Let’s skip the attempt at an introduction this time and get right into the topic: languages are pretty crazy, am I right? Now I know you’ve probably all thought of this before, but I feel like the more I think about the languages in this world, the weirder it gets. Comparing different tongues even in modern times are so interesting, because how can two countries be so close to each other, yet speak and write in ways that have no relation whatsoever? Maybe you think that that is normal and some people found certain things to be easier to understand than others- but have you ever seen Russian cursive? It’s literally just squiggles. I think it’s wonderful and am completely awe struck when I see their notepads online, but surely Latin characters would be easier to use?
To answer the previous question: no. Why would you want to swap out something that is so unique for the sake of simplicity. Not to mention the fact that some languages may seem difficult to us, but they are normal and basic to those who live in such societies. This brings me to the point I’ve been thinking of for quite a while. Why were runes left in the dust?
So runes were originally interpreted as “to cut” or “to carve” – but we will talk about it’s other meaning lower down in the article. This is why we mostly see runic alphabets on tablets of rock or wood. While reading runes, researchers did not come across only linguistic patterns, but inscriptions that had magical symbolism and the like. This mostly occurred with Scandinavian runes, and many believe that this is due to their belief in mythology. Such beliefs resulted in them carving runes onto objects for protection or other purposes.
Looking at old artifacts, we find that many weapons and simpler objects were carved with runes too. It has actually been very interesting for our population, resulting in many novels and movies also using objects that are inscribed in runes to give this magical effect. The owners of the objects apparently believed that the runes always had purposes and as the writing on their objects faded, the power or magic that was supposedly provided by the runes would also fade.
Going into detailed research we see that the term “futhark” is probably the most common term that appears when it comes to talking about runes. There is an elder futhark, which was completed around the 5th century, and a younger futhark, which was reduced from the elder futhark in the 9th century. The first evidence of the ordering of the runic alphabet was found to be on the Kylver Stone (seen below) in the elder futhark. The stone was found in Gotland, Sweden’s largest island. The younger futhark on the other hand was mainly used by the Scandinavians during the Viking age.
Runes were not always letters but words with both simple meanings and those that were closely related to their mythological beliefs. For example, the rune fé, which is a straight line with two curves sprouting from the top simply means ‘wealth’ but has been described as the “source of discord among kinsmen” and “path of the serpent.”
Because of these beliefs, the earliest use of the runes are believed to be entirely magical. The word rune itself is originated from the Germanic languages, and is translated into a “secret” or “mystery.” Some people believe that runes were initially meant for the use of the elite, and many believe that they were used for the secret crafts of sorcery and divination.
One of the tallest runestones in the world, called the Björketorp Runestone (seen above) in Sweden, is decorated with quite a frightening inscription, leading us to believe that the users of the runes strongly believed in their power.
“Haidzruno runu, falahak haidera, ginnarunaz. Arageu haeramalausz uti az. Weladaude, sa’z þat barutz. Uþarba spa.
I, master of the runes(?) conceal here runes of power. Incessantly (plagued by) maleficence, (doomed to) insidious death (is) he who breaks this (monument). I prophesy destruction / prophecy of destruction.”
As the medieval runes were mainly used for the mythological inscriptions of the Scandinavians of the time, the alphabet died after the Christianization of the region. The Scandinavians adapted to the Latin alphabet, and the runes became a wonder to the modern inhabitants of the earth.
Younger futhark information: https://www.vikingrune.com/2008/11/younger-futhark-runes/