BATTLES and RUNE STONES (Illustration) Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Awesome Radio - Narrated Stories Film Geography Legends and Legendary People Poetry Social Studies Fiction

This image depicts the north side of the Sparlösa Runestone, located in Sparlösa, Sweden. Although the stone has no reference to the story of Beowulf—no runestone found to date does—this stone, which likely dates to around 800 A.D., mentions the royal names of Eric ("complete ruler") and Alrik ("everyone's ruler"). It also references the town of Uppsala and a great battle. Rolf Broberg took this picture and makes it available via Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY-SA 3.0


Beowulf became king of the Geats, ruling them for fifty years. All was well until one of his people robbed a grave of a golden artifact, protected by a curse and a dragon.

In a manner reminiscent of Grendel's rampages, the angry dragon killed many of Beowulf's subjects. To protect his people, the old warrior had to fight another monster. But this foe was fire-breathing. This foe spewed poison.

Three times the dragon attacked. Three times Beowulf defended himself. Amidst the fire-breather's smoke, the old king fought on. Seeing his leader was growing weary, a young warrior - Wiglaf - did what he could to help.

Encouraging Beowulf, and fighting with him, Wiglaf helped to slay the dragon. But Beowulf was injured in the third attack when the monster bit him in the neck.

The poison-filled wounds were fatal to the man who had kept his word, and maintained the peace, for fifty years. Following their traditions, Beowulf's people cremated their king.

Standing stones, throughout Scandinavia and Britain, remind us of kings and warriors like Beowulf who lived long ago. To date, no Rune Stones have been found which tell Beowulf's story. But the lives of other warriors, memorialized in that fashion, allow us to examine what mattered to survivors as they celebrated a loved one's life.

A woman from the late tenth (or early eleventh) century had a Rune Stone inscribed to honor her husband's memory. Asking Thor (the Scandinavian god) to hallow the stone - which we can still see thousands of years later in the village of Velanda - the wife (Þyrvé) tells us something about her husband's career.

Translated into English (from Old Norse), the stone tell us that Ögmundr (the husband) was a very good thane:

Þyrvé raised the stone in memory of Ögmundr,
her husbandman, a very good thane. May Thor hallow.

Scholars are not exactly sure what "thane" means, but one theory is that Ögmundr was a warrior serving the King of Sweden in Uppsala. If that is so, he would have made sure (among other things) that local Geats (such as Beowulf) in Västergötland (an area in Sweden) paid their tribute to the Swedish king.

The runestone is in the Swedish town of Trollhättan, which (as it sounds) takes its name from trolls. Ancient people in the area believed that trolls lived in a nearby river.

Perhaps, if a standing stone were found about Beowulf, it would take away some of the magic of the single manuscript which gives us the story. The richness of the language, and the way the words were written in the poem, help us to step back in time to examine the lives of long-ago people. And when we do that, we realize what's important in our lives - friendship, support, loyalty - is really not all that different from what was important to them.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Mar 31, 2015

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"BATTLES and RUNE STONES" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2007. Dec 13, 2019.
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