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Old 06-21-2014, 11:57 PM   #1
Shade of Carn Dm
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
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New Unicode runes Tolkien

When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit in 1937 he pictured his dwarves as writing Old English runes, probably because Old English runes on a map just seemed so neat to him. Then he even included the runes on the book’s dust jacket.

Of course Tolkien later decided that Old English runes must have really been created long after the time in which Bilbo Baggins existed and so now claimed that the set of Old English runes that he had used merely resembled the Old English runes in some features, but were not the same. He made up the story that the Dwarves had never actually used Old English runes but that he, himself, had put them in to substitute for the supposed real runes that were known as the Cirth which somewhat resembled Old English runes, just as the writing on the map was now not supposed to be real English writing in the Latin script, but just a substitute for some other old writing that somewhat resembled it, and just as the Dwarf names were no longer supposed to be the names from the Old Eddas, but merely substitutes for older real names.

But Tolkien had invented too much in his introduction of the Old English runes. He made a place for runic-k which also included a variant form of the c-rune with a hook which would do to ape the modern distinction between c and k. Then at a later period Tolkien wrote in a letter to a certain Mrs. Katherine Farrer in which he added to his Old English runes a letter like a reversed s to represent the sh of shush and a runic letter oo, differentiated from normal Old English runic ee or oe or œ.

The cirth (and tengwar) were to be eventually inserted into Unicode, although this has not been done yet. But these codes have been assigned an unofficial private use encoding. For the application for tengwar encoding see and for the cirth (or certar) see . Michael Everson assures those who ask that the project is still going forward but that writing systems felt to be more urgently needed in the world have been getting priority in Unicode.

Meanwhile regular runes, Germanic, Old English, and Scandinavian, have been in Unicode for years. See . But perhaps matters are now beginning to move. For Unicode version 7 released on June 16, the regular runic block of Unicode gets eight new characters, six calligraphic symbols found on the Frank’s Casket (see ) and the three special symbols invented for J. R . R. Tolkien for his personal use. See and for Michael Everson’s personal official application. Yes, soon now the three characters, called officially the Tolkienian extensions, will be available with most fonts on the web that contain runic characters.

One font at least is available already. Download and install it from . Then you can print out all Tolkien’s letters at least on a word processor. Doing it on this editor will probably not be possible with most systems. You may have to reboot your system to get your font installation to work.

Last edited by jallanite; 06-23-2014 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 06-22-2014, 02:16 PM   #2
Shade of Carn Dm
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I did some experimenting and got the Babelstone Moon font to work with this editor on my system using the map text. The only problem is that the text appeared a little large. But upon saving it, the editor switched to another runic font which lacked the runic-k character and put out the symbol ᛱ instead. Also the signature block with the -symbol was not lined up properly with the enclosing box. Also there was loads of duplicated font information between the characters. I present a manually cleaned up version:
‪‪ᛋᛏᚫᚾᛞ᛫ᛒᚣ᛫ᚦᛖ᛫ᚷᚱᛖᚣ᛫ᛋᛏᚩᚾᛖ᛫ᚻᚹᛖᚾ᛫ᚦᛖ᛫ᚦᚢᛋᚻ᛫𐱅ᚾᚩᚳ𐱅ᛋ᛫ᚫᚾᛞ᛫ᚦ ᛖ᛫ᛋᛖᛏᛏᛁᛝ᛫ᛋᚢᚾ᛫
ᚹᛁᚦ᛫ᚦᛖ᛫ᛚᚪᛋᛏ᛫ᛚᛁᚷᚻᛏ᛫ᚩᚠ᛫ᛞᚢᚱᛁᚾᛋ᛫ᛞᚫᚣ᛫ᚹᛁᛚᛚ᛫ᛋᚻᛁᚾᛖ᛫ᚢᛈᚩᚾ᛫ᚦᛖ ᛫‪𐱅ᛖᚣᚻᚩᛚᛖ᛫
In any case the font did not work properly with this editor. As I expected. It works fine with word processors and non-web editors.

I have replaced Tolkiens new runic k symbol with the Unicode symbol ᴏʟᴅ ᴛᴜʀᴋɪᴄ ʟᴇᴛᴛᴇʀ ᴏʀᴋʜᴏɴ ᴀᴇᴛ which looks almost identical: 𐱅.

