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Research Group for Medieval Philology

Das Dreiecksymbol der Wikingerzeit (2012)

Tom Hellers: Valknútr. Das Dreiecksymbol der Wikingerzeit. (Studia Medievalia Septentrionalia, bd. 19.) Wien: Fassbaender, 2012.

The so-called valknútr (‘the knot of the fallen’) is a mysterious symbol from the Viking period which shows three interlocked triangles. The symbol is found primarily on Gotlandic picturestones, but beyond that also on coins, jewellery and grave goods from the famous Oseberg grave.

The present monograph (276 pages) is the first of its kind that has researched the symbol in a scholarly fashion, with the use of archaeological, mythological and philological sources. It contains the largest collection of finds that display the symbols hitherto, and evaluates in a critical manner the interpretations that have been put forward up until the present. The author examines whether the symbol, which occurs in five different variants, can indeed be associated with Odin, the dead and the afterlife, or whether it could be connected to an equine cult, to the social elite, or whether it functions simply as a protection against evil forces and injuries.