In the final shot of the first Hobbit film, there is a series of a runes displayed prominently on the wall

behind the treasure hoard which hides Smaug

I cannot, unfortunately, locate a screenshot for it - too current, I think. Can anyone tell me what it said, both in the Tolkien language and in English?

For bonus points, can anyone tell me what the sign that Gandalf placed on Bilbo's door was?

  • 1
    The runes are a bit blurry, and as such, I cannot read them properly, but some runes look as if they are from the cirth language which Plutor posted, and I am not fluent in that one as of yet, but in the other dwarfish language used in the Hobbit books, I have memorized the runes used in it. The Rene on the door, however, is the cirth rune 'g', which is coincidently the rune 'f' in the language that I know well. The meaning as the dwarves said it is not a literal translation, but the way that the 'g' mark is interpreted in this case. Of course, for all I know, they could just be messing with B
    – user19098
    Oct 20, 2013 at 6:39
  • @Shymain I've converted your answer to a comment, as it doesn't seem to answer the question, but instead discuss it. Check out our help center for more advice on this. As it is, it's still helpful so I've kept it. Thanks for posting. (p.s, comments are 'switched on' for users with Rep higher than 50)
    – AncientSwordRage
    Oct 20, 2013 at 8:17
  • 2
    I think it translates as “I’m back, bitches. -P.J.” Apr 25, 2014 at 16:39
  • I am still waiting for Part 2 of this question. It’s been almost seven years. Dec 17, 2019 at 18:16

5 Answers 5


Took me a while! I actually had the same question, then researched online and found this thread.

Possible Answer:

The way Tolkien writes 'The Hobbit' seen in the published books:

enter image description here Source

lead to the easiest clue; the first section is the word 'The". Yes, I know, so intense. Further analysis if TOLKIEN'S RUNES (I tried Elder, Younger and Modern Futhark initially) reads 'Founda-.

So after watching that hi-res video of Joe Letteri talking about the VFX in The Hobbit, I could finally make out the inscriptions on the pillars in Erebor.

See this screengrab:

enter image description here

On the "top row" of the "left face" can be seen the writing "the founda", and I can only assume the sentence continues on the same face of the pillar at its bottom (to read "foundation" or "foundations" I suppose) as it's obvious there's writing along the "bottom row" of the "left face" of that same pillar, the last few that seem to read "ereb" (meaning "Erebor" perhaps).

On the "top row" of the "right face" of the same pillar the inscription reads "hammer".

It looks like there's more writing on the further pillars/walls (at the top of the flight of stairs near the statues), but even at 1080 I think it's impossible to read them.


After watching the scene frame by frame, this is what can be read in the stairs: Erebor runes

It's written in Futhorc (old Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet) and not in Cirth (Tolkien's invented runes based on Futhorc and Elder Futhark), just as all dwarvish texts in the Hobbit book. The meaning is the following:

.The founda

rebor are herebor are here f

(mae) ever

alk of Durin masters of stone

.The founda

Note: I don't understand why herebor is written in the second line; also I'm not sure about mae, thus the parentheses, as it may be an incomplete word and is very blurry in the film.

So that, it seems that the walls and stairs of Erebor narrate the foundation of Erebor by Durin's folk.

  • 2
    How is this not the accepted answer?
    – SQB
    Oct 21, 2014 at 6:52
  • @SQB I believe I answered after there was already an accepted answer. Maybe the author hasn't revisited his question. Oct 21, 2014 at 15:06
  • That's why I commented on it.
    – SQB
    Oct 21, 2014 at 18:32
  • @SQB I think the author doesn't get a notification when you make a comment on an answer. Oct 21, 2014 at 18:43

I will only take the bonus points for $200 please.

And I assure you there is a mark on this door - the usual one in the trade, or used to be. Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward, that’s how it is usually read. You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like... - Glóin

And here's Tolkien's drawing of the mark (as far as I am aware, the source is "J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator" by Hammond and Scull, on page 99, there is a colored pencil drawing by Tolkien entitled “Gandalf”, illustration number 91)

enter image description here

  • 8
    In the movie, Gandalf placed a "G" cirth rune. Can't find a screen shot, though. Dec 18, 2012 at 22:19
  • An upvote for you both, since you both gave the correct answers for the two respective canons. Dec 18, 2012 at 23:37
  • 2
    Here's a screenshot of Gandalf's rune (even though this question has been around for a while, hopefully people won't mind the new image link). Jul 2, 2013 at 8:00
  • @ChrisB.Behrens Last I checked, the movie wasn't considered in any way "canon" when in conflict with Tolkien's notes and books.
    – Misha R
    Feb 21, 2016 at 21:18

After about three days of trying to get a screenshot of that scene, this is the best I was able to do. The scene in question moves pretty quick and those stairs are pretty dark, so there's a lot of compression artifacts (and this is from the highest quality video I was able to find).

Dwarvish runes

The interesting thing about Dwarvish (Khuzdul) is that it was an extremely private language. Only a handful of words (and another handful of place names) were known to non-dwarves. Reportedly, even the "true" names of Dwarves were never shared with other races. So the vast majority of dwarvish you see is simply transliterated English. And there's apparently more than one alphabet.

I'm afraid the screenshot isn't detailed enough for me to be able to make out more than a letter or two here and there. Maybe you'll be able to find/make a higher quality image once the DVD comes out.

  • I can recognize about 5 or 6 sequential runes from that screenshot. No time now and I'd need to find a reference, though
    – Izkata
    Jan 10, 2013 at 14:12
  • @izkata, have fun translating the cover of the 50th anniversary edition Jan 10, 2013 at 15:52
  • They both look like gibberish to me.. But, the movie screenshot is sufficiently blurry that I can't be certain I'm seeing the right runes. There's more similarity than I remember.
    – Izkata
    Jan 10, 2013 at 17:36

The runes are old english Futhorc and the language is English. It's transliterated using the same unique and obvious system Tolkien used in the Hobbit (using futhorc characters for sounds that don't occur in the original language like x, j, c vs. k, v vs. u, etc., preserving silent Es). The movies used a guy that was a Tolkien linguistic expert and he probably came up with this. There is not enough attested Khuzdul (Tolkien's dwarven language) in the canon to create an inscription that long an inscription. English in futhorc is easy but tricky enough to see that someone knowledgeable created this. A real dwarven inscription would be in Khuzdul using the Cirth runes. An example is shown on Balin's tomb in both the books and the movies in the Hall of Mazarbul scene.

  • 2
    This seems more like a comment than an answer. Dec 17, 2019 at 18:18

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