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Gondolinic Runes

Ryszard Derdzinski - Feanor.jpg
"Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thîw hin." — Inscription in the Doors of Durin

This article displays one of J.R.R. Tolkien's writing systems. For optimal viewing, install the following font:

Gondolinic Runes by Ronald Kyrmse

The Gondolinic runes were a writing system used in Gondolin. They were created by J.R.R. Tolkien between 1920-1925, when he was devising the first writing systems for his Elvish languages. They were the first runic system invented by him, and one of the few alphabets including lower case letters.[1] Like the Gnomic Letters, this early writing system was never used.

The only possible glimpse of these runes used within the legendarium is in The Hobbit: Glamdring and Orcrist, famous swords from Gondolin, had runes that the own Gandalf was unable to read, but Elrond (who knew of all types of runes) could.[2] However it is clear that Tolkien did not consider using these letters in his writings, as in 1960, while rewriting The Hobbit, he found another explanation of why Gandalf could not read the runes: Glamdring was covered in dark blood when Gandalf found it, explaining why the runes were unreadable until cleaned by Elrond.[3]

[edit] Table

t t p p c ch k k
d d b b j j g g
T th f f S sh h h
D dh v v Z zh x x[note 1]
n n m m ñ[note 2] n, -ng r r l l
M mh Ñ nh R rh L lh
s s z z
w w y y
H hw X hy K ks
a a e e i i o o u u
A á E é I í O ó uu ú
ia æ ö œ U y
iAi ǽ Ö long œ[note 3] UU long y[note 3]

[edit] Notes

  1. This rune is described as x, however, this is an alternate spelling for the Sindarin sound ch, not the English x (Quenya ks). For x, the letter K was used.
  2. This rune seems to be used both for n and -ng (ñ).
  3. 3.0 3.1 These runes were used for long œ and y respectively, but there are no such accented characters in typesetting, so they are displayed here as double. The sounds they represents are of those that appear in the alphabet, but not attested in any elvish tongue.

[edit] Examples

If we accept the values of the runes above, we can apply them to the inscriptions of the famous swords of The Hobbit:

  • glamdriñ, Glamdring (Foe-hammer)
  • orkrist, Orcrist (Orc-cleaver)


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Arden R. Smith, "Early Runic Documents", in: Parma Eldalamberon 15 (2004), p. 89
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Short Rest"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Return to Bag End, p. 799

Languages in Tolkien's works
Elvish languages Avarin · Common Eldarin · Nandorin · Primitive Quendian · Quenya (Exilic · Valinorean · Vanyarin) · Silvan · Sindarin (Doriathrin · Falathrin · Númenórean · Mithrim · Old) · Telerin
Mannish languages Adûnaic · Dalish · Drúedainic · Dunlendish · Pre-Númenórean · Rohirric · Taliska · Westron (Hobbitish)
Dwarvish languages Iglishmêk · Khuzdul
Other languages Black Speech · Entish · Orkish · Valarin · Warg-language
Earlier legendarium Gnomish · Ilkorin · Noldorin (Kornoldorin) · Qenya
Outside the legendarium Animalic · Arktik · Mágol · Naffarin · Nevbosh
Scripts Angerthas/Cirth (Daeron · Erebor · Moria) · Gnomic Letters · Goblin Alphabet · Gondolinic Runes · Moon-letters · Tengwar · Sarati · Valmaric script
"A Secret Vice" (book) · "The Lhammas" · "The Tree of Tongues" · Sub-creation