As we read through the books in the Magic Tree House Series we are diving deeper into them and learning more about the subjects. In book 2, The Knight at Dawn Annie and Jack journey to the Middle Ages and arrive at a castle. In today’s, activity based on the series, we are looking at one of the forms of language from the early Middle Ages and the only way that we can read what was happening. Making Runes and Using them for coding, and deciphering secret messages.
RUNES – Early MIDDLE AGES Language
During the Roman Empire, the Latin Alphabet was used to record events around the empire. However, in Nordic countries and Germanic Speaking Countries (Northern Europe and the UK) instead of the Latin Alphabet Runes were used.
With the fall of the Roman’s in the 5th Century AD, Runes became the main written language for much of the middle ages in Northern Europe.
Although having magical and divine meanings in some areas they also formed the main alphabet where names, events and more were recorded.
In the UK, Anglo-Saxons had their own version of the Runes and that is what we are going to use especially as we are lucky enough to live near an Anglo-Saxon burial site and living museum.
The Anglo-Saxons are one of the first eras in the Medieval Times. It starts as the Roman Empire Falls and continues through to the Viking Invasions in the 9th Century. Although the Anglo-Saxon Runes were in use from 400AD to around 1100AD post-Viking Invasions.
Living with the land in much of England they had kingdoms and kings. Stories and Folk Tales were passed down by word of mouth and very little was written.
What was written was either exclusively in runic language or for the most important events in both Runes and Latin Alphabet.
The influence of Anglo-Saxon runes and the runic alphabet can’t be avoided today. Words like read, “ridan” (to read the runes) and write, “writan” (to carve the runes) are derived from this language.
And the reason we “spell” words is related to the magical use of runes. You used to the runes to cast a spell. So when it came to putting down the same word Spell was used for spelling out the letters to write.
DIY RUNES FOR KIDS
To explore this early medieval language we are making our own set of runes and then using them to code words and read messages from others.
We are making ours from wood slices, but you could also use clay or stones. I would stick to natural materials as the Anglo-Saxons would have as well.
Materials Needed to Make Your Own Medieval Wooden Runes
- Wood Slices
- Broad Brush Marker
- The Anglo-Saxon Rune Alphabet (see below)
How to Make your Own Anglo-Saxon Runes
By derivative work: Rursus (talk) Anglosaxonrunes-editable.svg: *derivative work: Rursus (talk) Anglosaxonrunes.JPG: riginal uploader was Jack Daniel at en.wikipedia – Anglosaxonrunes-editable.svg Anglosaxonrunes.JPG, Public Domain, Link
- Open in your browser the copy above of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Alphabet and print off.
- Collect together a wood slice for each letter of the alphabet.
- On a slice draw the first letter of the Runic Alphabet “ ? “
- Flip the wooden slice over and on the reverse write the corresponding “English” letter f
- Repeat for all of the letters in the runic alphabet
Using your DIY Wooden RUNES
Now is the time to have some fun.
Use the wooden runes to make some words. As you have the letters in English on one side you can flip them over and find the runic letter to write the message in and then hand it to someone to decipher and read.
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More Activities to Do with Learning About the Middle Ages
Add to the reading with some of the books in our selection of Fiction books about the Middle Ages for School Kids.
Work on some math skills by creating your own Castle Battlements Number Line and use it to add, subtract and skip counting depending on the skills you are working on.
Why not bake a recipe straight from the Middle Ages with this Viking Bread with Free Printable Recipe Card perfect for the village chief or Anglo-Saxon King.
Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.