The Blacksmith’s Humor: Deciphering Runes in Dark Souls

The Blacksmith’s Humor: Deciphering Runes in Dark Souls

Hi, I’m Troy McClure Skarekrow13.  You might remember me from that time I wrote something about translating the Titanite Slab from Dark Souls 3.  Well guess what?  There’s a little more where that came from.

So here we are again to clean up some of the rune-tastic fun from last time.  With all the work that went into the slab, I decided I wanted to take a peek at all the other titanite and upgrade materials and see if it had something to tell me.  Like before, this is a summary.  My full thoughts and work can be followed (and added to) in this thread.

The short answer is “yes.”  But let’s get to the long answer…

I had a few projects in mind, and two of these cleanly stem from the slab work.  I’ll do the boring one first…

Item descriptions of the smaller pieces of titanite indicate that they’re fragments of a larger piece.  I broke out my trusty “Free Sketch App” on my phone and placed the titanite shard, large shard, chunk and slab on different layers of the picture.  By doing so, I was able to move, rotate and resize them all to see if they fit together like a puzzle.

They don’t.

Oh well.  Even if they had, note how clean the rune lines are on the smaller pieces compared to the slab.  They don’t look even remotely the same.  While there’s no reason to doubt that, lore wise, small pieces are indeed part of a larger one, the actual images From used aren’t a jigsaw puzzle.

Slab and pieces

Like a puzzle but even less fun somehow

The reason I bring this project up is because you might also notice partial runes on the smaller pieces.  If I found out that say the titanite chunk fit onto the top left of the slab cleanly and changed the first rune on the slab, well that would have been something that’d have an impact on the slab work I thought I had a decent handle on.  Of note is that the shard, large shard and chunk use the same images for all three games.  On their own, they are rune fragments with the chunk being the only one identifiable (part of a Sowilo/Sol rune, which is the “sun” symbol).

Phase two was looking at infusion materials.  This gets a little wacky because each game uses something different. Dark Souls 2 had the infused titanite.  They have some properties to indicate their type (like iridescent for magic), but no writing.  So they didn’t have much to learn on the current path.

Bleed_Stone

DS2 Blood stone with what could be blood. Subtle

In Dark Souls 3 we’re introduced to gems.  There’s no writing on these either so they were quickly dismissed for this project as well. Again, properties reflect the infusion type but even more obvious than DS2.  The sharp is, well, sharp.  A pyramid associated with sorcery? Makes sense.

blood_gem

DS3 Blood gem… even less subtle

It was Dark Souls that prompted a follow up article on runes and upgrade materials.  You might remember that in Dark Souls, in addition to the standard titanite; we had green shards and three colors of chunks (and twinklies which actually appear in all three games).  Before we start with the “good stuff,” I want to put out the disclaimer that on its own, there is nothing groundbreaking here.  It’s interesting but not spectacular.  There is one other thing to note as well.  Because of my methodology on the slab, it’s easily argued that my translation is more like a faux psychic making things up to fit the known picture.  I made sure to put that in the slab article because I understand that argument completely and wanted to be the first to say it’s valid.  However, based on what I’ll describe below, there is some evidence that the slab translation really was on the right track.

We’ll go from what I think is least to most intriguing.

As noted, all three games use Twinkling Titanite.  However, in Dark Souls 3 it is a slightly different appearance.  In DS1 and DS2 the rune on it appears to have two possible choices.  Naudiz or an upside down Jeran rune.  The first would mean “need” or “hardship.” The second would be the opposite of “plenty” or “wealth.”  Something like “scarcity.” With the understanding that twinklies are supposed to be rarer forms of titanite, the “scarcity” translation seems to fit better.  But why select a flipped rune if there’s a “regular” version it also looks like?

Twinklie DS1

DS1 and DS2

Well, as noted, DS3 changed the rune slightly.  With the change, the choices are either the flipped Jeran again, or Naudiz (again) but rotated.  If you recall from the slab article, rotating the runes is technically the correct way to “invert” while rune casting.  However, “flipped” runes had strong evidence for being the choice used by From. Essentially, with “flipped” Jeran, all three games share the same meaning.  If using Naudiz, DS3 “inverts” the meaning from 1 and 2.   So the likely choice is “scarcity” I believe.  That’s fitting but hardly worth a lot of attention. Let’s throw out some fun speculation for the hell of it though…

Twinklie DS3

DS3

Jeran’s interpretation of “Plenty” is often associated with wealth, but also crops/food.  If taking that approach then, the flipped rune wouldn’t be simply “scarcity,” it would be “scarcity of food/crops.”  DS2 states that this titanite was formed by a “cosmic event.”  It could be (again, this is total speculation, but a fun thought) that the crop association does continue.  A meteor as a cosmic event could lead to crop “scarcity” for sure.

