Sjonhem Stone

‘Róðvísl auk Róðælfr þau létu ræisa stæina æftir syni sína þrjá. Þenna æftir Róðfús. Hann sviku Blakumænn í útfaru. Guð hjælpin sjæl Róðfúsar. Guð svíki þá er hann sviku.’
‘Róđvísl and Róđælf, they had stones raised after their three sons. This one after Róđfús. He was betrayed by Wallachians on a journey. God help Róđfús’s soul. God betray those who betray him.’

The Sjonhem Runestone (G 134) is an interesting peak not only into the eastern route of the Viking Age Scandinavian network, but also into early Norse conceptions of Christianity and the Christian God. This stone was one of a set of three, although I am as of now unaware if either of the other two stones survive.

Obvious clan-naming can be seen in the involved parties, with all names beginning with ‘(h)róð-,’ meaning ‘fame,’ the same beginning element in the modern names ‘Rodger’ and ‘Rudolf’ (both from High German). The full meaning of the father’s name is ‘Fame-Hostage’ (in the sense of ‘a member (usually an important one) of a group handed over to another as insurance for an agreement’), the mother’s ‘Fame-Elf,’ and the son’s ‘Fame-Eager.’

Róđfús must have taken the Vistula-Dniester route to the east, where he was apparently treacherously killed by Wallachians. The exonym ‘Blakumænn’ is derived from the Old Church Slavic form ‘влахъ/vlahŭ,’ itself derived from the Germanic term for Celtic and Latin speakers (the origin of English ‘Welsh’).

The final prayer, after the simple prayer for the deceased’s soul, is what I would call ‘a very Norse prayer.’ The call to vengeance is rooted in the culture inherited from the pre-Christian past, as Sven Jansson puts it in his ‘Runes in Sweden’ (translated by Peter Foote): ‘There can as yet be no question of forgiving those who trespass against us.’ It is also notable that God is asked to ‘betray’ the Wallachians, as they were of course fellow Christians.

Photo: G 134, Sjonhem by Wikimedia User:Berig, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Link

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