Kili’s Runestone

SPOILER ALERT

There has been some discussion of late related to Kili’s Runestone featured in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

The Big question most have is (apart from why doesn’t WETA™ already have this in their shop?)… “what do the runes say?”

As I received a kind request from Kristie Erickson to help out with the translation… that I couldn’t deny in the spirit of Christmas after all… I jumped right in and had a closer look at the stone.

First of all, the stone is not your regular find-in-your-local-stream-kinda-stone, but appears to be a very beautiful polished Labradorite, which is a feldspar mineral.

Kili's Runestone featured in the Desolation of Smaug

Kili’s Runestone featured in the Desolation of Smaug

If we take a closer look at the picture of the runes, we notice it appears to consist of 6 runes. I say “appears”, as I’m not sure that some of the markings here are not just wear and scratches. In fact I personally believe that the last rune has some markings that very likely are not part of the rune.

Khuzdul (and the film version neo-khuzdul) is formed as a Semitic language, meaning amongst other things that the type of vowels and order in which these are arranged among the consonants in a word dictate the exact meaning of it. The linguist charged with forming the film version of Khuzdul is linguist David Salo. One of the characteristics of his neo-khuzdul is the iCCiC form (C being a consonant) for the imperative form (form used for command, orders, requests, permission and prohibition).

An example of that is found in the line “Nî ikrit fund” (meaning: never trust an elf). In this example the word “ikrit” is the imperative form of the verb to trust. We are, in a way, “commanded” not to trust an elf.

Now, what does all this have to do with Kili’s runestone? Well, we can clearly notice the runes for “i” on the first and third rune. Plus the stone also seems to have six rune markings, again consistent with the imperative form of neo-khuzdul. So chances this is some form of command or request are extremely high.

Another hint for this is given when we look at the lines from the film (spoiler alert reminder):

Tauriel:The stone in your hand, what is it?
Kili:It is a talisman…. A powerful spell lies upon it. If any but a dwarf reads the runes on the stone, they will be forever cursed… or not. Depending on whether you believe that kind of thing. It’s just a token… a rune-stone. My mother gave it to me so I’d remember my promise.
Tauriel:What promise?
Kili:That I would come back to her…. She worries. She thinks I’m reckless.

Kili clearly states that it is a promise to come back. This fits with our assumption that these runes use the khuzdul imperative form. “Come Back” (or “Return”) is an imperative form.

The question now is, does this really say “come back”?
What can the other runes tell us ?

Unfortunately not much. The forth could be a “Kh” rune. I say “could be”, as the little dot next to it could be the “h” of the K, but it could very well be the separating word dot (used as a space) to indicate the following word.  Let us assume this is a separating marker, a space indicating two words. The others I can’t be 100% sure of. As the second rune seems to be a form of “N”, the extra stroke is likely a duplication mark, meaning it would be a double “N”. while the fifth rune seems to be a “d”. The last and sixth rune is the biggest question mark. It looks like the rune for the extended “e” (ê), but I cant be sure as the markings are quite unclear.

So if we put all of these assumption together we get “innik dê”.

The main problem off course is that we are not sure what are scratches on the rune or what are actual rune markings. But if by some tremendous amount of luck my assumption would be correct than this word has the radicals “N-N-K”.

The consonants (or radicals) of a Semitic word will determine the general meaning of a word (while the vowels will make it specific). An example of this is (staying with our previous example): AKRÂT, means “The Trust” (using aCCâC form – making it the abstract form), while “IKRIT”, means “Trust!” (using iCCiC form – making it a command). All of the above tells us that if there is another word with these same consonants, we can identify the exact meaning.

The radicals N-N-K seem to be inspired by the biliteral root N-KH, meaning “come” (related to the Adûnaic form “nakh-“).  This could be linked to a duplication pattern we often see in semitic languages which intensifies the verb.  Turing N-Kh to N-N-K, turning “come” to “come back”.

The second word “dê” could be a merger of the word “du” (meaning “to”) and the singular pronominal suffix -ê.  We see an example of the word “du” in Thorin’s battle cry “Du Bekâr (to arms!) in the first installment of the Hobbit movies (at the Battle of Azanulbizar).   So translating this would give us “to me”.

