Tuesday, 6 June 2017

bod's Runestone, Grettir's Saga, and a Matter of Trust

bod's runestone, Grettir's Saga and a matter of trust

'For men of consequence a mound should be raised to their memory, and for all other warriors who had been distinguished for manhood a standing stone...'- The Ynglinga saga

Norse sagas, runic stones, the heroic-age and trust - read about the different elements woven into bod's new 'Runestone' design.....


My 'Runestone' design originally developed from a reworking of a very old Scandinavian tradition, that of the Runestone: Viking or Norse art Runestone inscriptions, which were typically carved into raised stones or boulders. The tradition began in the 4th century, and lasted well into the 12th. Most of the Runestones found are located in Scandinavia, but there are also others scattered throughout the lands visited, and settled, by the Vikings. Runestones were often memorials, and were frequently brightly coloured when first created.

The Möjbro Runestone 5th Century
The Möjbro Runestone 5th Century Wikipedia

The Lingsberg Runestone, Sweden, known as U 240 Attribution: I, Berig CC BY-SA 3.0
The Lingsberg Runestone, 11th c. Attrib: I, Berig CC BY-SA 3.

Viking or Norse art has been categorised into different time periods, and my design has been based on the type of art known as 'Urnes Style,' named after the northern gate of the Urnes stave church in Norway. It is also often called 'Runestone Style' by scholars and is characterised by slim and stylised animals that are interwoven into tight patterns, with animal heads in profile with slender almond-shaped eyes.

Urnes Stave Church by Johan Christian Dahl
Urnes 12th c. Stave Church by Johan Christian Dahl Wikimedia

Urnes Stave Church Carvings By Eduardo CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons
Urnes Stave Church Carvings Photo: Eduardo CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia

Runic Inscriptions

The Runic inscriptions on Runestones were most often memorials to the dead, much like our gravestones today, and imagery was often taken from Norse mythology.

'A son is better, though late he be born, And his father to death have fared; Memory-stones seldom stand by the road, Save when kinsman honours his kin.'- Hávamál

From The Book Of Romance by Andrew Lang Illustrated by Henry Justice Ford
From The Book Of Romance by Andrew Lang Illustrated by Henry Justice Ford

There were, however, other types of Runestone which involved the Norse love of self-promotion, a habit which runs throughout the Norse hero-sagas. Hundreds of examples are known, and here are just a couple to give you a flavour:

'Vigmund had this stone carved in memory of himself, the cleverest of men. May God help the soul of Vigmund, the ship captain. Vigmund and Åfrid carved this memorial while he lived' - U 1011 

'Jarlabanki had this stone put up in his own lifetime. And he made this causeway for his soul's sake. And he owned the whole of Täby by himself. May God help his soul.' - U 164

Modern Runestone by Tobias Radeskog [Public domain], via Wikimedia
 Modern Runestone by Tobias Radeskog [Public domain], via Wikimedia

My original Runestone design had a very simple inscription that echoed one of the lines of text from our online shop. With the new design I wanted to change it to something that was  universally inspirational. 

Looking to Norse sagas and literature, I scoured the texts for something suitable. Sifting through lots of really great quotes, I found much of the Norse wisdom really fascinating. Some was a little too archaic and some contained too strong a martial tone for what I had in mind, but, eventually, I discovered a quote from Grettir's saga that was perfect:

"Trust no man so well that you trust not yourself better." 

In other words: "Trust Yourself" - a powerful maxim to live by. This became the basis of the runic insciption on the new Runestone design.

Grettir's Saga

Grettir's Saga, or the Saga of Grettir The Strong is one of the Icelander's Sagas, which were written between the 13th and early 14th centuries and are fairly realistic accounts of events taking place between the 9th and 11th centuries in Iceland. It follows the life and adventures of Grettir Ásmundarson, a big, strong character who is mischievous, unlucky and hot tempered. He is an achetypal outsider figure who, through various (mis)deeds becomes outlawed and battles various trolls, monsters and men in an action-packed saga full of eerie atmosphere, magic, gallows-humour and pathos. 

Grettir by Henry Justice Ford from The Book Of Romance
Grettir by Henry Justice Ford from The Book Of Romance

The main story conveyed by the unknown author seems to be that of a chaotic, heroic, pagan-age culture gradually fading away as it is replaced by a more ordered, pastoral Christian one. 

The New 'Runestone'

My first Runestone design was created sometime ago, and has now been totally reworked, with a change to the medium used, a different custom-made oak plaque, and a completely new runic inscription.

Viking Art Runestone Wall Plaque in bronze and oak
The new Runestone in bronze and oak

All of above influences have been woven into the new design, which was created as an original sculpture, cast in both a bronze and aluminium version, and then set into custom-made oak plaques. 

The full Runic Inscription reads: 

"Trust no man so well that you trust not yourself better: 
The Saga of Grettir the Strong: 
bod wrought this."

Written in the Elder Futhark system of Runes, it is a letter, rather than phonetic translation from modern English. 

Overall size of piece: ~16 cm x 16 cm x 2 cm

Viking Art Runestone Wall Plaque in bronze/aluminium and oak
The new Runestone cast in aluminium or bronze
Every stage of the process has been done by me, by hand. 

Runestone is available, with other wee beasties, on our 'Creatures' page. 

Thanks for reading 


Justbod Team 

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A Justbod Selection Box of Celtic Viking & Anglo Saxon Art

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Sources & Further Information:


Urnes Stave Church:

Grettir's Saga:

1914 Translation Into English by G.H. Hight   
(the quote used in 'Runestone' is from Ch. 67)
The Book Of Romance by Andrew Lang Illustrated by Henry Justice Ford
- online PDF copy with a short version of the Saga of Grettir The Strong


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