In the introduction, Olson writes, "My runes have come from the wilderness, for in its solitude, silence, and freedom .... I know there are moments of insight when ancient truths do stand out more vividly, and one senses anew his relationship to the earth and to all life".
Runes of the North explores these values, insights, and truths. Olson weaves the tales and myths with his own stories and experiences as an explorer, writer, grandfather, and biologist. "This inner world has to do with the wilderness from which we came", he writes, "timelessness, cosmic rhythms, and the deep feelings men have for an unchanged environment".
Olson tells of Native American legends and traditions, like dream catchers and wild rice harvests, as well as the pure pleasure of the Finnish sauna. Each story portrays the special magic one finds in the wilderness and is filled with moments, that Olson writes, "are worth waiting for, and when they come in some unheralded instant of knowing, they are of the purest gold".