Spelling it out in Viking Times

VisbyChristina here. I’m on holiday at the moment, so I’ve dug up a post that previously appeared on my friend and fellow author Anna Belfrage’s blog. Hope you don’t mind the recycling!

The word ”runes” is very evocative, isn’t it? It immediately conjures up images of fearsome Vikings, picture stones adorned with slithering snakes and dragons, as well as mysterious fortune-tellers or seeresses. Because runes weren’t just used for writing – they were also talismans against evil, part of secret rituals and carved into bits of wood or bark as protection. Magical!

Runes CopenhagenThe great thing about runes is that they are not that difficult to learn because they were loosely based on alphabets similar to our present one, and therefore use more or less the same principle. Although actually, that depends which runic alphabet you utilise of course – the older so called futhark (named after the first six letters f, u, þ, a, r, k) is the easiest one for us since it had a corresponding rune for almost all of our present-day letters (24 altogether). It can be roughly adapted to write modern words, which makes it fun. This elder futhark dates from the 2nd to 8th centuries AD, so had been phased out by the time my Runes series takes place (in the 870s), but I decided to stick with it anyway as it was easier for me – artistic licence! From the late 8th century the younger futhark took over, but this was a simplified version with only 16 runes which I believe requires you to speak Old Norse in order to know which one to use.

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Islands in the North

Orkney oneChristina here and I have once again been travelling in search of inspiration for my stories – this time to the Orkney Islands! These are situated in the far north of the UK, in between the Scottish mainland and Shetland, and the journey involved a 12-hour road trip by car with another hour and a half by ferry. It was worth every second!

As always, I was on the trail of the Vikings and they settled in the Orkney Islands during the 8th and 9th centuries (possibly before that). If you sail in a straight westerly direction from the southern part of Norway you end up either in Orkney or Shetland, and it was an easy journey in a Viking longship, only a couple of days’ sailing. Therefore, it made sense that it was one of the first places the Vikings went to when they set off on their adventures.

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