Let’s take a look at the Younger Futhark. It only consists of 16 runes, which doesn’t cover all the letters or sounds in the language in the days when it was created, but on the other hand there were no grammar books back then. “Back then” was the 9th-11th century (the Elder Futhark was in use roughly between 2nd-8th century).

OK, let’s look at them one by one. First of all you can see that they are divided into three groups : 6 + 5 + 5, and the Futhark is named after the first group. There are some runes that look a bit like letters that we use today, but other runes may look new to you.

16 runes shouldn’t be so hard to learn by heart, should it ? Let’s give it a try !

We’re getting a very simple start : The F look almost the same in both scripts. U is the same but upside down. TH is very characteristic = easy to remember. There are two A’s and two R’s in the Futhark. The first A has a different sound : more of an O or an Å. The other A is the ordinary one. The two R’s : it seems like there were different pronunciation of them too. When a word ends with and R, they used the R that looks like an fork. Otherwise they used the R that look like a modern R. The K look like a legless K.That was the first group.

H : well, you just have to memorize this one. I and S are easy to remember, while N and A are harder to distinguish from each other. A vertical line with a line going across it slightly upwards / downwards, but which is which ? You’ll learn it. That was the second group.

T and B look very familiar, don’t they ? M : turn it upside down and cut off the upper part, and there you have your M. L look a bit like an upside down L, with a different angle of the “shelf”. And the R once again : looks like an upside down M, and it’s placed last in the third group.

As I wrote earlier, these runes don’t cover all the sounds in the language, so I can imagine that the carver of the rune stones had problems sometimes to make himself understood. Pretty soon there were some additions to some runes, to create soundvariations of them. A dot in the K made a G instead, a dot in the middle of the I-line made an E, and two dots inside the B turned it into a P.

Next time I’ll find rune stones with texts that are easy to read, so that you can try out what you just have learned.