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The Viking Runes

Given the history of the Vikings, most people believe that they were nothing but an illiterate and barbaric race. It is said that they spent most of their time robbing and raiding monasteries and towns rather than developing their own line of poetry or literature. But still, the Vikings were able to leave behind a large number of writings, as well as documents in stones, metal, and wood. Only, they wrote them in inscrutable symbols called the runes, or what is referred to today as the Scandinavian alphabet.

Although that is the case, the Vikings were not the first people to use runes. It is understood that an early Germanic clan, located in northern Europe, created them. But Vikings believed that their ancestors were the ones who invent them and they soon adapted it for their own use.

Legend has it that the chief Norse god Odin speared his body to a tree so as to understand the meaning of the runes. Once he understood them he then passed on the knowledge to the Vikings. This is the main reason why the Vikings regard the runes as having both magical and divine powers. In fact, they used them to cast spells, provide protection, and tell fortunes. Some soldiers engrave runes in their swords believing that it would give them supernatural strength and powers.

As stated earlier, these runes were not written on parchments or any paper-like material. It was written mostly in stone, so the Vikings used not pen and ink, but chisels to write. This wasn’t a big problem as these runes were not used to write stories or poems. They were used practically, to label objects and belongings, as well as record sold and bought items.

The runes contain futhork, the Viking alphabet, which form 24 letters, was reduced down to 16. This is the main reason why, to this day, it is still difficult to translate anything written in runes. Also carvers themselves found the spelling difficult, due to the reduced number of letters, which failed to include all the sounds commonly used in their language.

Original Authors: Jennifer Tumanda
Edit Update Authors: RPN
Updated On: 16/01/2007



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