Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Runes

Originally the letters of the Norse alphabet, runes are often associated with Magic, Prophecy and wisdom. The term generalizes to any invented alphabet of spiky straight-line segments, appropriate for scratching in stone. J R R Tolkien associated such alphabets with Dwarfs; M R James's "Casting the Runes" (1911) turns on the sinister efficacy of a transferable Curse thus written. By synecdoche, "rune" may mean a Charm or Spell written in runes: Wizards often protect their arcana with "runes of power" which are occult booby-traps. A Lost Rune of peace is sought and found in Ursula K Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan (1971). Latterly, runes have been employed as a divinatory tool. [CB/DRL]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.