The Sigurdsristning is a special place with a lot of history. You can see it on the side of a quiet road, somewhere in between the trees. A little sign tells you where it is, and when you climb up the rock you see this.. A huge rock with carved pictures surrounded by runic inscriptions. But what you feel is history, and lots of it. I find it an amazing place. It feels special to be here, where so many centuries ago someone was telling a story of a distinguished Viking family, by making these carvings in these rocks.
It's an important historic place, but it is unprotected, it is just 'there' in the woods. And maybe that makes it even more special. I always feel peaceful when I am here, I don't know why, I just feel at ease. The carvings are only a 5 minutes walk from my house. I don't go here often though. Maybe it is because I want to keep it 'special', a place to visit so now and than and have that great feeling to connect with history.
The Sigurdsristningen are close to Sundbyholm Castle. Driving from Eskilstuna in the direction of Sundbyholm, just before you arrive at the castle, there is a little road to the right which brings you to the carvings. The road goes down the hill, over a bridge, and on the right side of the road is the rock with the carvings. You have to pay attention to find it though, there is only a very small sign on the side of the road telling you where the carvings are.
The landscape was much different in the times of the Vikings, because the water level was much higher in those days. The lake covered much of the countryside south of Sundbyholm. So this rock would actually be at the side of the river, not high above an adjecent road, as it is today.
The explanation for this difference in water level goes back to the ice-age. The ice has covered this part of Sweden with a thick layer of ice, clinging in the soil beneath it because of its heavy weight. But now without the heavy weight of the ice, the soil got a chance to regain its volume again, and has slowly rissen up. You can compare it to a sponge effect.
So at the end of the Viking age (mid-11th century), the flat rock with the engraved Sigurd Carving lay by the edge of the Ramsundet (or Ramsund) channel. This channel was not only an important link, but it was also a very busy means of communication between Lake Mälaren and what is today known as Kafjärden, a bay in Mälaren. The site of the carving was a central meeting point for travellers.
In the picture you can see the left part of the Sigurdsristningen.
Hahaha, I just couldn't resist this one... writing my name in Runic :-))
Runes are an old form of Germanic writing. The oldest runic alphabet is the "Futharken" and consists of 24 runes. The runic writing dates back to the first century after Christ, and were used in some parts of Sweden as late as the 1800s. Hahaha, and even today by me as you can see :-))) But now the modern way, lol, on the computer instead of carved in stone ;-)
The custom of carving runes on erected stones and exposed bedrock became common around 1000 AD. It became common in the eleventh century to build bridges for the souls of the dead and to mention them in adjacent runic inscriptions. And this explains why there are runic inscriptions next to a bridge here at Sundbyholm. The Sigurdsristning is special though, because besides runic inscriptions, there is a whole saga told in pictures inside the inscriptions.
It was costly in these times to portray a picture epos such as this. The person who had them made must have been wealthy. But the inscriptions give an insight on who she was. The text reads as follows:
"Sigrid, Alrik's mother, Orm's daughter, made this bridge for her husband Holmger's, Sigröd's father's, soul."
The text explains that Sigrid had a bridge built for her dead husband's soul. This bridge must have been quite a masterpiece both tecnically and economically. Ramsundet was wide and rather deep which means that the bridge was a high one and not just a paved ford. They don't know what the bridge used to look like, so in there is no example of the bridge drawn on this picture.
It's time to take a look at the whole carvings. It is best illustrated by this drawing of the rock carvings. This will give you a better idea off what you are seeing in all the pictures of the rock carvings on this page and give you an idea what the whole carvings looks like.
The Sigurd Carving has snakes on the outside, which are filled with decorations and runes. I told you about the Runes in the snake in the previous tips. On the inside of the snake you can see a lot of small pictures. The runic inscription on the Sigurds Ristning does not have any connection with the pictures that are inside it. These pictures tell a saga and can been seen as one of the first Nordic "cartoons".
