The custom of erecting rune stones to commemorate the dead was a fashion that became predominant during the latter years of the Viking age, with the high period starting around 950 AD and continuing for the following 80 years in Denmark, Norway, and southern Sweden. In northern Sweden the custom finally fully died out at the beginning of the 12th century, but in that ensuing time three thousand stones were erected in Scandinavia. It was at this time that Christianity was being introduced to the area, eventually supported by the local kings, and thus this time became a transition period between the old Norse pagan beliefs and the new religion. One of the most famous rune stones of this period is the Jelling Stone in Denmark, erected by King Harald Bluetooth sometime in the latter half of the tenth century - there is much scholarly debate over its exact dating and its history during this time. The stone is carved on all three sides, with an inscription that begins on face A, then wraps around the stone underneath relief carvings of a giant beast on face B and a depiction of Christ on face C. The inscription reads, King Harald commanded this monument to be made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Thyre, his mother that Harald who won the whole of Denmark for himself, and Norway, and made the Danes Christian.
[...] Whether Harald died violently during this rebellion or simply as a result of it is not able to be historically ascertained, but it is unlikely that Sven his heir would amend the inscription at Jelling for him after the rebellion. Furthermore, it was concluded above that rune stones were erected more for the benefit of the living than the dead. It is unlikely that someone in this society and tradition would anonymously finish Harald's proclamation for him. Instead they would mostly erect another stone stating, so-and-so, erected this stone in memory of Harald, who An idea that was prevalent in much of the literature on this subject was that Harald's stone would have had to be erected late in his reign in order for him to have time to accomplish everything he claimed to have done. [...]
[...] There is some debate over the function of rune stones in Viking society: why they were built, who built them, and for what purpose. There is agreement that the stones come from the period of transition to Christianity, perhaps as a result of the increased movement and activity of the Viking age, or as a reaction against the new religion, resulting in the revival of extravagant, stereotypical Scandinavian funeral monuments, and a display of the wealth and status of the people who erected the stones. [...]
[...] A unified Danish kingdom was taken for granted, although again according to these mysterious German sources, Denmark was under German “suzerainty” from 965 to 983, and therefore in order to be historically accurate the Harald stone must be dated to after 983. Christensen finds a way around this dating by claiming that the Jelling complex was transformed from a pagan to Christian complex in several steps, much like Roesdahl's list above, but including changes to Harald's stone as well. First the north mound containing the remains of Gorm and Thyre was built along with Gorm's stone, then the south mound with Harald's stone including the first half of the inscription, then some time later the second part of the inscription as well as the decorations on the second and third face of the stone was added. [...]
[...] “Princely Burial in Scandinavia at the Time of the Conversion.” Voyage to the Other World: The Legacy of Sutton Hoo pp 155-170 Roesdahl, p is known from written sources that Denmark was converted at the command of King Harald Bluetooth around the year 965.” Roesdahl, p Roesdahl, p date 958/959 accords with what little is known from written sources about the date of the death of the pagan king Gorm, Harald's father.” Roesdahl, p “This must have been a policy of tolerance and peaceful transition—a pragmatic ruler's view, rather different from the ideologies expressed in some of the poetry and by the Christian Church.” Sawyer, p Jacobsen, p Olsen, p Jacobsen, p Christensen, p the critical historian has no option but to reject almost everything he tells us about Harald as deviant tradition and unreal construction.” Roesdahl, p Harald's stone, face “that Harald who won the whole of Denmark for himself, and Norway, and made the Danes Christian.” Christensen, p Harald's stone, first three lines, face “King Harald commanded this monument to be made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Thyre, his that Harald who won the whole of Denmark for himself, and Norway, and made the Danes Christian.” Christensen, p additional work on the stone seemed to me so obvious that I was frankly astonished when my explanation was rejected as technically impossible.” Christensen, p “Doubt grows stronger, however, when one observes that the inscription in memory of Gorm and Tyre is set in a carefully shaped and framed panel, with the runes accurately cut between finely formed horizontal bars, each separately made of two parallel grooves, and at the sides these are extended as ribbons, for the most part divided, to give a final ornamental flourish.” AEC “Harald text is in striking contrast. [...]
[...] Sawyer claimed also that it was Harald Bluetooth's stone that was the impetus for stones to assert “religious and political affiliation and claims to titles as well as as many stones that followed this formula were in the areas which were most affected by the direct royal authority controlled by Harald's who used that authority to officially convert the Danes to Christianity. The random distribution of the rune stones mentioned above was a result of this transition, which took less time in some areas than others, “where there was a persistent resistance to the new kind of centralized royal power.” The longer the transition lasted, the more rune stones were erected. [...]
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