Monday, April 21, 2014


Today is the 18th day of the A to Z April Challenge. Participants in this blog hop post on a letter of the alphabet every day except Sundays. To visit the main web page where the entire list of players is, click HERE.

I chose Fantasy for my theme and today I'm telling about the Runestone.

Many tales use runestones in their worlds as a way to tell a story. Today I'm going to tell about the real runestones that exist in the northern countries of Europe.

A runestone is typically a raised stone with a runic inscription, but the term can also be applied to inscriptions on boulders and on bedrock. The tradition began in the 4th century, and it lasted into the 12th century, but most of the runestones date from the late Viking Age. Most runestones are located in Scandinavia, but there are also scattered runestones in locations that were visited by Norsemen in the Viking Age. Runestones are often memorials to deceased men. Runestones were usually brightly coloured when erected, though it is no longer evident as the colour has worn off.

The tradition of raising stones that had runic inscriptions first appeared in the 4th and 5th century in Norway and Sweden, and these early runestones were placed next to graves.

The tradition is mentioned in both Ynglinga saga and Havamal.

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, a custom that remained long after Odin's time.
~The Ynglinga saga

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

Another interesting class of runestone is rune-stone-as-self promotion. Bragging was a virtue in Norse society, a habit in which the heroes of sagas often indulged, and is exemplified in runestones of the time. Hundreds of people had stones carved with the purpose of advertising their own achievements or positive traits.

Although most runestones were set up to perpetuate the memories of men, many speak of women, often represented as conscientious landowners and pious Christians.

"Sigrid, Alrik's mother, Orm's daughter made this bridge for her husband Holmgers, father of Sigoerd, for his soul."

"Gunnor, Thythriks daughter, made a bridge in memory of her daughter Astrid. She was the most skillful girl in Hadeland."

Have you used runestones in your stories? I wonder if someone from the future would call our grave markers of today runestones? After all, marking on a stone is still popular today.


  1. Thanks for the history of runestones. I've read something about them before because I used them in my first fantasy novel. Stones erode so it's amazing how long some of them have lasted.

    1. Susan: I thought this history was fascinating.

  2. I didn't know all this about runestones but it is a fascinating history. I have certainly come across them in stories.

    1. Jo: I didn't know about them either. In the stories I read they were used as divination and a source of magic. A little different I think.