In The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 1; it reads:

there were great bundles of fireworks of all sorts and shapes, each labeled with a large G [elvish G] and the elf- rune, [dwarvish G-rune].

That seems to indicate that the dwarvish rune is an elf-rune. Is it a typo, or Tolkien's mistake, or am I missing something?

  • 2
    Nice catch, and an interesting question. – Nerrolken Nov 17 '14 at 22:13

The distinction is a bit more subtle.

The "large G" symbol isn't actually a rune, it's handwriting; to be more specific it's the letter "G" in Tolkien's Feanorean alphabet (Tengwar).

The "Elf-rune" "G" is however a rune, but it's also of Elvish origin. This is given in Appendix E(ii) to Return of the King (the Angerthas tables) where it's clear that it's origin is the runes of Doriath (Cirth) devised by Daeron.

In the Dwarvish runes used in the Hobbit (based on Anglo-Saxon runes), this symbol was actually used for "F" and the rune for "G" was different.

So there was no switch; both letters given are Elvish, but only the second is a rune.

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    The fact that the Elves used runes too may be confusing (it's at least not obvious from the main text of LotR), but the Dwarf runes were actually adapted from the Elf runes; see Silmarillion chapter 10: "In those days, it is said, Daeron the Minstrel, chief loremaster of the kingdom of Thingol, devised his Runes; and the Naugrim that came to Thingol learned them". For added fun, the Dwarves also used Tengwar; there's a Tengwar inscription on the foreground gold pot in Tolkien's Conversation with Smaug painting. – user8719 Nov 17 '14 at 22:15

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