Last edited by jallanite; 09-26-2015 at 01:01 PM. Reason: Replaced incorrect ᛥ by ᛞ.
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Old 08-29-2015, 11:16 PM   #3
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Phoenician/      Greek             Old                     Ger manic                    English
Hebrew                                                 Italic                   Runes                                Runes

א 𐤀 /ʔ/                    Α ‬/a/            𐌀 /a/                ᚨ /a/                                  ‬ᚩ ‬/o/ /oː/
                                                                                                                                                  ᚪ /a/ /aː/
                                                                                                                                                  ᚫ ‬// /ː/
‎ב 𐤁 ‬ /b/                        Β ‬/b/           𐌁 /b/                 ᛒ /‬b/ ‬                               ᛒ /b/
‎ג 𐤂 ‬ /ɡ/ ‬                        Γ ‬ /ɡ/            𐌂 /k/                  ᚲ ‬/k/                                ᚳ ‬/k/ /‬kʲ/ /tʃ/
                                                                                                    ᛃ ‬/j/                                 ᛄ ‬/j/
                                                                                                                                                  ᛡ ‬/j/
‎ד 𐤃‬ /d/                      ‬ Δ ‬/d/             𐌃 /d/                ‬ᚦ ‬// /θ/           ‬           ᚦ ‬/θ/ //
‎ה 𐤄 ‬ /h/                      ‬Ε ‬/e/            𐌄 /e/                ᛖ ‬/e/ ‬                               ᛖ ‬/e/ /eː/
‎ו 𐤅 ‬ /w/                       ‬Ϝ /w/           𐌅 /v/ ‬               ᚠ ‬/f/                               ‬ᚠ /f/ /‬v/
‎ז 𐤆 ‬ /z/ ‬                        Ζ ‬/zd/          𐌆 /z/   ‬              ᛉ /‬ʁ/                                ‬ ᛉ /‬ks/
‎ח 𐤇 ‬ /ħ/                      ‬Η ‬/h/           𐌇 /h/               ‬ ᚺ ‬/h/                                ‬ᚻ /‬h/ /x/ //
‎ט 𐤈 ‬ /tˤ/                    ‬Θ ‬/tʰ/          𐌈 /tʰ/               ᛞ ‬/d/                               ‬ᛞ ‬/d/
‎י 𐤉 ‬ /j/                          ‬ Ι ‬/i/               𐌉 /i/                   ‬ ‬ᛁ /‬i/                                   ‬ᛁ /i/ /iː/
‎כ 𐤊 ‬ /k/ ‬                        Κ ‬/k/           𐌊 /k/                ᛕ /k/                               (𐱅 /‬k/)
                                                                                                                                                 (ᛣ /‬k/) ‬
‎ל 𐤋 ‬ /l/                        ‬Λ ‬/l/                𐌋 /l/                ᛚ /‬l/                                  ‬ᛚ /‬l/
‎מ 𐤌 ‬ /m/                  ‬Μ ‬/m/            𐌌 /m/      ‬ ᛗ /m/                            ‬ ᛗ ‬/m/
‎ נ 𐤍 ‬ /n/                      ‬Ν ‬/n/              𐌍 /n/           ‬ ‬ᚾ ‬/n/                               ‬ᚾ ‬/n/
‎ס 𐤎 ‬ /s/                     Ξ ‬/ks/           𐌎 /ʃ/                                                          (‬ᛲ /‬ʃ/)
‎ע 𐤏 ‬ /ʕ/ /‬ʁ/           ‬Ο ‬/o/              𐌏 /o/            ‬ᛟ /o/ ‬                               ᛟ /‬/ /ː/
‎פ 𐤐 ‬ /p/ ‬                     Π ‬/p/             𐌐 /p/             ‬ᚹ ‬/w/                              ‬ᚹ ‬/w/
                                                                                                                                              (ᛳ /ʊ/ /ʊː/)
                                                                                                  ᛈ ‬/p/                             ‬ ᛈ ‬/p/
‎צ 𐤑 ‬ /t͡sˤ/                  ‬Ϻ ‬/ts/          𐌑 /ʃ/
‎ק 𐤒 ‬ /q/                      ‬Ϙ ‬/k/            𐌒 /k/             ‬ ᛜ ‬/ŋ/                               ᛝ ‬/ŋɡ/ /ŋ/
                                                                                                                                               ᛢ ‬/kw/
‎ר 𐤓 ‬ /ʁ/                       ‬Ρ ‬/r/               𐌓 /r/            ‬ᚱ /r/                                 ‬ᚱ /‬r/
‎ש 𐤔 ‬ /ʃ/ /‬ɬ/              ‬Σ ‬/s/             𐌔 /s/            ᛊ ‬/s/                                ‬ᛋ ‬/s/ /‬z/
                                                                                                                                              ᛥ ‬/st/    
‎ת 𐤕 ‬ /t/                         ‬Τ ‬/t/             𐌕 /t/            ᛏ /t/                                ‬ᛏ /t/
                                                                                                                                           ᛠ ‬/ɑ/ /‬ːɑ/
                                           Υ /u/              𐌖 /u/        ‬ᚢ /u/                               ‬ᚢ /‬u/ /‬uː/
                                                                                                                                           ᚣ /y/ /yː/
                                           Φ /pʰ/          𐌘 /pʰ/
                                            Χ /kʰ/           𐌗 /ks/      ‬ᚷ /‬ɡ/                                ᚷ /ɡ/ /‬ɣ/ /j/ /dʒ/
                                                                                                                                            ᚸ /ɡ/
                                                                        𐌙 /kʰ/
                                                                         𐌚 /f/
                                                                                              ᛇ ‬//                               ᛇ // /eo/ /eːo/          

Last edited by jallanite; 09-20-2015 at 02:17 PM. Reason: formatting
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Old 09-02-2015, 05:54 PM   #4
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I have tried in the previous post to indicate in the Barrowdowns editor how the Old English runes developed from Germanic runes, from Old Italic writing, from the oldest version of the Greek writing, from Phoenician writing. But the editor tends to garble some of the fonts when I try to line up my columns more accurately and I have had to re-paste the Phoenician and Old Italic columns more than once to even get them even see-able.

