When the Norsemen from The Thirteenth Warrior decide to help a neighboring lord get rid of the monster that has been feeding on his warriors at night. they summon an old woman, a seer to help them plan their quest. She throws a set of objects that look like dice made out of bones on the ground. Based on the symbols and on the way those objects fall, she is able to advise the men on their quest. The seer tells them that to be successful their number is to be thirteen, twelve Norseman and a foreigner. From there, twelve Norseman and the Arab start their journey with the words of the woman as their only guide. The objects she throws on the ground are runes, and in the dark ages, men believed that their destiny, their "wyrd", was written upon them.
The word runes has two meanings. One is an alphabet that was used in Northern Europe; the other is an attempt to break through the veil of the unknown by means of fortune telling. The exact origin of the runic alphabet is unknown. It was used by Germanic people of Northern Europe, Britain, Scandinavia, and Iceland from about the 3rd century BC to the 16th or 17th century AD. Runic writing is not an ancient language. Its characteristics, such as its"angular letter form" and its left to right direction, seem to indicate that it belongs to an older system, with origins probably around Mediterranean. The origin of the name is probably related to the attribution of magic power by the ancient Germanic tribes, who like all primitive peoples, attributed mystical meaning to the mysterious symbols scratched on armor, jewels, and tombstones. However the only proof of this lies in the fact that in both Old Germanic and Gothic the root "ru" means "mystery, secret, secrecy".
The original set of runes is called elder Futhark, which is named after
the first six runes. It developed as traders, adventurers, and warriors
traveled throughout the European continent, spreading the runes. There
were twenty-four original runes, but variations began to occur. Variations
contained 33 different letters. The Vikings simplified it to 18.
Whether the runes told the future we shall never know. Modern attempts at rune-reading would probably make the rune-readers of the old laugh. But runes, as a written language, enabled folklore to survive close to 15 centuries and to be read by us. Many very important works such as Beowulf and "The Wanderer" survived because there was an organized form of a written language.