Neat!

Let’s move on to the blue chunks in Dark Souls, which make weapons all sorcerrific.

Blue Chunk

Sorcerrific!

The most likely rune for this piece is “Laguz.”  It translates cleanly to “lake” or “water.”  Notably, many of the blue chunks we find in the game are near water.  However, blue chunks are associated with magic, not water so what gives? Remember earlier I said my slab translation could be argued to be no more than charlatan “divination.” That’s because, even though I tried to stick to original and direct meanings whenever possible, a little symbolism necessarily crept in.  Anyway, using more modern usages of divination and symbolism, the laguz rune has strong ties to the mind and subconscious.  Just like sorcery!

On to the white chunks!  Remember that they reinforce divine and occult weapons.

White Chunk

Occultacious!

So what rune would you add to these?  I don’t know what your answer would be, but whoever marked the white chunk went with the Ansuz rune.  Which stands for…wait…really?  Let me check my notes on this one to be sure.  It stands for “God.”  Huh.  That seems a little too easy.

And who can forget the red chunks, associated with fire and chaos.

Red Chunk

Firetacular!

On the slab, there was this same rune.  It was the only one that could solely be attributed to the elder age.  I surmised at that point that they broke their pattern of using younger futhark runes on this one because it was a rune that changed meaning over time.  This was admittedly a gamble on my part.  In the younger futhark (different symbol, same “k” sound) it stood for “ulcer” or “disease.”  However, as written using the elder futhark, it means…lol…can’t make this shit up…”torch”.

Last but certainly not least is the green titanite shard.  Note that the green shards reinforce elemental weapons. Almost like a foundation for the other elements (this sentence is foreshadowing by the way).  One of the largest leaps I took on the slab was saying a rune might be a fill in for “Yggdrasil.” I left it out of the article, but the first game seems to borrow heavily from Norse mythology, with archtrees being strongly suggestive of Yggdrasil.  So when the slab had a symbol for “yew tree” which itself has strong ties to Yggdrasil I made the leap.  I promise that I didn’t look at the green shard before translating the slab.

Green Titanite

Greentastic!

The green shard is actually a rune fragment, not a whole rune.  However, the shown intersection can really only be taken from the Algiz rune.  I’m assuming you can guess which rune on the slab translated to “yew tree” or “Yggdrasil.”  If not, I’ll give a hint.  It rhymes with “schmAlgiz.”  For the following reasons, this titanite became my favorite find:

  • These are most commonly associated with the area in Blighttown leading to the Great Hollow and Archtrees.
  • As Yggdrasil is sort of like a foundation for all existence that “foundation of other elements” foreshadowing really comes into play doesn’t it?
  • It’s green.  Like leaves.  Trees have leaves!

So there you have it!  Whoever etched the runes onto the elemental titanite pieces was just labeling them by type. That’s…very anticlimactic actually.

If you’re wondering about the colored slabs, they’re essentially the same inscription as the regular (another shout out to dn1nd for looking at these as well).  DS1/2 and DS3 slabs differ by one rune on the first line.  That rune replaces one of the “gifts” of Yggdrasil I translated to and replaces it with the rune for “gift.”  For real.

Oh yeah! There’s also Demon Titanite. That stuff can actually bugger right off. It’s certainly not runes, and there’s other barriers to attempting to translate it as well. If you see anything from me soon on that, it’ll likely be titled “Why I Can’t Make Heads nor Tails of the Stupid Crap Known as ‘Demon Titanite’ That I Now Hate.”

If you can’t make a catchy title, you might as well make it accurate…


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15 comments on “The Blacksmith’s Humor: Deciphering Runes in Dark Souls”

  1. Avatar PrimeraEspada91 says:

    Nice delving

  2. Avatar ElCazador says:

    Enjoyed this article from the beginning to the end!

    I was doing some Mad experiments on Dark Souls II, but well, unexpected occurrences…

  3. Avatar dn1nd says:

    Loving the Articles Skare.

