The Runic Riddles: Younger Futhork

B.L. Freeborn © December 2022           (PDF version here.)

Some riddles lay in plain sight for generations and no one sees them for what they are. The Younger Futhork is just such a riddle. It replaced the Older Futhork and was certainly created by someone at some point in time. Indeed, his name and the year are concealed in the script.

The sixteen rune uses the same symbol for multiple sounds. Whereas the original Futhork had twenty-four symbols that provided for the sounds of the language very well. Why then digress?

There are riddles hidden in runic inscriptions such as the Kensington Stone and the Rök runestone of Sweden. A few of the ciphers in the Rök were decrypted over a century ago. Alf Mongé revealed others in the Kensington in 1967. Other inscriptions were examined which led to the attached paper Validating North American Runic Inscriptions (pdf). Other studies followed and they are listed below.

The rune forms of the Younger Futhark evolved from the older over time and in different places. The Younger Futhark as an alphabet was ‘invented’ by someone who placed them in the known specific order at some point in time. This order prescribed the numeric value attached to each sound. It changed the gematria of the system drastically while the form of the runes continued to evolve. The two different ‘s’ shown in the image below are a prime example. They cannot be any more different. The first is very close to its form in the Older Futhark. It is not as if the older just abruptly stopped either. It was used alongside the newer for both its sound value and numeric value. This in and of itself is confusing.

From Wikipedia

It was presumed by the author that the Younger was developed to help conceal numeric data and to confuse readers of the actual reading of the script – which it does. It was developed during a time when there was increased pressure to end paganism and to convert northern Europeans to Christianity. Part of the process was to end the use of runes and use Latin letters.

If one looks at this new alphabet as a riddle, the when and who are answered. It is such a clever riddle that overnight it must have gone viral, as we say, and supplanted the older twenty-four rune Futhork. Mongé notes that often a riddle master will create an alphabet within a riddle to conceal a message. This is what this fellow evidently did and the rest is history.

Here, then, is the riddle, the writer and when:

Younger Futhark transcribed to Latin letters: FUThARKHNIASTBMLʀ

This begins just as the original Futhark alphabet with the same six letters, same order, similar appearance. The last five are the most interesting: TBMLʀ. It almost says ‘table’ or even ‘tumble.’ Immediately preceding this is AS and then just before this is NI as if it says ‘nigh’ which means ‘here.’ The H of nigh precedes it. The letters have been ‘tumbled.’ Clearly then, it says ‘nigh as table’ with an M stuck into the middle to add confusion. There are many arrangements that can be made if one were to form a table from these sixteen symbols. The obvious break is after the first six original runes and indeed, if one reads it again it says: KH or HK in reverse which is similar to ‘hack.’ By hacking it off there the first line is presumably formed. By trial and error the riddle can go forward or one can simply notice that there are ten runes remaining.

This gives us two lines, one of 6 and one of 10 runes. These runic riddles were laced with numbers. The numbers 56 and 792 were always present in a riddle. They often included 51 and 76. By dividing the last ten into 5 and 5, two other groups are formed which is how the aetts (sets) known today must have been derived. This gives 6, 5 and 5 runes in each aett. The preferred order should have been 565 in the same way Hebrew Yahweh is numerically 5,6,5,10. The logical way to form a table is then to use 5,6,5 runes per line. Now after a bit of trial and error the following table is created and preferred for numeric reasons as shown below.

  • Notice the first column sums to 20. The 7 and 2 sum to 9. The 8 and 1 sum to 9. Then 8 and 9 are just to the right. So that 89 x 89 = 7920 and the numbers at the start were 7, 9 and 20. Find the 9, 2,3,4 in the center and note this also creates 792. Also 7,2,9 form a jumbled 792. This repeats this number 792 five times.
  • The sum of the last column is 32 which is 5.65 x 5.65. The 56 repeats at the middle end.
  • Total number of runes in inscription is 16 or half of 32.
  • If this is a Baalist/Pagan inscription then BL (ie. Baal) has values 13,15. Their sum is 28, or half of 56.
  • The sum down then up the diagonals (7,2,14,4,11) is 38 or half of 76. The sum of the bottom row is 70 then up to the 6 is 76.
  • The sum of the top row is 45 and then down to the 6 is 51.

This provides all the required numbers typically seen in Baalist/Pagan documents: 792, 56, 76 and 51.**

But this is just a simple row of numbers broken into three lines. Hardly that exciting, coincidental at the very least but not exciting to us. Now look at the letters. Those were assigned those values.The telestic and acrostics are important in riddles of this nature. Typically they reveal the name of the author and often some indication of his role.

On the right it is S K ʀ in an arc shape. Or in a bit of a loop: SKRAI. This is very suggestive of the word ‘scriva’ in Swedish meaning ‘to write.’ It is also the root of the word inscribe.

Now in an arc again from the I to A ..R..L ʀ find the word IARL which Mongé identified as earl, a title (Syversen, pg. 79).

