Photography Woodworking

Runic Story Table and Sunrise before Crosslake Art Show

Runic Story Table/Desk – Pine

This table is inscribed with four verses from the Old Norse Eddic Poem Fafnismál. The poem accounts the slaying of the dragon Fafnir by the hero Sigurd and at the urging of the dwarf Regin, Fafnir’s brother. Sigurd, upon dealing Fafnir a fatal blow, is warned by the dragon that his horde and the rings which Sigurd seeks are cursed and will bring bad things to him if he takes them. Sigurd ignores this advice which leads to his doom. After slaying the dragon, Sigurd accidentally eats some of Fafnir’s blood while cooking his heart and gains the ability to understand the speech of birds. Sigurd overhears some nearby birds speaking of how Regin plans to betray him and Sigurd kills Regin before he can be betrayed. The story continues and the events of the story of Sigurd and the Dragon Fafnir were the inspiration for much of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, including riddling with and slaying a dragon, cursed rings, and magic swords. The story is also the subject of the German Das Nibelungenlied and was a story known throughout the Old Germanic lands and peoples.

The wood-burns included in this table are illustrations of the story adapted from wood carvings around the doorframe of the Hylestad Stave Church from 12th or 13th century Norway which were salvaged and preserved when the church was destroyed in the 17th century.

The chosen verses included in the table recount the final lines of the conversation between Sigurd and Fafnir as well as the greeting by Regin after Sigurd’s battle. These verses are included along with their translation.


Fafnir said:

20. ‘Now I advise you, Sigurd,

and you take that advice

and ride home from here!

The resounding gold

and glowing red treasure –

those rings will be your death!’



Sigurd said:

21. ‘You’ve given your advice,

but I shall ride

to where the gold lies in the heather,

and you, Fafnir,

lie in mortal fragments,

there where Hel can take you!’


Fafnir said:

22. ‘Regin betrayed me,

he’ll betray you,

he’ll be the death of us both;

I think Fafnir must give up his life;

you had the greater strength.’




Regin had disappeared while Sigurd was slaying Fafnir and came back as Sigurd was wiping the blood off his sword. Regin said:


23. ‘Hail to you Sigurd,

now you’ve won the victory

and have brought down Fafnir;

of those men

who tread upon the earth

I say you’ve been raised the least cowardly.’

Fáfnir kvað:

20. “Ræð ek þér nú, Sigurðr,

en þú ráð nemir,

ok ríð heim heðan;

it gjalla gull

ok it glóðrauða fé,

þér verða þeir baugar at bana.”



Sigurðr kvað:

21. “Ráð er þér ráðit,

en ek ríða mun

til þess gulls, er í lyngvi liggr,

en þú, Fáfnir,

ligg í fjörbrotum,

þar er þik hel hafi.”


Fáfnir kvað:

22. “Reginn mik réð,

hann þik ráða mun,

hann mun okkr verða báðum at bana;

fjör sitt láta,

hygg ek, at Fáfnir myni;

þitt varð nú meira megin.”


Reginn var á brott horfinn, meðan Sigurðr vá Fáfni, ok kom þá aftr, er Sigurðr strauk blóð af sverðinu. Reginn kvað:


23. “Heill þú nú, Sigurðr,

nú hefir þú sigr vegit

ok Fáfni of farit;

manna þeira,

er mold troða,

þik kveð ek óblauðastan alinn.”


The English translation is from The Poetic Edda: A New Translation by Carolyne Larrington. Oxford University Press. 1996.


The runes themselves that I have carved in this serving board are from the Elder Futhark which is the oldest of the runic alphabets and is found inscribed on rune stones and other objects throughout Europe and the Nordic countries from around the 2nd to 8th centuries. Futhark stands for the first letters of the runic alphabet, as alphabet stands for the Greek: Alpha Beta.

Elder Fuþark:

ᚠ ᚢ ᚦ ᚨ ᚱ ᚲ ᚷ ᚹ ᚺ ᚾ ᛁ ᛃ ᛇ ᛈ ᛉ ᛊ ᛏ ᛒ ᛖ ᛗ ᛚ ᛜ ᛞ ᛟ

f   u þ a r k g w h n i j  ï  p  z s t  b e m l ŋ d o

Some of the above runes represent sounds which are not included in this inscription and which I will not explain here, but some require a bit of explanation for anyone interested in reading runes. The most important distinctions for my inscription I will list below:

ᚦ = þ = th     ᚲ = k = c     ᚹ = w = v     ᛊ or = s

You may notice that a number of the runes may look similar to the Latin alphabet and have the same meaning, while others look like Latin letters, but have entirely different meanings. There are also a few wholly unique runes to represent certain sounds. The reason for these similarities and differences is not entirely clear, but there are a number of possible explanations including early contact between early Germanic tribes and traders from the Roman Empire and its successor states.

Runes were primarily carved and used before writing on paper or parchment came to northern Europe, therefore the Runic Futharks were comprised of straight lines more easily carved in wood, stone, bone, and metal.