  4. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    Thanks everyone, this one was certainly a bit easier than the last one. A fun ride still.

  5. Teddyhh says:

    Can you translate the runes on the foreheads on the titanite demons?
    Ive heard all the runes on their foreheads are different, which might give us more insight on the story of DS.

  6. Avatar ElCazador says:

    I have an idea why the shards didn’t fit into the slab and make it complete.
    Not my personal info, but from googling:
    9 Shards for Normal+5, 9 Large Shards for Normal +10, 7 Chunks for Normal +14, and 1 Slab for Normal+15. What if a full Titanite Slab is consisted of 1 slab, 7 chunks, 9 large shards, and 9 shards?

  7. Avatar dn1nd says:

    The Titanite Demon’s Are headless. Do youmean the broken Circle that comes out of their back?

  8. mothmantis says:

    These articles are great. Made an account just so I could say so.

    Since I read the first Blacksmith article I started noticing that there seems to be quite a few written languages in-game, and I’ve been running around trying to get screenshots.

    The most obvious one apart from the titanite runes is the script used in the soapstone messages, but the one(s) that have really caught my attention are the ‘magic circles’ that appear around the PC while casting certain miracles. Given that miracles are actually ‘tales’ that are learned out of books, it seems like these circles would in some way be related to the tales in those books. I don’t know if they are or are not ‘real’ language or just a variety of pretty graphics, but they seem to follow some kind of internal logic. For example, Heal and Great Magic Barrier look very similar, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s a reskin and I need to find new games to play, or if it means Havel adopted GMB from the existing Great Heal. I’m currently trying to get decent screenshots of all of them (across the three games,) but it’s slow going because I’m terrible at this kind of stuff.

    So far, I’ve been finding pretty general stuff, like the Heal and Great Heal miracles use the same circle design across games, only difference being Great Heal is brighter and larger (which makes getting a screenshot of the full circle difficult,) and the ‘Great’ versions of miracles usually have a secondary ‘story’ above or below the main one. Gwynevere’s regen miracles have the sun pattern you see in the Sacred Oath pic below.

    Here’s a Deep miracle.

    Image

    And this is Sacred Oath.

    Image

    Great/Magic Barrier

    Image

    Heal

    Image

    Londor miracles

    Image

    Some other things I noticed that may or may not relate to this mad endeavor, mostly from DS1:

    Leeroy’s set is covered with runes that resemble the soapstone script, as does the bangle on Gough’s chest.

    The New Londo Sealer hat has a band with (I think,) 21 runestones using 11 different runes. It might just be me, but they seem like a mix of titanite and soapstone symbols.

    There’s an engraved panel that shows up in a few places in the DS1 catacombs. You can find one just past the first bonfire before the first switch is pushed in, and another copy can be seen behind the first switch before it’s pressed. I haven’t been able to get a decent screenshot, but it looks like it could be the titanite script.

    There’s an engraved panel in the summoning area at the Battle of Stoicism area just past the Artorias fight. To me, it looks like it could be the soapstone script.

    In the third game, Emma is surrounded by a miracle circle just before the Dancer shows up.

    Finally, I noticed this, it seems fairly self-explanatory, but I’d never seen it referenced anywhere. It’s a mural that appears all over the chapel before the O&S fight. It isn’t there in the third game.

    Image

    Sorry if that sounded crazy, I just had no other place on the internet to share this stuff because it sounds crazy and probably is.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    Sorry for not seeing the comments earlier. I’ve only taken close looks at titanite and summoning signs.

    I think there’s likely some meaning to just about everything, unfortunately things can become time consuming and it’s hard to go after them all.

    If there’s one hope I have for any project like this is that hopefully others jump in and expand our knowledge.

    There’s some phenomenal observations and starts here. Keep up the search everyone

  10. Avatar dn1nd says:

    The Heal Circle looks Arabic.

    Image

  11. Avatar BobTheHollow says:

    This is awesome. I am truly impressed. Kudos for both projects.

  12. slothhq says:

    Hey scare crow, i love your rune deciphering skill and i think the the ds3 community is in need of it right now. the r/darksouls3 Reddit page recently made a post regarding the runes on the executioner greatsword, it would be awesome if you add a post and link it via Reddit, im sure it would get popular quick. I hope you consider this. made a fextralife account just to post this lol.

    take a look

    http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/105103266290401334/3CB40B87208367D5B8FEA3AFB00AEEF8C99ED9A7/” rel=”nofollow

  13. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    Oh man, sorry I missed this for a few days. Crazy time of year. Hopefully you’ll see this still.

