Nordic index


Anglo Saxon runes

Index to runes website

The runes on this site are Anglo-Saxon runes. They are reasonably accurate, but there are different forms of runes, and I have taken the forms from different places to produce a simple set which corresponds with the modern alphabet. This is intended to be a site for children rather than academically rigorous! I have left out the composite vowel runes, but left the runes for 'ng', 'th' and 'st', as these are sounds still in modern English, and children might be interested where they came from.

You might want to print out or save some of these webpages. I don't object to this, but some use JavaScript, which makes copying them difficult. The Print button at the top of the browser page should work. Otherwise click here for other ideas.

If you want to translate modern letters into runes, then click here. You can enter a line of text and the runes will appear.

Beowulf is an Anglo Saxon poem. Parts are exciting but some is rather tedious. So I've extractexd a few lines to use as exercises for runes. The 'magic' website will make the English letters appear if you move the mouse over the runes. It is not necessary to click on the runes. However, if you move too quick, you may miss letters out, so you have to go back and try again. I hope this will make the children read each line as it appears. The lines are as follows:

Beowulf and followers set off for Denmark: on board they climbed   warriors ready   waves were churning sea with sand
They arrive: sea cliffs shining   steep high hills   headlands broad   their haven was found   their journey ended
Coming of Grendel: then from the moorland   by misty crags   grendel came
Description of Grendel: a scathing monster   dark ill doer   his rage unmatched   hatred and murder
His first victim: he seized a sleeping warrior and tore him fiercely asunder   drank blood in streams
Grendel grabs Beowulf: for the hardy hero with hand he grasped   felt for the foe with fiendish claw
Beowulf tears Grendel's arm off: the outlaw dire took mortal hurt   a mighty wound showed on his shoulder   and sinews cracked
Grendel runs away to die: grendel thence death sick   his den in the dark moor sought   noisome abode
Rejoicing afterwards: then song and music mingled sounds   and harping was heard with the hero lay
Grendel's mother: grendels mother   monster of women   mourned her woe   doomed to dwell in the dreary waters
She kills a warrior: she killed on his couch a clansman famous in battle brave
She takes Grendel's arm: the hand all had viewed blood flecked she bore with her   bale was returned dole in the dwellings
Beowulf finds the water: he found in a flash the forested hill   a woful wood the waves below were dyed in blood
Beowulf jumps into the water: the ocean floods closed over the hero   long while of the day fled ere he felt the floor of the sea
Beowulf and Grendel's mother fight: she grasped out for him with grisly claws   and the warrior seized
Beowulf kills her: to floor she sank   bloody the blade   he was blithe of his deed
Beowulf returns to land: soon he was swimming who safe saw in combat downfall of demons   up dived through the flood
Beowulf takes Grendel's head back to the hall: and next by the hair into hall was borne grendels head   where the henchmen were drinking
The king of Denmark rewards Beowulf: be glad at banquet   warrior worthy   a wealth of treasure   at dawn of day   be dealt between us
Beowulf and followers return home: their ocean keel boarding   they drove through the deep    and daneland left

I left left out all punctuation and capitals letters since they don't appear in runes. I have used extra spaces to show full stops, etc.

When making the exercise above, I realised that I didn't really look at the runes while getting the English, particularly when the appearing sentence was exciting! So the second exercise demands that the children do all the work. They are given the key to the runes, plus some short passages from Beowulf. They should write out their 'translation' on a separate piece of paper. This will force them to look at the runes, and they may end up almost 'reading' the runes. For teachers' use only, here are the passages:

Where Grendel lives: untrod is their home
they haunt by wolf cliffs and windy headlands
fenways fearful where flows the stream
from mountains gliding to gloom of the rocks
underground flood

Grendel's lake: the band sat down
and watched on the water wormlike things
sea dragons strange that sounded the deep
and sea snakes and monsters

Grendel's home under the lake: he was now in some hall he knew not which
where water never could work him harm
nor through the roof could reach him ever fangs of the flood
firelight he saw
beams of a blaze that brightly shone

A dragon: then the baleful fiend its fire belched out and bright homes burned
the blaze stood high all landsfolk frighting
no living thing would that loathly one leave as aloft it flew

All the passages from Beowulf are taken from a translation by Francis Barton Gummere (1855-1919).

Beowulf in the original Anglo Saxon

The Hobbit, by Tolkein, has runes in it. One story in the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling ends with some runes, and the next story fancifully describes how letters might have been invented.