The Rök stone is an 8-foot tall stone with the longest pre-Christian runic inscription on its face. Researchers believe the inscription dates from around the year 800 AD. It rests near Mjölby and Ödeshög, in Östergötland, Sweden. But what makes the stone interesting is that it appears to contain a riddle. And this riddle has never been solved, until today.
Let’s start with the text. I will read the English transcription and translation (by MacLeod and Mees, from their 2006 book titled Runic Amulets and Magic Objects). In the text, I have already marked some crucial information to help solve the riddle.
Here it goes:
“In memory of Vamod stand these runes.
And Varin painted (them), the father, in memory of his dead son.
/I say/ [1st] the folktale, which the two
war-booties were, which twelve times
were taken as war-booty, both together from various men.
/I say/ this second [2nd], who nine generations ago
lost his life with the Hreid-goths;
and died with them for his guilt.
Theodoric the bold, chief of sea-warriors,
ruled over the shores of the Hreid-sea.
Now he sits armed on his horse,
his shield strapped, the prince of the Mærings.
/I say/ this as the twelfth [12=1+2=3rd], where the horse
of Gunn sees fodder on
the battlefield, where twenty kings lie.
/I say/ this as the thirteenth [13=1+3=4th], which twenty kings
sat on Sjölund for four winters,
of four names, born of four brothers:
Five Valkis, sons of Hradulf,
five Hreidulfs, sons of Rugulf,
five Haisls, sons of Hord,
five Gunnmunds, sons of Bjorn.
Now /I say/ the tales in full. [Hint: addition!]
Someone… which… from after.
/I say/ the folktale, which of the line of Ingold
was repaid by a wife’s sacrifice.
/I say/ the folktale, to whom is born a relative,
to a valiant man.
It is Vilin. He could crush a giant.
It is Vilin…
/I say/ the folktale.
Sibbi of the holy guard, nonagenarian, begot (a son).”
The Riddle and the Solution
As you can see, the text contains a lot of numbers. And some of these numbers are just there to confuse us.
For example, where the author says “I say this as the twelfth”, it is really the third thing he says. How can this be? The answer is that 12 can be written as 1 & 2, which makes 3, or the third. The same is true for “I say this as the thirteenth”, which is the fourth thing he says, but 13 is also 1 & 3, which makes 4. I choose to ignore these numbers, as they were probably meant as a distraction.
Then, the riddle also contains a hint: “Now I say the tales in full.” Here, the author is telling you to do addition! Now, if we add up all of the numbers up to here, but excluding the numbering first, second, twelth and thirteenth, (the four things he says up to “tales in full”), then you get the following sum:
2 war-booties + 12 times + 9 generations + 20 kings + 20 kings + 4 winters + 4 names + 4 brothers + 5 Valkis + 5 Hreidulfs + 5 Haisls + 5 Gummunds = 95. What does this number refer to? Well, it is the age of the nonagenarian who begot a son!
The riddle then was to find out at what high age Sibbi begot a son, and the answer is at the age of 95.