Some Runes Used in “Once Upon A Time” Season 4

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So, Queen Elsa has made her appearance in “Once Upon A Time” ABC TV series. And it looks like the production team care enough to include some ancient runes in their properties. Thus I can play my favorite runes deciphering game once again. Let’s take a look at some.

(Note: Google Chrome browser may not display runic font properly. You may need IE or Firefox to read at some point)

The Gravestones (episode 01)
The Queen’s Diary (episode 01)
The Urn (episode 03)
The Scroll (episode 06)
The Family Tree (episode 06)
The Book of Lost Tales (episode 07)
The Mama’s Letter (episode 10)

The Gravestones (episode 01)
I have seen the sneak peek of this scene quite a while. They seem to be Elder Futhark runes which are different from the movie (see my old post about this). But due to the strange spelling and the video was too blur, I couldn’t make it out. Until lately I find that they are just direct transcribing of plain English. It turns out that the they’d also misused some characters. For instance, they use “ᛜ” (ingwaz) for the letter “n” where it should normally represent “ŋ” (ng), and that confused me at first. They use “ᛇ” (eihwaz) or “ei, ï” instead of simple “i”. They also use “ᚦ” (thurisaz) couple with “ᚺ” (hagalaz) for “th” while the letter “ᚦ” alone should be sufficient. The inscriptions on both stones are also identical. And here is what we get.


The first line is still hard to read. The best I can guess is as follows.

Runes Transliterate
ᚺᛖᚱᛖ ᛚᛇᛖᛋ here lïes
ᚦᚺᛖ ᚲᛇᛜᚷ þhe kïŋg
ᚨᛜᛞ aŋd
ᚲᚹᚢᛖᛖᛜ kwueeŋ
ᛟᚠ ᚨᚱᛖᛜᛞᛖᛚᛚᛖ of areŋdelle

So, in OUAT, they suggest that these are really graves of the king and queen of Arendelle, not just the memorial stones.

Update: I’ve just found someone’s personal picture post in Google+. It is the set they were shooting at and that confirms the text.

The Queen’s Diary (episode 01)
Text in the diary are quite clear and easy to read. To be honest, I can read the diary before the gravestones. This confirms me that they really use Elder Futhark for plain English transcription. Runes in here are also used more proper than in the gravestones. At least they use “ᚾ” (nauthiz) for letter “n”. They (mostly) use “ᛏᚺ” (teiwaz+hagalaz) for “th”. That is ok if they mean to do letter by letter transcribing. Now, from the left hand side page, we get these fragments.

þher be some ??? ?? are painful
and theight in them sets ??? ????
of some kinds of baseness are
nobly undergone and most poor
matters point to rïch ends
þhis my mean task would be as
heay to me as odious o she
is wen times more gentle than
her fathers: ï must remoe some
thousands of these logs and pile
them up upon a sore injunction:
my sweet mistress point to rïch
ï must remoe some thousands
of these logs and pile them up
upon a sore injuncton my sweet
mistress weeps when she sees me
work and says such baseness had

It’s not hard to see that text in the right hand side page are somewhat repeated text from the left. Note that I can translate these text in effortless because I have unexpected reference. It is actually the Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest” Act 3 Scene 1. I started by translating few words and search them in the internet to see if anyone has already done this similar work but ultimately found that these are from “The Tempest”. Here is the passage of the original text.


There be some sports are painful, and their labor
Delight in them sets off: Some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone. And most poor matters
Point to rich ends. This my mean task
Would be as heavy to me as odious, but

The mistress which I serve quickens what’s dead
And makes my labors pleasures: O, she is
Ten times more gentle than her father’s crabbed,
And he’s composed of harshness. I must remove
Some thousands of these logs and pile them up,

Upon a sore injunction: My sweet mistress
Weeps when she sees me work, and says such baseness
Had never like executor. I forget:
But these sweet thoughts do even refresh my labors,
Most busy lest, when I do it.

I’m kind of impressed though it’s not relevant to the story. “Tempest” is still a meaningful choice in the scene when Elsa has learned something about their parent’s decision to go. Also The Tempest has very interesting plot in parallel to Frozen. In The Tempest, King Alonso and company in the ship are struck by the storm created by magic of Prospero, his old enemy, during the journey back from his daughter’s wedding.

The Urn (episode 03)
“I think these are ancient Futhark runes. I can’t read it” said Elsa.
You sure can’t, Elsa. For ones who know Nordic runes can identify in no time that the inscription is not Futhark, particularly those triangles. The symmetry figures look more like decorations than a meaningful writing. I doubt that the inscription is just a plot device to hold Elsa from destroying it. I don’t think those are real letters nor have any meaning.

But if we really want to do some (over?) analysis. They seem to fit with Old Italic script, a branch of Greek alphabets, which is the writing system used centuries Before Christ. And Elsa was right, these alphabets were literally ancient than any Futharks.

