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Gondolinic Runes

Ryszard Derdzinski - Feanor.jpg
Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thîw hin

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 was a writing system was used in Gondolin. It resembled the Cirth but did not belong to the system devised by Daeron.


[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] Structure

Like the Tengwar and the Cirth, the forms of these runes show a relation between sound and shape. It is not known if the few similarities to the cirth are coincidental or not. Pengolodh, however, was not aware of the Cirth before he, with the survivors of destroyed Gondolin, migrated to the Mouths of Sirion.

The system provides sounds not found in the known elven languages of the First Age, but it may be that it was designed for notating a variety of languages.

[edit] History

This system could have been an invention of Pengolodh or other loremasters, and was employed obviously in Gondolin (or in Nevrast, at earliest).

Glamdring and Orcrist, the famous swords, had probably inscriptions in that system, because Elrond (who knew of all types of runes) could read their inscriptions. Elrond was born in Arvernien, while Gandalf was unable to.

The system of Gondolin was perhaps dropped out of use after its fall, but used for a while in Arvernien. It is mentioned that there Pengolodh was fascinated by the Certhas Daeron brought by the survivors of Doriath (perhaps it seemed to him a more perfected system), and adopted it for his works. They seem to have been obsoleted and forgotten by the Third Age, and this is supported by the fact that only Elrond could read the swords' inscriptions.

[edit] Examples

If we accept the values of the runes above, maybe these were the inscriptions of the famous swords of The Hobbit:

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

[edit] Other versions

This system is an early invention by Tolkien. Its existence is not explicitly stated in the known later texts, but the reference of the swords' inscriptions in The Hobbit is evidence that indeed a different kind of runes was used in Gondolin.

It seems that Tolkien did not consider the existence of this script in the later years. 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.[1]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Return to Bag End, page 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