So I have decided that the current lineup is as good as I am able to reasonably achieve. I have found that the Phoenician font wont work at all in any of my word processors, so the Barrowdowns editor works well enough.

The Phoenician column lists the characters in Phoenician form and in so-called Hebrew form, and for each character lists its oldest known pronunciation in the International Phonetic Alphabet. For information on this see or Two of the characters, (ע 𐤏) and (ש 𐤔) have each two differing pronunciations. A number of other differing pronunciations are also found for Hebrew in later times, but do not seem to have been used in Phoenician and so would not have been known when the Phoenician alphabet was adapted by the Greeks, and so are not given here.

Originally Hebrew was written with the same characters as Phoenician. See But beginning in the 7th century ʙᴄᴇ more and more Aramean became a lingua franca throughout the east and eventually even Jews, who also used Aramaic more and more, began to reproduce their sacred writings in Aramaic script. So now the script called Hebrew is in fact the Aramaic script and the older Phoenician writing is called Paleo-Hebrew. See

The Greeks adapted the Phoenician scripts by first introducing vowel letters using consonantal Phoenician characters which were close to being vowels or which had values not needed in Greek. The direction of writing in Phoenician and Aramaic was right to left. But the Greeks instead wrote alternate lines boustrophedon, that is alternately right to left and then right to left, changing the direction of the individual letters also. Then they gradually switched to the universal left-to-right directionality used today. The Greek lowercase letters only came into use in the 9th century ᴄᴇ and I do not consider them. I have in some cases where Unicode allows used older archaic letter shapes: ‬Ϝ rather than Ϛ, ‬Ϻ rather than Ͳ or Ϡ, and Ϙ rather than Ϟ. I have not included Ω, or ‛ (rough breathing), or (smooth breathing) as these were added too late.

There were many slight differences in versions of the Phoenician alphabet adapted by the Greeks and by others. See The version introduced in Italy is believed to be the ultimate origin of the Germanic runes, and, of course, of the Latin alphabet. But while some relations are obvious, many possible relations are only that: possibilities.

Old Italic is listed in web encyclopedias as covering a number of related early Italian alphabets from which the Germanic runes, and the Roman alphabet, were later derived. See and for examples. Note that the value for U in the East Raetic alphabet is reversed, as in the Germanic runes, and a reversed U is also sometimes found in the Camunic and in the Middle Adriatic / South Picene alphabets.

Tolkien in a two-page introduction to current editions of The Hobbit explains his use of the runes in that work as in this book represented by English runes, which are known now to few people. That is he here presents the runes as only a representation of the actual runes, presumably because they resembled them in being used for cutting or scratching on wood, stones, or metal, and so were thin and angular. (Compare the mostly unrelated so-called Old Hungarian runes at Tolkien later remarks that for the Latin letter Z (the dwarf-rune ᛣ may be used if required), here distinguishing the runic alphabet in The Hobbit now presented from the Cirith, the supposed genuine Dwarf alphabet first introduced in The Lord of the Rings in which ᛣ appears.

Tolkien introduces 27 members of the 33-member Old English rune set plus an additional rune he uses for k and the Dwarf-rune into the runes he presents in The Hobbit. He drops the letter ᚪ which in Old English had the sound /a/ now heard in father, the second a in apartment, in swat, and in a in a few other words. He drops the duplicate runes ᛄ and ᛡ as he finds it sufficient to use the rune ᛁ for Latin J as well as I. He drops ᛢ for Latin QU as runes for CW will do the job. He drops ᚸ for use as hard g as in /ɡet/ as this distinction, I suppose, seemed unnecessary to him since the rune ᚸ had only appeared in late runic texts and a distinction between hard g and soft g was never made in Latin texts.

Tolkien drops the rune ᛣ /k/ which is hard to understand as he then adds the rune 𐱅 for /k/. Why not leave things as they were in this case? One would expect that the symbol 𐱅 which Tolkien uses for the second /k/ to be a variant form of ᛣ. But I have not found it to be, and the new symbol 𐱅 has recently been added to Unicode as specifically an invention of Tolkien, not a variant form of the calc rune.

I find now that the Barrowdowns editor replaces all characters with a value over U+FFFF with the Unicode replacement character twice: ��. It apparently cannot save these higher characters except when I click on the Go Advanced button and then click on the Preview Changes button and then click on the Save Changes button. Then only are these higher characters saved as typed. Otherwise it cannot interpret them and saves only ��. That is easy enough to work around, now that I know it.

Last edited by jallanite; 09-16-2015 at 07:42 PM.
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