Although the two horns are merely replicas of the original Golden Horns which were made 1600 years ago, they hold nearly mythical status in the nation’s consciousness.
Upon discovering their disappearance from the Jelling Museum in Jutland on 17 September, police initiated the most massive manhunt in recent history.
Within a few days, they apprehended two men, 22 and 24 years old, as well as a 46-year-old woman who was the mother of the younger man.
During the ensuing court case, the 22-year-old pled guilty and was sentenced to 28 months. He explained he had been asked by an unnamed suspect to steal the horns in order to pay a DKK 25,000 debt.
The other man received a 24-month prison sentence.
Charges against the woman were dropped after she convinced the court she had merely found the horns in her attic and tried to convince her son to return them.
Some good came out of the theft, according to Niels Jensen, the spokesperson for the National Museum, which had lent the horns to the Jelling Museum. Since their recovery, visitors have flocked to view the horns and attendance figures have doubled.
‘The theft has without a doubt raised attention both about the Golden Horns and our centre in Jelling,’ Jensen said.
Denmark’s Golden Horns
The first golden horn was found in a field in Jutland near Slesvig by a young girl, Kirsten Svendsdatter, in 1639.
A farmer named Erik Lassen found the second, shorter golden horn in 1734 in the same field where the first horn was found.
The horns were later transferred to the Royal Art Collection in Copenhagen.
The loss of the Golden Horns inspired the poet Adam Oehlenschläger to write an account which went on to become one of Denmark’s most famous poems. Oehlenschläger ironically penned the poem just a few doors down from where the stolen horns were being melted.
Reproductions of the Golden Horns were forged in silver and plated with gold based on sketches from earlier studies. The reproductions, which were on loan to the Jelling museum, therefore had little real value and art experts suggested it would have been nearly impossible for the thieves to sell them.
Scholars believe the original golden horns were made some time during the Iron Age in Germany.