    I’d love to help, but this looks like a project that would take more time than I currently have. The slab and titanite were "easy" for me in that I knew the alphabet being used right away. The norse/viking set is one I’ve seen repeatedly since childhood and even before the project could have told you names and meanings for several runes (uruz being my favorite). It’s similar to that I took Spanish in high school. I know enough to recognize what I’m looking at and know where to locate resources to fill in the blanks.

    The set on that sword looks vaguely familiar only in that I tried my hand at the summon signs briefly. Those bear some relation to Hebrew/Yiddish but weren’t good matches to those sets in the end. I bring this up because I spent several nights staring at every character set I could find. Ultimately turning up nothing that matched the summon signs very well. The center set of characters on the sword seems reminiscent of some of the closer matches I found while looking for that match. Some of those even seem similar to Hebrew or Yiddish. Here’s a good sample of Yiddish
    http://www.omniglot.com/writing/yiddish.htm” rel=”nofollow

    On the sword there’s a few characters that could be Yiddish or Hebrew. There’s one that COULD be a rune (the same symbol used on the Demon Titanite that looks like an hourglass).

    Complicating matters is that there is at least one other line of writing (left hand side) and a possible third (right hand side). Those lines to me look similar to center but for an English analogy.: If the center is printed letters, the other lines are cursive.

    Long story just a little longer, I don’t recognize the character set cleanly. My best guesses would be that there’s likely script from more than one language used on the sword.

    None of that is to say I couldn’t help, but based on the summon sign progress (or lack thereof) it’s not something I would have time for.

    Hopefully my gut reaction might be enough to spark someone else though. For me personally it would require the right character set (or sets) to fall in my lap, then the process of identifying characters, learning how that language is constructed and then reassembling. I sadly don’t have time for the heavy lifting on this one. It’s also why I haven’t gotten back to the summon signs, demon titanite and several other things I’ve seen with writing in the games

  14. Pumpkin316 says:

    So after glaring at the Demon titanite literally all night for some reason, even after seeing the post that it’s not in runes, I may be dumb or sleep deprived but it seriously looks like the same runes from the titanite slab, so this is what I see and I’m not really that great with runes but yeah (In order from bottom to top) : d/day, s/sun, ng, p/joy, (not really sure but it could be kalc). Not gonna lie it seems kind far stretched but the explanation is: This would be far-stretched if the other titanite including twinkling were not in runes, the hourglass/"d" top part is all weird, the z/"sun" is backwards and top part is curved for some reason (only other explanation is that it’s actually two runes combined)?, the "ng" has a dot in it for some reason? Something to note is on the titanite demon is starts with the hourglass on the top but on the demon titanite, it starts on the bottom.

  15. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    It’s quite possible they decided to make deviations of runes. The first would definitely be "d." I’d say the second would be "s" as well. You keep going very strong with the third and fourth as well. The last one your guess is as good as any, because it’s so far removed from any runes I know. Ehwaz maybe? I dunno.

    And to be perfectly upfront, thinking of them as runes they "tampered with" is logical and likely the best place to start. So this next part isn’t to say "they’re not runes" it’s more of describing the barriers in making sense of them.

    First rune is close enough match I have no issue with it. Note the orientation is "correct" based on how the slab is portrayed.

    Second rune: you note the bent line, but also I’d add that the orientation is correct like the last rune. However, the sowilo rune normally doesn’t have horizontal lines. All three are generally diagonal. So there’s a couple liberties here at least.

    Third rune is surely ingwaz if it’s a rune. The diamond doesn’t appear to be equilateral which is a deviation. More importantly though is the dot in the center which is a complete addition. Now, does it merely mean ingwaz, or is the dot meaningful? If it’s meaningful, what’s the meaning?

    Fourth rune I’d agree with wunjo. Despite using a rounded line, it’s still pretty clear. However, this is the first in which the orientation is clearly different. This one would be rotated counterclockwise 90 degrees

    Last rune?

    If we go with the lore, deviated runes make a lot of sense. Since all the other titanite appears to have been marked with runes, it would stand to reason the titanite the demons grew from had writing on them at some point. Rather than have a brand new writing style, it would make sense it would become warped as the demon grew.


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