Saga Motifs on Gotland Picture Stones: The Case of Hildr Högnadóttir
Gotländskt Arkiv, (2012) Reports from the Friends of the Historical Museum Association Volume 84
Gotland’s picture stones have long evoked people’s fascination, whether this has been prompted by an interest in life in Scandinavia in the first millennium or an appreciation of the beauty of the stones. The Gotlandic picture stones offer glimpses into an enigmatic world, plentifully endowed with imagery, but they also arouse our curiosity. What was the purpose and significance of the picture stones in the world of their creators, and what underlying messages nestle beneath their imagery and broader context? As a step towards elucidating some of the points at issue and gaining an insight into current research, the Runic Research Group at the Swedish National Heritage Board, in cooperation with Gotland Museum, arranged an international interdisciplinary symposium in 2011, the first symposium ever to focus exclusively on Gotland’s picture stones. The articles presented in this publication are based on the lectures delivered at that symposium.
The Gotland picture stones have long aroused interest and admiration, not only among tourists as objects of beauty and casual curiosity, but also among scholars who have been led to speculate about what they were originally intended to signify. One of the methods used to analyze and interpret the images has been to view them in the context of Old Norse literature. In this respect, three different strands of narrative material, or legends, have been identified as possible sources for preserved texts and comparable images referring to the Völsungs and the Gjúkungar, Wayland the Smith and the story of Hildr and Héðinn. These interpretations have been applied to at least six picture stones: klinte hunninge, lärbro stora hammars , stenkyrka smiss I, lärbro tängelgårda , ardre kyrka v11 and alskog tjängvide , which have been dated to the eighth, ninth or even tenth century according to the latest dating by Lisbeth Imer.