Friday, July 20, 2012

The Mask in the Stone

Viking Age
The Sjellebro Stone/

North of Allingå river stands a special stone. It is easy to recognize from the country road, and when you go up to it in the meadow you can see a carved troll-like image with plaited beard on the flat side of the granite stone. Opposite to the runestones from that time - which were removed from their original place -  this stone still stands in its original place, where it has marked an old crossing point by the river. It was probably coloured in the Viking period, and it was possibly meant as a protection for the wayfarers against evil powers.

The Sjellebro-stone

The stone was found in 1951. It rested with the mask image downwards upon the same place where it had been for time immemorial, until the owner of the meadow sent for the National Museum; he had observed strange lines on the stone. The secret of the stone was revealed, showing a carved male head, a grotesque mask with a pointed chin, large round eyes and a clumpsy nose and a plaited beard. A bogeyman? A troll? Or was it the merman?

Four Prehistoric Roads
The find lead to an archaeological excavation in the meadow, and 4 well-preserved road-layouts from prehistoric time were found. The excavation revealed timber and heavy oak planks, a  road which was placed close to the Sjellebro Inn, plank by plank. It is wellknown that there were skilled engineers in the late prehistorics, and the four uncovered roads  increased the respect. From Iron Age was a paved ford, a solid road of timber from the middle of the 700s and an even better bridge from ab. 1000. The roads have replaced each other through centuries. The meadow was probably under water in winter and sludge has covered the soil. When one road was buried in sludge they built a new one. Other and later roads are seen in the shape of raised and grassgrown  road dams between the mask stone and the present high road dam.

Upon the wooden roads rested the planks of the driving road upon longtimber, which again rested upon cross-timber. For more support were poles driven in or downburied - each was securely strengthened. The poles stood three and three with regular intervals, but they did not support the timber foundation of the road, they supported instead the planks of the roadway. The stone roads,which rested upon layers of timber and branches, were edged with heavy field stones.

Through many centuries there was a road here at Sjellebro, and when one road decayed they built another. The tecnique changed and they built a bridge in 1860. The road was still placed between the mask stone and the present country road, the bridge was oak timber, but in 1928 the last rests of this road disappeared, which at least came from Chr. IV's time. Today the country road is asphalt, the bridge is granite and concrete.

The mask stone belonged presumably to the upper plank road. It was placed in the roadside bringint its message  - whatever it was  - to the wayfarers. 

The Århus-Stone, (Mammen style)

Similar Mask Stones

There were no runes on the Sjellebro stone. Similar mask images are known from other stones, both in Denmark and Sweden, and they all have runes. The most wellknown and the prettiest of all mask stones is the Århus stone with an inscription saying:  "Gunulv og Øgot og Aslak og Rolf rejste denne sten efter deres fælle Ful. Han fandt døden ... da konger kæmpede".

English: Gunnulfr and Eygautr/Auðgautr and Áslakr and Hrólfr raised this stone in memory of Fúl, their partner, who died when kings fought.

It is not that long ago the passage was difficult and dangerous. Sjellebro was then a place where people stopped and met, and the Sjellebro Inn still lies  here, but it is now a boarding school. Far back in time there was a market at Sjellebro which was celebrated up till the 1920s. People traded horses, cattle, pigs and especially sheep. There was entertainment too, like a medival market. The trade was mostly in open air, but there were tents and sheds for the incomers.The Sjellebro Inn and the trading life at Sjellebro might go as far back as to the Viking period.

The Merman, Elsinore

The Merman
At Sjellebro it was in the old days important to beware that there was a merman in the river - and he claimed an annual human sacrifice. Sometimes it took years before accidents happened; once it took 6 years, but in the 7th year a waggon with 7 people crashed and they all perished in the river. The merman had got what belonged to him on back payment.

Various legends and sinister stories went from mouth to mouth through generations. An old woman told in the 1950s what her parents and grandparents had told her, about a married couple, who drowned in the crossing point on their way home from market in Randers. She knew their graves on the church yard in the village Lime.

 Today the country croad at Sjellebro is broad and safe, and the merman has died - or at least disappeared, but both the legends and the finds from the excavations remind about the traffic of the past in the meadow downside Sjellebro Inn, west of the present Randers- Ebeltoft road. The place is quiet. Cars are quickly passing upon the road without noticing the ancient stone in the meadow or the pretty river valley, but the Merman is still waiting down there, speaking his old words: "Time has come - but the man has not yet come....."

Danske Fortidsminder, Danmarks Kulturarv Forening; Skalk, nr. 4, 1957, Sjellebrostenen, Georg Kunwald ; Danske Runeindskrifter, Natiolnalmuseet.


Carolyn said...

Just getting caught up with blogs! beautiful! love your new header picture!

Always love reading your blog with so much information! and gorgeous pictures... ;)

Thyra said...

Hej Carolyn, thank you so much!! Where are you now I wonder. You are driving round in your big country like a busy little bee. I have noticed how much you have seen. It's amazing. Take care.
Thank you for taking time to visit me!
Grethe ´)

Haverose said...

Fængslende historie, du fortæller om Havmanden. Så blev jeg lidt klogere ;-) Men hvorfor mon Havmanden er blevet placeret i Helsingør og ikke i ved Sjellebro? Ved du mon det?
Dine blogs er jeg lige tørnet på - de er rigtig interesante og spændende!

Thyra said...

Hej Haverose! Tak for interessen.
Havmanden ved Helsingør bli'r kaldt den lille Havfrues lillebror.

Maskemanden ved Sjellebro er måske en Åmand. Nu er det hele jo fiktion og gammel overtro, men der fandtes Åmænd (også Nøkken der spillede violin), og der var Havmænd troede folk. Når man oversætter det til engelsk ender man med ét ord: Merman. Det gør det lidt tricky!!

Maskestenen ved Sjellebro er ikke den eneste - der er flere maskesten, bl.a. også den der er udstillet på Moesgård samt nogle i Sverige. Måske skulle de beskytte de rejsende mod onde kræfter.

Men folk var også bange for Åmanden, de troede at han , ligesom Havmanden, ville trække dem ned i sin verden.

Den nye søvglitrende havmand hører til ved havet og ikke ved åen.

Jeg har en post om Mermen and Mermaids in Folklore fra July 2011 her på Thyra.

Venlig hilsen
Grethe ´)

Haverose said...

Selv tak, Thyra. Jeg vil læse din anden artikel med ineresse.
:) Rose