I read this many years ago (around 1990-92) and I don't remember a lot of details about the story.

There was a young man who was being raised by his uncle and aunt I believe. I really forget what the point of his journey is supposed to be - maybe finding his father or mother who disappeared. It was part of a trilogy, I think, and my library only had the first in the series and soon they didn't have that one either.

I remember there was a tinker that visited the cottage and repaired pots and pans. There was also some training given to the teenage hero that involved him chopping wood and it went into detail about the weight of the axe doing the work. There was also a horse and runes in the story.

The horse may have been magical or even talking. I think it was black and had a star or moon on its brow.

I think - but am not sure - that "Runes" was in the title.

I don't have any more details to give and realize this isn't a lot to go on. The writing seemed to be teen orientated but the only classification it had at my library was fantasy.

It was similar to Wizard of Earthsea in that it was a pre-industrial world and magic was known of but it wasn't so commonplace that just anyone could do it. So I would say it was primarily fantasy set in fictional lands, also I think the runes had something to do with learning magic.


3 Answers 3


Is this the Tales of Gom in the Legends of Ulm by Grace Chetwin?

About the first book, Gom on Windy Mountain, GoodReads has the following description:

Plot: Gom is born, the tenth child of Stig, simple woodcutter on Windy Mountain, and a mysterious woman who turns up one day and whom he calls, Wife. As Gom grows, he finds he has gifts others do not possess, neither does he age as fast as his siblings do. He also learns the dangers of his hasty tongue, running afoul of a wily pedlar, Dismas Skeller. Finding gold beneath the mountain, Gom almost dies for it, then is shunned by townsfolk below who do not recognize the true worth of the metal.

About the second book, The Riddle and the Rune, GoodReads offers the following:

Plot: Gom no sooner sets out to find his wizard mother, Harga, when strange things begin to happen. A bear appears, and the sparrow atop his staff comes to life and utters a riddle. Solve it, and his mother would appear, it says. Easy, thinks Gom, but he soon learns that it is not the regular word conundrum but a life riddle which can be solved only through experience. Plodding on, he is attacked by a vicious skull bird which almost kills him, and so the adventure begins.

The Riddle and the Rune description at Google books, says:

Gom sets forth to seek his destiny, discovering that he has new powers and a gift for making friends such as the magnificent horse, Stormfleet, who accompanies him through many adventures.

It seems to have many elements of what you describe: young man looking for mother, chopping wood (a woodcutter), an innate ability to communicate with animals and nature including a prominent horse, a tinker, the second book contains the word Rune and rune(s) play some (important?) role, and the original trilogy was published before 1990.

You can find sample chapters of the above (or other Grace Chetwin works) at the Feral Press Inc site.

I haven't read these myself, so I can't directly speak to the story elements. This is the closest I've found though.

  • This maybe it. The Riddle and the Rune I'm pretty sure I read but I'm not sure if it's the same book or one I found while searching for this one. I need to check the dates too. The one you linked to shows it as published in 1999 and that is much to late, but that may just be a republished date. I'll look into it and get back to you. Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 17:47
  • @KevinHowell First published in 1987 (GoodReads links to version/releases by cover IIRC).
    – Josh
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 17:55
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    I believe the book I read was the Riddle and the Rune. I was only able to read an excerpt so I'm still not 100% sure, but this is definitely a book I read when I was younger and I'm probably mixing two books together. It was listed as a Trilogy at the time and the next two books in the series ring my memory bell as well as books that I kept looking for at my library. Thanks for finding this. Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 17:06

Maybe the book you read is "Runestone" by Anna Ciddor, from the series viking magic? Runestone by Anna Ciddor book cover

It's about two kids who discover the powers of runes, it's a really good book.
I read it too long ago, started googling and came upon this post, but kept searching and found it!


I think it might be “The Halfmen of O”. I’ve been trying to figure this one out for years.

  • 5
    The question already has an accepted answer, so this cannot be the book the OP was looking for. However your suggestion could be useful for other people looking for a similar book; please consider editing it to add other important details: the author, a short summary, ....
    – lfurini
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 17:03

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