San José State University

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Thayer Watkins
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The Runic Inscription on the Franks Casket

The Franks Casket is a small chest made of whale bone which is inscribed with this runic poem:





In Latin letters (with a few Anglo-Saxon characters) this is:

Fisc flodu ahof on fergenberig;
warþ gasric grorn, þær he on greut giswom.
Hronæs ban.

A rough translation is:

A tidal wave washed the fish onto the cliff-bank;
the whale was stricken with panic when he tried to swim on the shingle.
This is the whale's bone.

The casket and poem were created in Britain, probably Northumbria, over a thousand years ago. The name, Franks Casket, comes from an owner who donated it to the British Museum in 1857. The fascinating thing about the poem is that someone witnessed an unusual event and through the miracle of writing communicated its image down through a thousand years.


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