|Discovered||Rök, Östergötland, Sweden|
|Rundata ID||Ög 136|
|Text - Native|
|Old Norse: See article.|
The Rök runestone (Swedish: Rökstenen; Ög 136) is one of the most famous runestones, featuring the longest known runic inscription in stone. It can now be seen beside the church in Rök, Ödeshög Municipality, Östergötland, Sweden. It is considered the first piece of written Swedish literature and thus it marks the beginning of the history of Swedish literature.
The stone was discovered built into the wall of the church in the 19th century and removed from the church wall a few decades later. The church was built in the 12th century, and it was common to use rune stones as building material for churches. The stone was probably carved in the early 9th century, judging from the main runic alphabet used ("short-twig" runes) and the form of the language. It is covered with runes on five sides, all except the base part that was to be put under ground. A few parts of the inscription are damaged, but most of it remains readable.
The name "Rök Stone" is something of a tautology: the stone is named after the village, "Rök", but the village is probably named after the stone, "Rauk" or "Rök" meaning "skittle-shaped stack/stone" in Old Norse.
The stone is unique in a number of ways. It contains a fragment of what is believed to be a lost piece of Norse mythology. It also makes a historical reference to Ostrogothic king (effectively emperor of the western Roman empire) Theodoric the Great. It contains the longest extant pre-Christian runic inscription - around 760 characters - and it is a virtuoso display of the carver's mastery of runic expression.
The inscription is partially encrypted in two ways; by displacement and by using special cipher runes. The inscription is intentionally challenging to read, using kennings in the manner of Old Norse skaldic poetry, and demonstrating the carver's command of different alphabets and writing styles (including code). The obscurity may perhaps even be part of a magic ritual.
This is a transliteration of the runes:
aft uamuþ stonta runa? þa? n uarin faþi faþi? aft faikion sunu sakum| |mukmini þat huaria? ualrauba? ua?in tua? þa? suaþ tualf sinum ua?in| |numna? t ualraubu baþa? somon o umisum| |monum ' þat sakum onart hua? fur niu altum on urþi fiaru mi? hraiþkutum auk tu mi? on ub saka? raiþ| |þiaurik? hin þurmuþi stili? flutna strontu hraiþmara? siti? nu karu? o kuta sinum skialti ub fatlaþ? skati marika þat sakum tualfta huar hist? si kuna? itu| |uituoki on kunuka? tuai? tiki? suaþ o likia ' þat sakum þritaunta huari? tuai? tiki? kunuka? satin t siulunti fiakura uintur at fiakurum nabnum burn? fiakurum bruþrum ' ualka? fim ra=þulfs| |suni? hraiþulfa? fim rukulfs| |suni? hoisla? fim haruþs suni? kunmunta? fim (b)irna? suni? * nuk m--- (m)-- alu --(k)(i) ainhua? -þ... ...þ ... fti? fra sagwm| |mogmeni (þ)ad hOa? igOldga Oa?i gOldin d gOona? hOsli sakum| |mukmini uaim si burin| |niþ? troki uilin is þat knuo knati| |iatun uilin is þat (n)(i)(t) akum| |mukmini þur sibi uiauari ul niruþ?
Aft W?m?ð/W?m?ð st?nda r?na? þ. Æn Warinn f?ði, faði?, aft fæigj?n sunu. Sagum m?gminni/ungmænni þat, hwærja? walraufa? win tw þ, sw?ð twalf sinnum win numna? at walraufu, b?ða? s?m?n ?missum m?nnum. Þat sagum ?nnart, hwa? fur n?u aldum n urði/yrði fjaru meðr Hræiðgutum, auk d? meðr hann umb saka?. R?ð Þjoðrik? hinn þurm?ði, stilli? flutna, str?ndu Hræiðmara?. Siti? n? garw? guta s?num, skjaldi umb fatlað?, skati M?ringa. Þat sagum twalfta, hwar hæst? s? Gunna? etu w?ttw?ngi , kununga? twæi? tigi? sw?ð liggja. Þat sagum þr?ttaunda, hwari? twæi? tigi? kununga? s?tin at Sjolundi fjagura wintur at fjagurum nafnum, burni? fjagurum brø?ðrum. Walka? fimm, R?ðulfs syni?, Hræiðulfa? fimm, Rugulfs syni?, H?isla? fimm, H?ruðs syni?, Gunnmunda?/Kynmunda? fimm, Bjarna? syni?. N? 'k m[inni] m[eðr] allu [sa]gi. Æinhwa ... [sw?]ð ... æfti? fr?. Sagum m?gminni/ungmænni þat, hwa? Inguldinga wi guldinn at kwna? h?sli. Sagum m?gminni/ungmænni, hwæim s? burinn nið? dræ?ngi. Wilinn es þat. Kn/knyi? kn?tti jatun. Wilinn es þat ... Sagum m?gminni/ungmænni: Þ?rr. Sibbi w?awæri ?l n?rø?ð?.
