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Runes were used by the First Men as a writing system. They were engraved on stones and other objects but were not written in books or scrolls. They are thought to be magical.


An ancient war horn with runes engraved onto it. © FFG

The First Men used both a written form of the Old Tongue and a runic writing systems.[1] In the Citadel at Oldtown, the exact meaning of most runes is disputed to this day.[2]

The runes of the First Men can be found all over Westeros. In the riverlands, on the lid of the sepulcher of King Tristifer IV Mudd, located in Oldstones, depicts the King with his hands folded over the shaft of a stone warhammer. The runes upon the hammer, telling the hammer's name and history, have been worn away.[3] 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.[2] In the Vale, the crown worn by the Bronze Kings of House Royce of Runestone was called the 'Runic Crown'.[4] Their sigil 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][7] However, many members of House Royce have been defeated or died whilst wearing such runic armor.[6][7] The ancient crown of the Kings of Winter of the north was a bronze circlet incised with the runes of the First Men.[8]

The runes of the First Men can also been found upon stone monuments, both located in the barrow fields and elsewhere.[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, and the ruins of now-fallen strongholds in most of Westeros, which tell their stories to this day. Only in the stormlands, where the First Men were few, the First Men resorted to carving their tales into the trunks of trees, which have rotted away through time.[12] As the ironmen of the Iron Islands are illiterate, most knowledge of their pre-Andal history have come from runes of the First Men they attacked.[1]

The struggle between the Kings of Winter and the Barrow Kings, which has been dubbed the Thousand Years War by the singers, has been suggested by runic records to have been a series of wars which took place over two hundred years.[13] 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 to exile by the Kings of Winter of House Stark.[14]

Recent events

A Clash of Kings

Rattleshirt carves runes in dead men's teeth.[15]

A Storm of Swords

Ilyn Payne is given a greatsword six feet long and silver bright with runes as replacement for Ice.[16]

The wildling Tormund has thick golden bands in his possession, which are graven with the ancient runes of the First Men.[17]

The horn that Mance Rayder claims is the Horn of Joramun has runes graven upon its golden bands.[18][19]

A Dance with Dragons

Tormund gives his armbands engraved with runes as payment to the Night's Watch when he passes the Wall.[20]

When Ser Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister visit the Widow of the Waterfront at Volantis, an ancient bronze dagger marked with runes is among the gifts she has already received.[21]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
  3. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
  4. The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale.
  5. The Citadel. Heraldry: Houses in the Vale
  6. 6.0 6.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: House Arryn.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29, Sansa II.
  8. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  9. The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: The Age of Heroes.
  10. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Oldtown.
  11. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: The Breaking.
  12. The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Durrandon.
  13. The World of Ice & Fire, The North: Kings of Winter.
  14. The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
  15. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 68, Jon VIII.
  16. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 60, Tyrion VIII.
  17. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
  18. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
  19. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
  20. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 53, Jon XI.
  21. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.