Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions

November 2005
42 black and white, 3 line illustrations
216 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Boydell Press

Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions

Terje Spurkland

Translated by Betsy van der Hoek

An accessible account of Norwegian runic inscriptions from their first appearance around AD200 until their demise around 1400.
Runes, a unique functional writing system, exclusive to northern and eastern Europe, were used for some 1300 years in Scandinavia, from about AD 200 till around the end of the fourteenth century, when the runic alphabet, called fuþark after the six first characters, finally gave way to the modern writing system.
Runes were not written, but carved - in stone, and on jewellery, weapons, utensils and wood. The content of the inscriptions is very varied, from owner and carpenter attributions on artefacts to memorials to the deceased on erected stones; contrary to popular belief, they are not necessarily magical or mystical, and the post-it notes of today have their forerunners in such runic reminders as: "Buy salt, and don't forget gloves for Sigrid." The typical medieval runic inscription varies from the deeply religious to the highly trivial [or perhaps crucial], such as "I slept with Vigdis when I was in Stavanger."
This book presents an accessible account of the Norwegian examples throughout the period of their use. The runic inscriptions are discussed not only from a linguistic point of view but also as sources of information on Norwegian history and culture.

TERJE SPURKLAND is Associate Professor of Nordic Medieval Studies at the University of Oslo.


A hand-book full of surprising insights. A splendid guide to the Norwegian runes and it can be strongly recommended both to the beginner and to the advanced reader. JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL ARCHAEOLOGY

A thorough, learned, and most attractively written examination of Norwegian runes and runic inscriptions. It provides an excellent introduction to the subject. SPECULUM

This is a very accessible introduction to what can be a very arcane subject. [...] Readable, enjoyable and provides a clear overview of runes and their importance to reading the past. EARLY MEDIEVAL EUROPE

An ideal teaching text. [...] This well illustrated book will make an excellent teaching tool. TOEBI NEWSLETTER

Will probably be found useful and attractive by anyone interested in Old Norse of Norwegian history. SAGA-BOOK

A very useful survey. RUNA

A highly accessible resource for scholars interested in Norwegian runes and Scandinavian runology more generally [and] a useful introduction to the issues of reading and interpreting runic inscriptions. JOURNAL OF THE AUSTRALIAN EARLY MEDIEVAL ASSOCIATION