Lindy Brady
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The ‘dark Welsh’ as slaves and slave raiders in Exeter Book riddles 52 and 72
in Writing the Welsh borderlands in Anglo-Saxon England
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Exeter Book Riddles 52 and 72 have a clever polysemic solution that depicts 'the dark Welsh' as both slaves and slave raiders in Anglo-Saxon England. Understanding the specific geography of these riddles alongside their dual allusions to cattle and human captivity creates a portrait of the Welsh borderlands that mirrors its historical reputation as the site of frequent cattle and slave raids. In the late Anglo-Saxon period, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle depicts the Welsh borderlands as a distinct region within Anglo-Saxon England, one which acted as a significant, independent political force over the course of the eleventh century. The Exeter Book Riddles serve as an important counterpoint to the image of the Welsh borderlands seemingly provided by Offa's Dyke. Riddles 52 and 72 contain pervasive imagery of bondage which echoes that used to reference human captivity elsewhere in the Old English corpus.

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