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.
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.
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”.
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/