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David Salo Helps Middle-earth News Solve the Mystery of Kíli’s Runestone

When you’re obsessed Tolkien fans like we are, it doesn’t take much to send you off on a quest for knowledge that results in pages upon pages of research written entirely in runes!

It all started with one simple scene from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, when Kili the Dwarf shows Tauriel the Elf a runestone that was given to him by his mother. It is to remind him of a promise he is to keep, and though he explains it’s meaning, we just had to know more about those mysterious runes!

Kíli's Runestone

Kíli’s Runestone

Philippa Boyens shed some more light on this unique stone in a recent interview with Collider,

“ […] it’s made from a  stone called labradorite which is a stone that I’ve never come across before.  But anyone who’s never encountered labradorite before should go and look it up, because it’s extraordinary.  It’s very dark and deep.”

It was wonderful to read more about the stone but it still left our questions about the runes unanswered.

I patiently waited for an eager fan to take a stab at translating these runes. After no real luck and endless Internet searching, I pushed the issue to the back of my mind. That is until I took a closer look at the Denny’s Hobbit Menu. Look closely at the runes featured at both the bottom and top:

Denny's Menu with Runes

Denny’s Menu with Runes


Coincidence? I think not! They are in fact the EXACT same runes that are featured on Kíli’s runestone. The only difference being that the rune sequence is repeated two times. The second time, there is a “command” (the little line) missing from the fourth rune.

Here is a closer look at the runes themselves:

A closer look at the runes on Kíli's stone

A closer look at the runes on Kíli’s stone

Interestingly enough, they are NOT depicted in Cirth Erebor, the obvious choice for this company of Dwarves. Instead they are written in Cirth Moria (such as those seen on Balin’s tomb in Fellowship of The Ring). An interesting choice I must say. That being said, these runes translate to INIKHDÊ. Now that was the easy part.

What came next lead all of us here at Middle-earth News on a bit of a wild goose chase! This word, INIKHDÊ, has no direct translation in Khuzdul (the language of the Dwarves). After furiously searching through Khuzdul word roots, prefixes, and other bits and pieces, we came to a complete dead end.

However, we would not give up our quest for answers! Who better to look to than David Salo, world-renowned Middle-earth linguist. Salo has done translations and language construction for both Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. After a conversation with us via email, he posted this explanation for us to his blog,

“I’ve received an inquiry about the meaning of the runes on Kíli’s talisman stone. The words inscribed on it are innikh dê.

The first is the singular imperative of the verb nanakha “return, come back”, which has a triliteral root √n-n-kh which obviously has been formed from the biliteral root √n-kh “come,” which is in turn clearly related to Adûnaic nakh-. The pattern is iCCiC, as is generally the case with other imperatives.

Dê combines a preposition d(u) “to, toward” (whose real-world inspiration is the Gothic preposition du) with the 1st person singular pronominal suffix -ê.

The meaning of the phrase on the stone is therefore “return to me.” Its precise application in Kíli’s case is something I’m not privy to, and I expect that passionate film fans can guess it more easily than I can.”


Well there you have it folks!! Kíli’s runestone can be officially translated to “RETURN TO ME” and we can all agree that makes perfect sense in the context of the movie. Kíli’s mother gave him the runestone to remind him to keep his promise to her. She simply wished for him to return to her.

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  1. Excellent attempt at solving the mystery on your own, and then going to the source for confirmation!

  2. YES THANK. This helps me out more than you’d believe!!!

  3. Amazing … I was curious what is written on the runestone. This article was wonderful. Thank you very much.

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  5. Pingback: Resuelta la duda sobre el talismán de Kili en El Hobbit | El Anillo Único

  6. A proper look into the meaning of the stone, sadly kinda wasted as Kili explains this in the movie….

  7. Either Tauriel has super-tiny hands, or Kili has giant man-hands

  8. Subliminal advertising on behalf of Denny’s? They must really want you to come back!

  9. So Denny’s are using a bit of a subliminal message to get customers to return?

  10. So Denny’s want’s it’s food returned, I hope before it’s eaten.

  11. Angela Hughes says:

    Now we need replicas made and sold. I want one so bad!

  12. HOLY SH** – I am so proud of my favorite hobbit nerd and her determination to solve things- also her adept senses in catching the runes on the denny’s menu

  13. Pingback: Middle-earth News – Kili: A Love Less Ordinary

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  15. Awesome detective work! Thank you for working so hard for us! Even if I kinda thought I knew what it meant,it makes me feel better to know for sure with confirmation! 🙂

  16. Thank you for additional information on Kili’s runes tone. However, there is another part of the significance of the stone. In “The Hobbit 3,” Kili and Tauriel must part as Kili must join his Kin in Erebor. Since Tauriel cannot come with him, he gives her the rune stone as a promise that he will return to her, or her to him, just as his mother gave it to him. Her acceptance of the stone is the consummation of them promising to be reunited with each other. So the same significance is repeated here between now Kili and Tauriel. The only thing is that the belief of Kili’s mother is that as long as Kili has the rune stone, he will remember his promise and return to her and not do anything wreckless, like get himself killed. And then, of course, Kili dies in an effort to defeat Bolg and Azog. This was wreckless and goes against his mother’s wish for him to exercise caution and I think that when he gave away the rune stone, though a noble romantic gesture, he also gave away his promise to his mother to exercise caution. The result, he is lost to both Tauriel and his mother. The stone’s message is not just a promise, it is an editorial comment on the for every rose there is a thorn part of love, and there is a lot of underlying meaning surrounding it. There is a lot of bitter sweet irony surrounding it and there is a lot more that could be surmised about its deeper meaning, but I am going to stop here because I’m fairly confident of the accuracy of what I just said, but the other aspects of the deeper meaning of the stone are conjecture and therefore debatable.