, Guld och Makt". Vaestergoetland.
RGA 2003: Reallexicon der germanische Altertumskunde. (ed. Hoops, Johannes). Berlin.
Reichert, Hermann 1998: "Runeninschriften als Quellen zur Heldenforschung". Wien.
Runverket 2000: Roekstenen. Helmer Gustavson, Riksantikvarieaembetet. Stockholm.
Saxo: Danmarkshistorie (transl. Peter Zeeberg 2000). Koebenhavn.
Schulte, Michael 2008 a: "Review of Elmevik 2007" in NOWELE 53, Odense.
Schulte, Michael 2008 b: "Memory Culture in the Viking Age", currently unpublished.
Schwarcz, Andreas 2005: "Die heruler an der Donau" in Festschrift für Günter Lipold. Wien
Skautrup, Peter 1944: Det danske sprogs historie. Koebenhavn.
Snorre Sturlasson: Yngre Edda (Prose Edda transl. Arthur Brodeur 1916)
Snorre Sturlasson: Heimskringla (transl. Holtsmark & Seip 1985).
Steinsland, Gro & Meulengracht Soerensen 2001: Voelvens Spaadom. Koebenhavn.
Stoklund, Marie: "Maltstenen - en revurdering" in Runroen 9. Uppsala.
Tacitus: Annales (transl. Cavallin 1966. Stockholm)
Tacitus: Germania (transl. Lefolii 1901)
Turville-Petre 1956: Hervarar saga ok Heidriks. London.
Wessén, Elias 1958: Runstenen vid Roeks kyrka. Stockholm.
Wessén, Elias 1964: "Teodorik - magt eller hjaeltesaga" in Arkiv for Nordisk Filologi. Lund.
Widmark, Gun 1998: "Varfoer Varin ristade" in Forskning & Framsteg 5/98. Sverige.
Widmark, Gun 1992: "Varfoer ristade Varin runor?" in Saga och Sed. Stockholm.
Wolfram, Herwig 1988: History of the Goths. Berkeley.
Aeldre Eddas Gudesange, Den (transl. Karl Gjellerup 1985/2001). Koebenhavn.
|Major changes since "Kult, Guld och Makt" (2006):
|28/8 2006||List - Certainty||Additional chapter
|17/2 2007||Chapter 5||Expanded with runic setup, encryption and similarities
|28/2 2007||Chapter 3, 5 & 8||Sophus Bugge - Heruls - Goldin
|10/8 2007||Note 3.3 and 4.3||Ancient names in Hloedskvida and de Vries
|30/8 2007||Chapter 1 & 2, Note 1.4 & 2.2||Comments to Bo Ralph's articles
|10/9 2007||Chapter 1, 3 & 5, Note 1.2||Setup of runes and encryption (table)
|12/9 2007||Chapter 5/7||Von Friesen's 24-rune problem
|26/11 2007||Chapter 3 & Note 3.4||Structure of arguments improved
|14/12 2007||Note 2.2||Comments to Bo Ralph's latest article
|14/2 2008||Link||Swedish summary, text and answers|
|03/8 2008||Most chapters||References to articles by Schulte and Harris||21/8 2009||Link||The Sparloesa Stone
||14/12 2009||Chapter 3 & Note 3.18||Weapon son
||23/12 2009||Chapter 3||Rewritten
||3/1 2010||Chapter 5-7||Restructered
||28/7 2010||Chapter 2||Melnikova
||4/4 2013||Chapter 3||Maeringaburg
||11/4 2013||Chapter 7||The Kennings and the number-problems solved
||29/4 2013||Tables||3 summarizing tables added
||10/5 2013||Chapter 3||Restructered