Why have so many fallen for the Rune Stone hoax?
Did a group of Christian Vikings from Sweden and Norway travel by river to Douglas County, Minnesota, in the fourteenth century only to be massacred by Native American “skraelings?” This is not the question that most interests David M. Krueger in his new book Myths of the Rune Stone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America.
Instead, Krueger asks why a variety of people—Scandinavian immigrants, American Catholics, and now dubious researchers onThe History Channel—have become invested in this idea. Who was “here first?” Who is a “real” American? And were white settlers guilty or innocent in removing an indigenous population? A story carved on a strange stone uncovered by a Swedish immigrant has allowed Americans to imagine new answers to these questions. Without being credulous about the Kensington Rune Stone’s authenticity, Krueger examines its “sacred civic” function of creating an ordered world in in which its believers can meaningfully dwell.