Eptir Vémóð/Vámóð standa rúnar þær. En Varinn fáði, faðir, eptir feigjan son. S?gum múgminni/ungmenni þat, hverjar valraufar væri tvær þær, svát tolf sinnum væri numnar at valraufu, báðar saman á ýmissum m?nnum. Þat s?gum annat, hverr fyrir níu ?ldum án yrði fj?r með Hreiðgotum, auk dó meðr hann umb sakar. Réð Þjóðríkr hinn þormóði, stillir flotna, str?ndu Hreiðmarar. Sitr nú g?rr á gota sínum, skildi umb fatlaðr, skati Mæringa. Þat s?gum tolfta, hvar hestr sé Gunnar etu véttvangi á, konungar tveir tigir svát á liggja. Þat s?gum þrettánda, hverir tveir tigir konungar sæti at Sjólundi fjóra vetr at fjórum n?fnum, bornir fjórum broeðrum. Valkar fimm, Ráðulfs synir, Hreiðulfar fimm, Rugulfs synir, Háislar fimm, H?rðs synir, Gunnmundar/Kynmundar fimm, Bjarnar synir. Nú'k m[inni] m[eð] ?llu [se]gi. Einhverr ... [svá]t ... eptir frá. S?gum múgminni/ungmenni þat, hvar Ingoldinga væri goldinn at kvánar húsli. S?gum múgminni/ungmenni, hveim sé borinn niðr drengi. Vilinn er þat. Knúa/knýja knátti j?tun. Vilinn er þat ... S?gum múgminni/ungmenni: Þórr. Sibbi véaveri ól níroeðr.
The following is one translation of the text: most researchers agree on how the runes have been deciphered, but the interpretation of the text and the meaning are still a subject of debate. The first part is written in ljóðaháttr meter, and the part about Theoderic is written in the fornyrðislag meter. (See alliterative verse for an explanation of these meters.)
In memory of Vémóðr/Vámóðr stand these runes.
And Varinn coloured them, the father,
in memory of his dead son.
I say the folktale / to the young men, which the two war-booties were, which twelve times were taken as war-booty, both together from various men.
I say this second, who nine generations ago lost his life with the Hreidgoths; and died with them for his guilt.
Theodoric the bold,
chief of sea-warriors,
ruled over the shores of the Hreiðsea.
Now he sits armed
on his Goth(ic horse),
his shield strapped,
the prince of the Mærings.
I say this the twelfth, where the horse of Gunnr sees fodder on the battlefield, where twenty kings lie.
This I say as thirteenth, which twenty kings sat on Sjólund for four winters, of four names, born of four brothers: five Valkis, sons of Hráðulfr, five Hreiðulfrs, sons of Rugulfr, five Háisl, sons of Hôrðr, five Gunnmundrs/Kynmundrs, sons of Bjôrn.
Now I say the tales in full. Someone ...
I say the folktale / to the young men, which of the line of Ingold was repaid by a wife's sacrifice.
I say the folktale / to the young men, to whom is born a relative, to a valiant man. It is Vélinn. He could crush a giant. It is Vélinn ... [Nit]
I say the folktale / to the young men: Thor. Sibbi of Vé, nonagenarian, begot (a son).
The two war-booties are likely to be two precious weapons, such as a sword and a shield or a helmet. Several stories like these exist in old Germanic poems.
The Hreidgoths mentioned are a poetic name for the Ostrogoths, appearing in other sources. To what sea the name Hreiðsea referred is unknown. Considering the location of the Ostrogoths at the time of Theoderic, it should be a name for the Mediterranean.
The part about Theodoric (who died in 526 A.D.) probably concerns the statue of him sitting on his horse in Ravenna, which was moved in 801 A.D. to Aachen by Charlemagne. This statue was very famous and portrayed Theodoric with his shield hanging across his left shoulder, and his lance extended in his right hand. The Mærings is a name for Theodoric's family. According to the old English Deor poem from the 10th century, Theodoric ruled the "castle of the Mærings" (Ravenna) for thirty years. The words about Theodoric may be connected to the previous statement, so the stone is talking about the death of Theodoric: he died approximately nine generations before the stone was carved, and the church considered him a cruel and godless emperor, thus some may have said that he died for his guilt.
Gunnr whose "horse sees fodder on the battlefield" is presumably a Valkyrie (previously known from Norse mythology), and her "horse" is a wolf. This kind of poetic license is known as kenning in the old Norse poetry tradition.
The story about the twenty kings says that the twenty were four groups of five brothers each, and in each of these four groups, all brothers shared the same names, and their fathers were four brothers (4 × 5 = 20). This piece of mythology seems to have been common knowledge at the time, but has been totally lost. The Sjólund is similar to the name given to Roslagen by Snorri Sturluson but it has often been interpreted as Sjælland (nowadays a part of Denmark).
Starting with the Ingold-part, the text becomes increasingly hard to read. While the first part is written in the 16 common short-twig runes in the Younger Futhark, Varinn here switches over to using the older 24-type Elder Futhark and cipher runes. It has been assumed that this is intentional, and that the rows following this point concern legends connected specifically to Varinn and his tribe.
After the word It is Vélinn ... follows the word Nit. This word remains uninterpreted, and its meaning is unclear.
In the last line, the carver invokes the god Thor and then he says that Sibbi "of the shrine" got a son at the age of ninety. Since Thor is evoked before telling about Sibbi's connection with the sanctuary and his potency at old age, it may be a recommendation that being a devout worshipper is beneficial.
Although much in the inscription is difficult to understand, its structure is very symmetrical and easy to perceive: it consists of three parts of (roughly) equal length, each containing two questions and one more or less poetic answer to those questions. As Lars Lönnroth and, after him, Joseph Harris have argued, the form is very similar to the so-called "greppaminni", a sort of poetic riddle game presented by Snorri Sturluson in his Prose Edda.
There have been numerous speculations written about the stone and its purpose. The most common include: