Sunday Frames: Everyday Runes

The Awdrey-Gore Legacy” is a strange col­lec­tion of draw­ings and micro­texts, seem­ing­ly loose­ly inspired by a game of Clue and the detec­tive genre. It’s filled with poten­tial mur­der weapons, sus­pects, sit­u­a­tions, and enig­mas. As with quite a few of Edward Gorey’s works, it’s some­thing of an aleato­ry piece where the read­er is allowed to men­tal­ly arrange and rearrange the pieces to see if some kind of plot or story aris­es. But that’s not what I want­ed to talk about here.

It’s the runes that I want to draw your atten­tion to.

When we come across runes in a game or story today, more often than not it will be in a con­text of magic and fan­ta­sy. Granted, Gorey may have used them here to give the item an aura of mys­tery, but he him­self sub­verts this through the actu­al mes­sage con­tained in the runic note: it’s a shop­ping list: eggs, but­ter, cheese, and all that.

In a his­tor­i­cal con­text, Gorey’s list isn’t as out of place as it may seem. While the major­i­ty of known runic inscrip­tions were memo­ri­als, and only a small part was mag­i­cal, runes were used for more every­day pur­pos­es as well. It is par­tic­u­lar­ly from medi­ae­val Norway that we know of peo­ple writ­ing (love) let­ters and mar­riage pro­pos­als on wood­en rune sticks, as well as the use of wood­en labels to mark own­er­ship of com­mer­cial wares. To use runes for a shop­ping list is then not that far-fetched.gorey_runes_shopping

Sunday Frames is a series of short pieces where the author muses on one or a small num­ber of stills, frames, pic­tures, screen­shots, or illus­tra­tions.

Odile Strik

About Odile Strik

Odile A. O. Strik is editor-in-chief of The Ontological Geek. She is also a linguist from the Netherlands. She occasionally writes in other places, such as her own blog Sub Specie. You can read her innermost secrets on Twitter @oaostrik.