Thorin at the Battle of Azanulbizar ® & ™ 2012 Warner Bros, Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Thorin at the Battle of Azanulbizar
® & ™ 2012 Warner Bros, Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Though we can’t be sure of it at present, I personally remain convinced that it means “RETURN TO ME”

Update: David Salo has in the meantime confirmed our assumption: http://midgardsmal.com/kila-steinn/

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About The Dwarrow Scholar

The Dwarrow Scholar first experienced the brilliance of Tolkien when he received a copy of The Hobbit from his uncle as a kid, reading it feverishly again and again. Some years on, when he got his very own walk-man (aye forget about tiny iPods, this thing was a brick and played cassette tapes) he made his own little audiotape of The Hobbit, so he could listen to it on his bike on his way to school. Between reenacting the Battle of Five armies with 4 of his school friends (still feel sorry for the kid that had to be the Orc) and before the days of internet, you would find Roy frequently in libraries trying to find all he could about Tolkien and his beloved dwarves. When Roy isn’t delving into Neo-Khuzdul or searching for lost dwarven treasures on the net he’s enjoying time with his wife and son, re-reading his tormented Tolkien paperbacks, watching a good movie, learning new languages or playing a game of LoTRO on Laurelin as Kandral Strongbeard.
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33 Responses to Kili’s Runestone

  1. Wayne says:

    The DoS Chronicles doesn’t help. There is a nice picture showing the beautiful iridescent blue coloration of the stone, but no clarification of the markings or their meaning. http://i859.photobucket.com/albums/ab157/spire75/chroniclesruneextract.jpg

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    • Oh, that’s a shame. Well I guess we’ll have to stick with what we’ve got, for now.

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      • Wayne says:

        I completely forgot to compliment you on the work you did on this, so well done and thanks for that. I came to the same conclusion over the actual marking “inikhdê”, and likewise could not find this word in existance. From what I can gather “n-kh” is the root of the neo-Khuzdul verb “nakh” meaning “come”, with the word “tanakhi” used in FoTR to mean “it comes”. Using n-kh as the root in our word inikhdê, it could mean ‘come back’,’come back to me’, ‘you come back’… something like that.

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      • That is a very good point indeed concerning the word “tanakhi”. This would be a bi-radical word with the roots N-K (as the “ta” would be part of the third person marker). Seeing that it doesn’t have the roots N-KH-D I overlooked it completely. But I think you might be on to something big my friend. As while I was slicing the Christmas dessert cake, it hit me. The dot next to the “K”-rune could in fact be the normal space marker (the dwarven version of a space between two words, which is a little dot). Normally the “H”-rune is a little dash mark near the top of the word, not a dot near the center (like we see here), so this could very likely be a space marker. Meaning that it could be “INIK DÊ”, two separate words. As a bi-radical word with N-K could have the imperative version INIK (iCiC). So “DÊ” would mean the word “back”. Nicely done my friend. *bows*

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      • Wayne says:

        Good stuff. That mark after the K is a bit ambiguous so I’d be prepared to accept it as either +h or a space marker. Here is a better picture of the stone in the chronicles, which I’m still studying to determine that last rune as an e or an ê (could be affected by natural marks in the stone) http://i859.photobucket.com/albums/ab157/spire75/kilisrunestone.jpg

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  2. Roz says:

    That was an great break down of the language from a tiny glimpse of the stone. I learned a lot through it.

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  3. JPP says:

    Actually if you are familiar with the elder FUTHARK at all you will see the original rune inscription which is obviously different then the one in the movie actually literally says “RETURN” With the “T” mirrored for some reason. possibly to center the design. I hope that helps.

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    • JPP says:

      Well literally it says RDTURN. but the shape of the D and the E in the elder futhark are incredibly similar. possibly purposefully obscured in order to hide the meaning.

