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A war horn with runes carved into it, by Yulia Startsev © Fantasy Flight Games

Runes were used by the First Men as a writing system. Runes were engraved on stones and other objects, but they were not written in books or scrolls. Some are thought to be magical.[1] The runes of the First Men have been found all over Westeros.[2]


Tormund, a chief of the free folk, has thick golden bands engraved with the ancient runes of the First Men.[3] The Lord of Bones, another leader of a war band, carves runes from the teeth of dead men.[4]

The sigils of House Royce of Runestone and that of their cadet branch, House Royce of the Gates of the Moon, bear runes.[5] To this day, the Lords of Runestone wear the bronze armor of their forebears, etched with runes that are said to ward the wearer from harm.[6][1] However, many members of House Royce have been defeated or died whilst wearing such runic armor.[6][1] Prince Daemon Targaryen referred to his first wife, Lady Rhea Royce, as his "bronze bitch" because of her runic armor.[7]


Yohn Royce with his runic armor, by Chris Dien © Fantasy Flight Games

The First Men of antiquity wrote in the Old Tongue and runes.[8] In the Citadel at Oldtown, the exact meaning of most runes is disputed to this day.[9] The oldest runic records demonstrate that men have lived since the Dawn Age at the mouth of the Honeywine in the Reach.[10] Other runic records tell of the crossing of Arm of Dorne by the First Men.[11]

The First Men left their runes on cave walls, stones, barrows,[12] and the ruins of now-fallen strongholds in most of Westeros, which tell their stories to this day.[2] In the stormlands, however, where the First Men were fewer in number, they carved their tales into the trunks of trees which have rotted away through time.[2]

From the countless petty kingdoms once found in the riverlands, the names of only a few legendary kings and heroes can be found in runes on weathered stones.[9] At the sepulcher of Tristifer IV Mudd at Oldstones, the lid depicts the king with his hands folded over the shaft of a stone warhammer. The runes upon the hammer, telling the weapon's name and history, have been worn away.[13]

In the Vale, the Runic Crown was worn by the Bronze Kings from House Royce of Runestone.[14]

The ancient crown of the Kings of Winter from House Stark was a bronze circlet incised with the runes of the First Men.[15] The Thousand Years War between the Kings of Winter and the Barrow Kings has been suggested by runic records to have been a series of wars which took place over two hundred years.[16] Runes translated by Maester Barneby lend credence to the tradition of House Blackwood that states the family ruled most of the wolfswood until they were driven into exile by the Kings of Winter.[17]

As the majority of the ironborn are illiterate, most knowledge of the Iron Islands from before the coming of the Andals has come from runes written by First Men attacked by the ironmen of old.[8]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Ser Andar Royce and his brother, Ser Robar, wear armor engraved with runes during the Hand's tourney. Both knights are defeated in the lists, however.[1]

A Storm of Swords

After giving Ice to Lord Tywin Lannister, Ser Ilyn Payne wields a silver greatsword six feet long and bright with runes.[18]

The horn that Mance Rayder claims is the Horn of Joramun has runes graven upon its old golden bands. According to songs, blowing the horn will cause the Wall to fall.[19]

A Dance with Dragons

When Melisandre burns the Horn of Joramun beneath the Wall, Jon Snow thinks its runes shimmer for half a heartbeat.[20]

Tormund gives his armbands engraved with runes as payment to the Night's Watch when he passes the Wall.[21]

When Ser Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister visit the widow of the waterfront in Volantis, an ancient bronze dagger marked with runes is among the gifts she has already received.[22]


His armor is bronze, thousands and thousands of years old, engraved with magic runes that ward him against harm.[1]

The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we think we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it.[23]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29, Sansa II.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Durrandon.
  3. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
  4. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 68, Jon VIII.
  5. The Citadel. Heraldry: Houses in the Vale
  6. 6.0 6.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: House Arryn.
  7. Fire & Blood, Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.
  8. 8.0 8.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
  9. 9.0 9.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
  10. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Oldtown.
  11. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: The Breaking.
  12. The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Age of Heroes.
  13. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
  14. The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale.
  15. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  16. The World of Ice & Fire, The North: Kings of Winter.
  17. The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
  18. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 60, Tyrion VIII.
  19. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
  20. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
  21. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 53, Jon XI.
  22. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.
  23. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.