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Forum LockedWho taught the runes

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Siemowit View Drop Down
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    Posted: 12-Dec-2007 at 22:27

Pre-christian Vikings knew the runes. Who taught the runes ? Was there any kind of school in their society ?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joinville Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Dec-2007 at 10:17
It's a bit murky. As you probably know, since you're asking, they did write, but not in sufficient amounts to actually let us know these things in detail. Some conjectures can be made.

The Germanic runic script does resemble other alphabet scripts from around the Med in the centuries just prior to the birth of Christ. That's the assumed source of inspiration. Mind you, Scandinavian archaeologists tend to assume there were people around even in Scandinavia in the centuries just after the BC capable of reading and writing Latin, after service in the Roman armies. They just found themselves back in societies with little use for literacy.

The runic script is assumed to have come about in the 300-500 AD period. From what's being deduced from the inscriptions there seems to have been a group of "rune masters", overlapping with the stone carvers rasing the inscribed stones.

Questions remain as to how organised a group these men were. It's assumed they held a pretty high status. One tantalising thing pointed out by linguists is that the Scandinavian runic script changes suddenly and drastically around 700-800 AD. It's so sudden, and consistent, it has been suggest this was a conscious and coordinated reform.

That exhausts my clues on the subject, I'm afraid.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheMysticNomad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Dec-2007 at 10:43
Some of the earliest Turkic writing was in a form of runic, also.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Dec-2007 at 20:57
I concur with Joinville, but I would like to add that "rune master" was probably not a full time occupation and more like a skill handed down in certain families.
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hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Endre Fodstad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Dec-2007 at 09:37
It also depends on when you are talking about. Runes were used into high medieval times - city excavations have found small "notes" and inscriptions in medieval towns with as diverse texts as a wife calling her husband home from the bar ("Gyda wants you to come home now"), slander ("Oli has a  dirty rear and likes to get it up the *ss") and cute little recollections/daydreams ("Ingeborg loved me while I was in Tnsberg") plus watch reports ("...we have been up in the (illegible) waiting for the earl's men all night, but none have come") and trade good markers. By this time, they coexist with the latin alphabet and were probably widespread in society.

How specialized the knowledge was during the early times is difficult to know for sure; runes are used for more than stone carving; small notes appear here and there as well. The earliest runic inscription known in scandinavia is from vre Stabu, Norway, c.200. Some authors, typically in the 60s and 70s, tended toward the idea of the runes as "secret knowledge" with magic overtones. This idea is falling out of favor in scandinavia these days.

The changing from the older to the younger futhark also seems to be tied to language changes in scandinavia, the so-called "syncope times", when certains vowels fall out of the old norse language.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Walraven Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Mar-2008 at 01:59

Probobly the closest thing to a rune master was a skald, which was somewhat of a norse bard.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aelfgifu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Mar-2008 at 17:22
Skaldic poetry, however, seems to have been an almost completely oral medium. We have as much evidence of mundane everyday use of runes as of artistical ones, and most skaldic poetry was not written down until well after the introduction of the Latin script.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Klaus Fleming Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Mar-2008 at 20:58
I recently discussed the question regarding the origins of runes with a Swedish expert on the subject. He admitted that there's no definite answer to this question: the most commonly accepted theory is that the runes represent a Scandinavian attempt to emulate the Latin alphabet. Runes were, however, used differently - Viking Scandinavia was not a literate society, but an oral one, and runes were not used to write down any long sections of prose. Sagas for instance were only written down after the Viking period - usually by members of the clergy, and always with the Latin alphabet. Before literacy and the Latin alphabet firmly established themselves in Sweden, there was a period of hectic rune-scribbling, particularly in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This might suggest that, at least by that time, the knowledge of runes was not entirely limited to any one professional group, but that they were carved by common farmers as well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aelfgifu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Mar-2008 at 17:20

There is no doubt that common people used runes. Excavations in Bergen have produced a large number of wooden sticks with runes carved into them, most with mundane and common messages, such as a husband writing toi his wife he is doing well on his business trip and asking her to send more socks, as well as shoppinglists and such. There are so much of these that the whole idea that commoners would in general not be able to write had to be largely rejected, as one has to take into account that for every stick found, another hundred must have rotted away or used for firewood once they were no longer needed. Similar finds of writing on wood have been found in Vindolana, near Hadrians wall, from the Roman age, and in Minsk, also medieval.

The problem with all lay writing is that most of it would not have been on expensive and dureable materials such as parchment, but on stuff like wood and perhaps cloth, which does not survive the ages, too well, exept by chance. Moreover, pretty much all writing from long ago that does survive to this present day was preserved intentionally. Expensive books were commodities that were treasured, kept in reasonably dry and safe places, taken with people when they had to move or flee, and passed on to others after them. Everyday letters would have received no such care, and would generally have dissappeared (just as our own everyday notes, shoppinglists and letters will not survive for long, whereas our books and diaries will last much longer) Therefore our whole collection of surviving written material is 'biased', and can only ever give a partial view on literacy in any medieval period.


Edited by Aelfgifu - 30-Mar-2008 at 17:22

Women hold their councils of war in kitchens: the knives are there, and the cups of coffee, and the towels to dry the tears.
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