He spreads knowledge of runes in the US
Professor of Scandinavian Languages Henrik Williams has helped the Minnesota Vikings, a professional football team, with his expertise in runes and Vikings. Among other things, he has made sure the proper runes are on the Viking ship outside the team’s new stadium in Minneapolis.
Henrik Williams recently returned to Uppsala after an intensive lecture tour of the US. One of the highlights was a football game at the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Henrik Williams has helped the team review the runes adorning the Viking ship outside of the arena. He has also written up a factual text about Vikings for the game programme that is distributed to spectators at every match.
“The game was incredibly loud. The arena, which cost about USD 1.2 billion, was packed with 66,800 spectators,” explains Henrik Williams.
Also at the match was a delegation from the organisation American Friends of Uppsala University, including Uppsala University’s former Vice-Chancellor, Bo Sundqvist, and Marianne Andersson, senior legal officer at UU Innovation.
In addition to being hired as an expert, Henrik Williams has received support for his research. The Minnesota Vikings donated USD 5,000 for runic research at Uppsala University through American Friends of Uppsala University.
Minneapolis saw significant media activity in conjunction with the game, with newspaper articles and television segments about Henrik Williams and runic research in Uppsala. Henrik Williams even received his own team jersey with the number 16 – which no player has – from the Minnesota Vikings.
What has the collaboration with the Minnesota Vikings given you as a researcher?
“I’ve learned a lot. The first few times I went to the US, I visited the major universities like Yale and Harvard, and I have wonderful academic contacts there, but more and more I’ve started working with popular science. There is a certain amount of ignorance and anti-intellectualism, which is frightening, and I do what I can to counteract it.”
Scholarships for students
Henrik Williams has been on several lecture tours of the US and at every lecture, via American Friends of Uppsala University, he has collected donations. To date, these contributions have added up to a total of SEK 200,000 for Uppsala Runic Forum, which is a research node for runology and runic studies at Uppsala University.
“A fairly small sum of money can make a big difference. We’re going to set up student scholarships of SEK 10,000 for students who want to come to Uppsala to study runology. It will also be easier to finance webcasts of our meetings,” says Henrik Williams.
High interest in the US
Interest in runes and runic research is high in the US. One explanation is the many Swedish-Americans who are curious about their history; another is that there are actually rune stones in the US that have been carved in modern time.
“There is interest in learning more about these stones and at the same time, I can take the opportunity to talk about all the other rune stones out there. In general, there is significant interest in runes outside of our country. When I was in the US as a doctoral student, I met a professor who was a runologist, and that was the first time I realised that this is something unique for Sweden,” says Henrik Williams.
He is enthusiastic about spreading information about runes and clearing up myths about the Viking era. There is much to learn if you can decipher the runes.
“There is no human activity that hasn’t been mentioned in runic inscriptions.”
American Friends of Uppsala University is a non-profit organisation that supports research and education at Uppsala University.
9 December 2016