On the opposite side moving up from T to U..NI find Tuni which is an Old Swedish name. It is short for Thorniutʀ. Interestingly, Tuni / Thorniut was name of the riddle master who wrote the Leif Ericsson inscription from Noman’s Land in 1001. (see pdf below) The name was similarly broken up into Tunæ and then the remaining letters were encoded. Here, it is found as follows:


F U Th O R K

T B M L ʀ ……………. Thorniut Iarlʀ scrai …

I wrote – Earl Thorniutʀ

Intentional, coincidental, or just imagined? Let us say it is the first because somebody at sometime designed the order of this shorter alphabet.

‘When’ is the remaining question.

Use this same table but now pay attention to why the letters TBML are in that order. Also notice TM sounds an awful lot like ‘time.’ Directly above the B or 13 is NU which suggests ‘now.’ We have: now, table and time. There apparently is some date hidden here.

If it does spell table, then the M is inserted between them for some reason. It has value 14. Four times 14 is again 56. Perhaps it is just to confuse. But what else does M represent?

On the Spirit Pond inscription stone (see pdf below) M as a runic M (in Younger Futhork) appeared as part of the date: M11 to indicate 1011. On the Leif Ericsson inscription from Nomans Land, M1 was used to indicate 1001. This reveals the one weakness that all these gematrias have in common and that is the inability to show 0’s. It is especially troubling if one has to write a number like 1000. A Roman numeral M is then very helpful. It has value 1000. Within the word table ‘TBL’ is inserted an M. Does it represent the year 1000? Or does it just refer to time ‘TM’?

The way to see (or prove) what date may be here is to use the Easter Tables (the hint was time table) which was how they determined dates such as Easter before modern calendars were invented. Each year is identified by three numbers. The Line number, the Golden Number (GN) and the Day Letter (DL). (See Landsverk.) For the year 1000 the Line # is 15, the GN is 13 and the DL is 6 and 7, a leap year.
Line # is 15. Letter L was assigned value 15.
Day letter is 13. It is nearby.
There is a 12 just before (of course) but above it is two letters: HF almost as if it says half.
Half of 12 is 6…..the day letter. ???
But this is a leap year, where is the 7? Notice the second line ends at 6 and it is a leap up to 7.
This makes year 1000 a possibility. But there is a better choice.

Another possible date is found on Line #14. The number before L is 14 and the sum above L is 14.
If NU means ‘now’ and B/13 was below it then perhaps 13 is the GN.
This year has DL 2 which is found at U above B/13 in ‘now.’
Line #14, GN 13 implies year 981. This number is found in the table at INF.
The years 982, 983 are equally implied but only 981 has its DL near/in the same group.

It is for the reader to decide which date is implied.

Was this devised as a riddle in 981 by Tuni, otherwise known as Earl Thorniutʀ, for the sole purpose of creating a new alphabet? Or was it a riddle that just went viral?

Also of interest, the original six letters is F U Th Æ R K… as in ‘Foe 3 ark 56.’ Another riddle!!

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Similar Articles by this Author – pdfs as available

* Easter Table pdf

** For numeric background see: 

**Freeborn, B.L., Validating North American Runic Inscriptions,, November 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., Ancient Riddles to Test Our Wits: The Secret Chamber,, January 2016. (Post)

Freeborn, B.L., Deciphering the Spirit Pond, Nomans Land and Narragansett Runic Inscriptions,, November 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., Et in Arcadia Ego – OUOSVAVV DM – Deciphered,, December 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., Kensington Rune Stone: A New Translation,, February 2023.

Freeborn, B.L., Runic Riddles: Time Capsules,, December 2022.

Freeborn, B.L. The Long Debated Bourne Stone,, January 2023.

Freeborn, B.L., The Nomans Land – Leif Eriksson Inscription,, December 2022. 

Freeborn, B.L., The Narragansett Inscription: A Translation with its Date of Dedication, Author and Inscriber,, October 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., The Newport Tower: Finding the Date of Dedication, its Designer and Builder,, October 2022.

Freeborn, B.L., The Runic Riddles: Younger Futhork,, December 2022.

Book References:

Landsverk, O.G., Runic Records of the Norsemen in America, Erik J. Friis, Publisher, Rushford, MN, 1974.

Landsverk, O.G., Ancient Norse Messages, Norseman Press, Glendale, California, 1969.

Mongé, Alf & O.G. Landsverk, Norse Medieval Cryptography in Runic Carvings, Norseman Press, Glendale, California, 1967.

Syversen, Earl, Norse Runic Inscriptions: with their Long-forgotten Cryptography, The Vine Hill Press, Sebastopol, California, 1979.

Derogatory article by Aslak Liestol of Alf Mongé’s work:  and…. Landsverk responded to these comments in Ancient Norse Messages pg. 126-129; and often in Runic Records of the Norsemen in America.

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