The saga was wellknown by the time they were cut and needed no explanation to the people. The saga tells of a man named Sigurd Fafnisbane (Sigurd the Dragonslayer). The saga is both ancient and widespread throughout Europe. I will write part of the saga and show the pictograms in the next tips.
The Sigurd Saga originates from the Icelandic Eddan, a collection of Godly and heroic poems with roots way back in the 9th century. The Saga is a mix of Frankish, Burgundy, Gothic, Icelandic and Anglo-saxon material from different times. This saga of Sigurd actually was alreayd a 1000 years old when the Sigurd-inscription was cut, so no wonder it was wellknown.
The first time it was written down (besides the carvings in the runic stones) was early in the 13th century, in Iceland, by Snorre Sturlasson. Much later the German version of the saga reached us as the Nibelungenlied from the 12th century.
In the next view tips I would like to explain the several parts of the Sigurds Ristning by telling the sage of Sigurd Fafnesbana.... hahaha, or actually the small part of the saga that is shown on the rock, as it is a very lenghty story and only part of it has been written down here....
The Saga of Sigurd Fafnesbana :
"Otter was one of Rodmar's three sons. When he fished for salmon, he was used to take on the shape of an otter. On one such occassion ?sir (Norse Gods) Loki, H?rnir and Odin happened by. Otter was killed by a stone that Loki threw at him. Later that same evening, the ?sir went to Rodmar and showed him their prey. Rodmar became angry. He demanded that the ?sir fill the otter skin with gold to atone for their crime.
Loki went to the Andvara rapids and used his net to catch the dwarf Andvari, who had taken the shape of a pike. The dwarf purchased his freedom with all the gold he owned except for one golden ring. When Loki ripped the ring from his hand, the dwarf spoke a curse over all who would come in contact with the gold.
Once the father Rodmar had received the gold, he did not want to share it with his other two sons, Fafnir and Regin."
In the picture you can see the carving of Otter, son of Rodmar
"Fafnir became enraged and killed his father to get at the gold. Thereafter, Fafnir took the shape of a snake and brooded atop the gold at a place called Gnitaheden."
The snake is the part that goes all around the ristning and this is the head that you can see on the right side of the carvings. The snake is Fafnir, son of Rodmar. In the lower part of his snake body is the Runic inscription. I'll write more about these Runic inscriptions in another tip.
"Regin, who was a smith, wanted a share of the patrimony and planned to seize the gold through trickery. He brought Sigurd, who had earlier become his foster son, into his plans. He forged a razor-sharp sword, named Gram, for Regin."
In this close up of the Sigurdsristning you can see the bellows, anvil, hammer, a pair of tongs and a fire which Regin used to forge the sword. The great part of this detail of the Ristning is that it is one of the first pictures of tools; giving it a big industrial historic value.
"Urged on by his foster father Regin, Sigurd dug a hole at Gnitaheden where Fafnir, in the shape of a snake, usually slithered his way down to the lake to drink. When Fafnir entered the trap, Sigurd stabbed him through the heart with his sword, Gram. Fafnir died and Sigurd was then given the name Fafnesbane (the Bane of Fafnir)"
In the carving you can see Sigurd killing Fafnir by sticking the sword into the snake body (=Fafnir).
"After the deed Sigrud accidentally burnt himself while roasting Fafnir's heart over an open fire. He put his fingers in his mouth and got Fafnir's blood on his tongue. Instantly he could understand birdsong.
The birds warned Sigurd. Regin was planning to kill him, partly to revenge his brother Fafnir, partly so that he would have the treasure to himself. The birds adviced Sigurd to kill Regin."
In this detail of the Sigurdsristning you can see Sigurd putting his fingers in his mouth and get Fafnir's blood on his tongue.
"Sigurd sought out Regin and cut off his head so that he would escape his thoughts in the future."
In this part of the carvings you can see Regin with his cut off head laying to the right side of him.
I am rather fascinated by the Vikings and the traces that they left here in Sweden. Maybe it is because I live so close to a Viking site that I am so intrigued by it. Here are some links to my pages where we have written a bit more about the Vikings: