Älvdalen in Sweden is so isolated that people recently stopped using runes, and they are still speaking their old Norse-influenced language. (Photo: Albert Jankowski / Wikimedia Commons).
In Scandinavia, use of runes ended during the 13th century. In isolated Älvdalen in Sweden, however, inhabitants not only continued using runes but also developed their own language with many Norse elements.
People in Älvdalen (English: the River Valley) used runes as late as the 20th century, so-called Dalecarlian runes. Deep forests and high mountains isolate the valley located in Dalarna County in Central Sweden. The area also has its own language, Elfdalian, still spoken by locals.
In the Nordic countries, runes were the dominant written language before the introduction of Christianity and the Latin alphabet in the 800-900s.
– This is probably the last use of runes in Scandinavia. It is quite exceptional, says linguist Henrik Rosenkvist to the research portal Forskning.no.
It is know that some places in Gotland and Iceland used runes until the 1600s.
Dalecarlian runes from 1635. (Foto: Skvattram /Wikimedia Commons)
The runes in Älvdalen are found on houses, furniture and the like. They were also carved into wooden sticks that were sent as messages between farms.
In the Viking Age, there were only 16 different runes. In Älvdalen, there were introduced new runes – or borrowed letters from the Latin alphabet.
- See also: The Runic Alphabet – Futhark
The Vikings wrote the letter “i” with a vertical bar, but people in Älvdalen started putting a dot over it, which shows a clear influence from Latin letters.
The runes in Älvdalen is a further development of the runes used in the Viking Age in combination with the Latin alphabet. (Illustration: Tasnu Arakun, Wikimedia Commons)
The Elfdalian language is also of great interest to linguists because it provides knowledge of how our Norse ancestors spoke.
The researchers stress that Elfdalian has evolved since the Viking Age and has several new and interesting characteristics.
Sweden has not recognized the language as official, but language researchers believe it is more than a dialect that sounds like a mix between Faroese and Icelandic.
Today, about 2,500 people speak Elfdalian that has long been under strong pressure from Swedish.
People in the isolated valley are proud of their unique language and the inhabitants are trying to keep it alive through language courses and books.
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews