Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

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.