Old Italic Script
old italic

The writing direction of Old Italic can be either right-to-left or left-to-right. So the symmetry of those letters could be one word written in both directions.

rtl ltr dipdip

Two first alphabets are obviously “D” and “I” respectively. But I’m not sure about the last one. It could be “G” or “P” depends on variation of the writing though I tend to believe it is G. So the direct transliteration is.


Strange. I don’t know what language it is or what should it mean. To me, I’d rather leave it as untranslatable runes than to take it as the DIG DIG spell. Or maybe I am missing something.

The Scroll (episode 06)
This is from OUAT 4.06 promo. Many has already did the translation. I don’t know yet what it’s all about. It just read like this. Note that we can see more beginning lines in the Canadian promo as pointed out by Fabian’s comment below.

I have travelled the
world near and far
my search knows no
my obsession will
not leave me
my search will
continue to the ends
of the earth
one thing I know
for sure
the name of the
savior is emma
the savior shall be
my sister
the family must be

Pretty much Elder Futhark though they have misused some runes for example the use of ᚦ (þ) for ‘c’, the use of ᛉ (z) for ‘y’ and their invention of upside-down rune ᛗ (m) for ‘w’.

The Family Tree (episode 06)
This is the clearest picture I can get for now. May update later.
Looks like the production team have mastered their Elder Futhark skill. Still some errors to be found like the name should be “Harald” not “Herald” as spelt in runes.
unknown queen
I tried hard to see the name of the last queen. It looks like something “dafilotd”, “dafiwgle”. But still couldn’t make it out.

The Book of Lost Tales (episode 07)
Emma, What Belle brought to you is “The Book of Lost Tales”, a book edited by Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R.Tolkien, the creater of the Lord of the Rings. This book contains many early outlined “tales” of Middle-earth written by J.R.R.Tolkien but never been published.

On the left page there the excerpt from the chapter about “The Tale of Tinúviel”. The right page passages are just repeating of it.

Then was there much eagerness alight, and
Eriol told them of his first
wanderings about the western havens, of
the comrades he made, and the
ports he knew; of how he was one time
wrecked upon far western islands and
there upon a lonely eyot found an an-
cient mariner who dwelt forever solitary
in a cabin on the short, that he had fash-
ioned of the timbers of his boat.
More wise was he, said Eriol, in all matters
of the sea than any other I have
met, and much wizardry was there in
his lore. Strange things he told me of
regions far beyond the Western Sea, of
the Magic Isles and that most lonely
one that lies behind. Once long ago, he
said, he had sighted it glimmering
afar off, and after had he sought it
many a day in vain.

Text are plain English written in Anglo-Saxon Futhorc Runes not Elder Futhark Runes and that’s why this time Elsa cannot read it but Belle can (seriously?).

The Mama’s Letter (episode 10)
And finally, they have made it right to the script. The Anglo-Saxon Futhorc in the letter are transcribed almost exactly the same as Anna read. No repeated text, no irrelevant text this time. Beautiful.





dearest darling daughters,
you nœd to know the truth about
hwy we went to this voyage.
it wasnt hwat we told you.
i wish we could be telling you
in person but alas that does not
appear possible.

elsa, anna, time is running out. i do
not know if your father and i
will ever get back to you.
but i nœd you to know we
were so wrong. we were wrong to
tell elsa to conceal her powers.
you must know this. i fœl terrible
this happened before and i
cannot let it happen again.

years ago i made the same
mistake with my sister ingrid.
she like you had ice powers.
i never told you about my
sisters helga and ingrid they
were beautiful and kind and
ingrid they they were beautiful
and kind and wonderful and i
was fearful and i let that fear
guide me. i made the mistake
of letting ingrid hide hwen we
should have celebrated her for
how she was. i loved her so much.

in this crystal are the memoy
of my sisters which i stole from
the people of arendelle.
please return them. my sisters
deserve to be known. in a

cave in the north valley, you will
find an urn that contains my
sister ingrid. please do hwat i
should have done years ago and
release her. she deserves to
be remembered and more
importantly like you, ersa and
anna, she deserves to be loved.

hwen you sœ her, please terr her
i love her and that i am sorry. terr
her i would give anything to take
back hwat i did, to hold hands with
her iust one more time.

all my love, mama.


23 thoughts on “Some Runes Used in “Once Upon A Time” Season 4

    Lucas H said:
    14 October 2014 at 02:20

    And what about the runes in the third episode? The urn shows six runes and i cant figure them out. Help me please!

      panya responded:
      15 October 2014 at 10:27

      I’ve just updated the blog about that.

      Uzair Ismail said:
      5 December 2014 at 04:50

      I think it means LID LID

    Justine D. said:
    28 October 2014 at 18:10

    Hey 🙂 In the sneak peek of 406, they show a page with runes, possessed by the Snow Queen. Can you translate it please? 🙂

    Kristi said:
    30 October 2014 at 09:28

    I wonder why they didn’t use the Nordic runes on the King and Queen’s gravestones from the Frozen film; there’s an article online on that, and it reveals their names.