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      • When using Elder Futhark (5th century) or Anglo-Saxon I do not get this result at all (IZI-AH or IXI-AEH). Can you tell me which version of Futhark/Futhorc you have used that would give you this result? As I unfortunately have not managed to come close to anything like it.
        Thanks

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    • Yes, I am familiar with elder Futhark. And did have a look at first to see if this was a possibility that (like many other texts in The Hobbit book) it was a translation from English in Futhark. In elder Futhark this reads (if not mistaken) “IZI–AH”. So I tried the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, knowing J.R.R. Tolkien often used it himself. There I come up with “IXI-AEH”. These are practically the same as the “Dwarf Runes” Tolkien used in the Hobbit, so that wouldn’t give us the letters “RETURN” either unfortunately. Can you tell me which version of Futhark/Futhorc you have used that would give you this result? As I unfortunately have not managed to come close to anything like it.
      I remain convinced myself that these are two words in neo-khuzdul, being “INIK DÊ” (meaning “come back”).

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  4. david says:

    the dot under cirth rune (k) means a short pause. dis would be correct form of righting inik dé
    also in runes of norse de mark where the use a pause. in modern writhing is blank space.

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  5. Landon says:

    Hey DS! Thanks for the fascinating read. I love deciphering these runes. Looking them over, I wonder if the letters might actually be “tutum-kam-ir-khamu-datu-siginen” or “t-k-i-kh-d-ê”. I’m no Khuzdul expert, but I think I can read those runes. Thoughts?

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  6. Brooke says:

    Where do you learn the khuzdul language? I know how to write both Angerthas moria and Angerthas Erebor but I don’t know the spoken language. How do you learn that? Please help I’m dying to learn!

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    • I’ve spent years studying all I could find on Khuzdul. Either Tolkien’s works, D.Salo’s work on neo-khuzdul, or other indirect sources. And I’ve attempted to combine all I could find, in effect making my own version of neo-khuzdul. I’m currently in the process of updating all the earlier documents I’ve made on neo-khuzdul. And will (once these are all completed) be making these available.

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  7. Pingback: Elendilion – Tolkienowski Serwis Informacyjny » Blog Archive » G-i-P Report: Kili’s rune-stone

  8. David Salo has confirmed our assumption, the article can be found here.
    http://midgardsmal.com/kila-steinn/

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  9. Kuriositty says:

    I was so happy to come upon your site here and discover all the incredible work you’ve done. As both a Tolkien fan and a Lotro player! There are insufficient words in modern English to describe my awe at your dedication to this topic. I truly appreciate finding this linguistic gem. A detailed, thoughtful dictionary of the Dwarves’ language! I would liken these pages to precious mithril.

    Really, you can’t go two steps in the Tolkien corner of the internet without tripping over a dictionary of the Elvish tongues, or spotting a Black Speech glossary lurking in the shadows, so I’m thrilled to find your dictionary here. Dwarves deserve more appreciation!

    If it’s not too much trouble, I would love to be added to the mailing list for these precious materials. Thank you again for your incredible work!

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  10. Great work! Thank you for your insight!

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  11. theviking says:

    You sir, are one impressive dwarf!

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  12. Levi says:

    In fact the second rune (n) doesn’t belong to the Angerthas Erebor or Angerthas Moria, the little dot next to the n rune is to mark the space between the 2 words, like in the elder futhark you need to use the dot to separate words, probably they just made a mistake with the rune, but if you mix the different runic alphabts you have the words “INIK•DE” and as some of you said it does means “COME•BACK”

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  13. Westley R. says:

    The book is very helpful actually.You just have to read the markings and get an dwarvish alphabet and you can read it . It says “return” . You can get an alphebet on the Internet .

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  14. Westley R. says:

    The original rune stones read return as well

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  15. Westley R. says:

    It reads inik de meaning return to me

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  16. Keelan says:

    Merci pour cette traduction, je cherchais depuis un moment 😀
    Bravo pour vos recherches !

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    • C’est gentil de votre part, je vous remercie. J’ai travaillé (et je travaille encore) sur la compilation de toute la documentation néo-khuzdul. Je suis heureux de dire que ce sera bientôt disponible gratuitement à tous. Restez à l’écoute.

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  17. They are now, in fact, for sale on Weta’s website. http://www.wetanz.com/kili-s-rune-stone/

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