The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Predate the beginning of the First Age
Origins
First devised by Daeron of Doriath1
Meaning
From Old Norse rún, meaning a magical symbol2
Other Names

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 22 September 2007
  • Updates planned: 4

Runes

Characters first devised by Daeron of Doriath

Certhas Daeron
Angerthas Daeron
Angerthas Moria
Ereborian Cirth

The evolution of the Ereborian Cirth of the Third Age from Daeron's original Runes. In fact, the Certhas Daeron gave rise to many more systems of writing than are shown here. This line of development is the only one fully attested, but a full diagram would show many dividing branches as the peoples of Middle-earth adapted the characters to their own use.

A system of writing based on angular shapes that could easily be carved into wood or stone. Originated by Daeron of Doriath to represent Sindarin words, runes came to be used widely by races other than the Elves, and especially by the Dwarves.


Notes

1

Actually, of course, runes are a real historical family of alphabets originating in about the third century CE, and those in Tolkien's books are based on a much later form belonging the Anglo-Saxon period. In Tolkien's universe, it seems that our historical runes supposedly descended from those of Daeron. Indeed, while comparing the Dwarvish and Anglo-Saxon runic alphabets, Tolkien says, 'There is doubtless an historical connection between the two.' (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien No 24, dated 1938).

2

In Norse tradition, runes held a magical significance, and 'casting the runes' was a way of seeing into the future. There are no such magical connotations associated with runes in Tolkien's work, where they are presented as no more than a writing system.

On the topic of the origins of runes, it should be noted that while our modern word 'rune' is certainly descended from the Old Norse rún, it also seems to have been influenced by an Old English verb rúnian, 'to whisper', so that runes are literally 'whispering signs'.

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Website services kindly sponsored by Axiom Software Ltd.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 1998, 2001, 2007. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.