Monday, April 21, 2014

Runes 101 - Runes in Mythology - The Adventures of Merlin

Last week, I started watching a British fantasy show on Netflix, called The Adventures of Merlin.  Broadly based on King Arthur and Camelot, this show depicts Merlin and Prince Arthur as youth (Late teens, early twenties) and, even though Arthur's father, King Uther, has outlawed magic by penalty of death, there is still plenty of magic and mythology around, which is why this is a Runes in Mythology post.

In season 1, episode 6, a sorcerer comes to Camelot.  While I won't give away the plot, I will say this: he has a small box with him that's full of beetles which he can 'bring to life' and 'freeze' by chanting.  However, what makes the box interesting is that it has four Runes inscribed on it and looks roughly like this:

The first glance of the box caught my eye immediately and I can't tell you how many times I had to hit pause to capture just the right image of it to inspect the Runes.  Once I got it, a few realizations came to mind.

First, Othala is inverted.  Second, like Othala, the third Rune is also an 'o' Rune reversed and, as near as I can tell, from a Futhark called the Latinized or Medieval Futhark (which according to the source I found was used primarily for decoration and not actually for inscription).  Last, the first and last Runes are not etched exactly like the Elder Futhark Runes.

In fact, the 'f' Rune (Fehu) is curved and seems to derive from one of the Younger Futhark versions, while Jera is etched similar to the Elder Futhark, but not exactly, having more of a diamond shape to it, than the interlocked aspect it actually has.

I struggle with Rune usage such as this.  One one hand, I am happy to see the Runes being used and love that family and friends consult me immediately whenever they see anything the suspect is a Rune.  On the other, it bugs me that they are so confused and misrepresented, deriving from different futharks - Fehu from a younger Futhark;  Othala the Elder, but inverted; the third is an 'o' Rune from a medieval futhark; and Jera's similar depiction of the Elder, with a slightly off diamond shape.

Perhaps what struck me as being the most odd about these Runes is that they appeared in a show about Merlin and King Arthur.  I mean these tales are from England, so I would expect the Runes they use in the show to be from the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.

Maybe I shouldn't dwell on such small details, but I can't help but feel like, in anything, if you're going to do it, you should do it as correctly as possible and this clearly isn't.  So, I'm torn - happy to see the Runes and to be able to recognize the short comings of their presentation, but disappointed in those same presentation errors.


  1. This is not only for the runes, but you can see this in different writing system all over the world.
    they have some similarity a times or sometimes they are the same, but interpretation is different by other people who have adopted that same writing, hence they are rotated/adapted by others.
    see here:

  2. I have also seen Runes used in the Series 'Warehouse 13', but can't find the Episode where I saw them...
    I would also love to see them used more in Films where it depicts 'our' Rune Time/Zone and then again in the correct method.
    Hobbit and Lord of the Ring did use them as well, but this is another Chapter.

  3. Perhaps the writers understood something of the nature of runes and did not wish to portray them correctly.

  4. I totally get that. I have a master's degree in Medieval Studies, and sometimes it seems that my personal hobby is to become irritated about inaccurate depictions of the Medieval period in pop culture.