    Fabian said:
    30 October 2014 at 13:48

    In the Canadian promo of episode 06 you can see more of the scroll, and if I’m right the fist lines says “My obsession will not leave me”

      panya responded:
      30 October 2014 at 15:34

      Thank you for pointing me this. I’ll update the post.

    Fabian said:
    30 October 2014 at 13:57

    And above those lines there are more one of them says. I think, “… search knows no…”

    Catherine said:
    3 November 2014 at 13:03

    Runic scroll fully deciphered in latest episode:
    I have traveled the world near and far
    My search knows no bounds
    My obsession will not leave me
    My search will continue to the ends of the earth
    And this I know for sure
    The name of the savior is Emma
    The savior shall be my sister
    The family must be complete

    Gotta love runes ^^
    Oh! and interesting fact, they decipher it wrong in the show XD

    Rwo said:
    3 November 2014 at 17:11

    Can we hope to see an update about the runes on the book that Elsa found in the library, with a family tree please?

    Justine D. said:
    4 November 2014 at 06:25

    I hope it will help you for the family tree 🙂

    James, The Reviewest said:
    4 November 2014 at 08:26
    panya responded:
    4 November 2014 at 10:20

    Thanks everyone for the pictures. Now we can see that the small caption above each name is “his majesti” and “her majesti”. But I still could not figure out the last queen name.

    Mat said:
    6 November 2014 at 22:17

    I have been trying to decipher the rune alphabet they have been using here, and I have gotten down to everything except two letters. X and Z. I was excited when I had seen the Queen’s Diary, but sadly the part about the “eXecutor” was cut off, and was not continued into the right page. Please help?

      panya responded:
      7 November 2014 at 01:13

      If you mean to transcribe English words into Elder Futhark runes. Some alphabet should be replaced by its consonant cluster for example ‘Q’ and ‘X’ should be replaced by ‘KW’ and ‘KS’ (that is ‘ᚲᚹ’ and ‘ᚲᛋ’). And there is Algiz rune ‘ᛉ’ for ‘Z’. By contrast, for the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc runes, the Eolh rune ‘ᛉ’ (yes! same shape but different usage) is for ‘X’ while the Sigel rune ‘ᛋ’ can be used for ‘S’ and ‘Z’.

        Mat said:
        7 November 2014 at 09:07

        Thank you so much for answering. So for “Z”, could I use the “broom stick”, the upside down “Y”, as they have used “Y” rune in this series? Also, I noticed they used a rune that looks similar to a “P”, for “Q” in the images. You can find the rune in the “Family Tree” picture for “Queen”, but I have seen others use the combination of “KW” for “Q” in other alphabets. I have been going over runes for a while, and have seen a lot of different types and variations, (even memorized one of alphabets, but then also noticed, not everything matched up exactly with other writings). I am really just trying to learn the runes and such, so that I can translate the runes I come across. If you have any suggestions on what I should go over, which variation of the rune alphabet is most commonly used and seen, that would be very helpful. I apologize if the message does not come out as clear as it needs to be, it is a bit hard to describe the runes. Thank you again for your help.

        panya responded:
        7 November 2014 at 12:45

        Use the Y-like rune for “Z” but don’t use the “broom stick” (upside down “Y”). It could be trilled “R” or “K” but has nothing to do with “Z”. Don’t take OUAT’s runic transcription seriously. They’ve made a lot of errors and I have ‘tolerated’ most of them. What is supposed to read as “My”, “Queen” were actually written as “Mz”, “Wueen”.
        About the variations. To me, three popular variations of runes are Elder Futhark, Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, and Younger Futhark. To transcribe modern English I think Elder Futhark would do best. Anglo-Saxon Futhorc also ok to modern English while Younger Futhark’s lack of characters might cause ambiguity, it is more suited to Old Norse (Viking) language.

    Mat said:
    7 November 2014 at 21:28

    Ah, alright. And isn’t the “U” rune the same as the “V” rune, in at least some variations? They actually use the letter “V” in the OUAT’s transcription. Also, when you say “thrilled”, do you mean “merkstave”? I will look into those three other variations, I had been working with Old Norse in the beginning. Thank you again for all of your help.

      panya responded:
      7 November 2014 at 22:09

      I’m not sure how V can be orthographicaly transcribed. Could be U as you said. But I think it can be phoneticaly transcribed as W or F, depends on how it’s pronounced.
      * sorry, I mean “trilled” not “thrilled”.

    Justine D. (@Lady_Junky) said:
    22 December 2015 at 02:57

    I know it is been a long time now, but we have a HQ+ pic of the Family Tree ->

    It is possible that the last name of the Queen is Daphne?

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