The ExeterBook riddles present a symphony of acoustic effects, deploying a multitude of linguistic resources to reflect aesthetically on the metaphysical relationship, long examined by philosophers and grammarians, between sounds, speech, concepts, and subjects and objects both animate and inanimate. 1 This chapter discusses the different ways that sounds signify in these riddles, especially the sensory, cognitive, and culturally formed categories through which sound effects evoke the rhythms and textures of natural phenomena, technologically produced
discussion of transformative fear in three ExeterBook riddles: XII Hund Heafda (R.86), solved as ‘One-Eyed Seller of Garlic’; Gryrelic Hleahtor (R.33), solved as ‘Iceberg’; and Nama Min is Mære (R.26), solved as ‘Bible’.
Riddles and memory
There are several dimensions in which riddles are related to memory, and these may have both narrative and mnemotechnic aspects. First is the sense of memory as the experience of remembering: if our memory of something or someone is the only presence of what is tangibly absent, then Old English riddles exemplify this
The ‘dark Welsh’ as slaves and slave
raiders in ExeterBook riddles 52 and 721
The previous chapter argued that the Latin and vernacular Lives of Saint
Guthlac show a mixed Anglo-Welsh culture among warrior elites in the
borderlands. This conceptualisation of the borderlands was not limited to
the learned clerics responsible for Anglo-Saxon hagiography. More popular
vernacular literary tradition reflected some of the same ideas. A group of
Old English riddles whose setting is the Welsh mearc (march or boundary) depict a common culture of the borderlands in
In her 2001 study on Graffiti and the Writing Arts of Early Modern England , Juliet Fleming argues that ‘[t]o contemplate a song of pearl, or a “poysee” “made of letters of fine gold” […] is to be unable to distinguish between a poem, a jewel, an acoustical structure and a feat of embroidery’. 1 This chapter explores a shared interest in the Old English riddles of the ExeterBook in materially crafted artefacts and aurally crafted riddle poems. More specifically, this chapter explores a group of the ExeterBook riddles that share a semantic and
Humour theory is thriving these days. In such disciplines as cognitive psychology, sociology, philosophy, political science, cultural studies, and linguistics, in the practice of stand-up, cartooning, and clowning, scholars and practitioners are attempting to define just what constitutes humour and how it is created. 1 In this chapter, I will provide a brief introduction to humour theory in order to address the question of what makes the ExeterBook riddles funny. I will ground my analysis in a reading of Feþegeorn (R.31), which has been relatively
The ‘thingness’ of time in the Old English
riddles of the ExeterBook and Aldhelm’s
What do we make of the transformation of things over time?
Maybe one also ought to ask what things make of us over time: how
are human beings transformed by the things that carry the traces
of our voices and our bodies when we are gone? The Old English
and Anglo-Latin riddling traditions give voice to things, as if they
could answer such a question. Yet, for the most part, criticism
has focused on the rhetorical device of prosopopoeia, whereby the
Riddles at work is the first volume to bring together multiple scholarly voices
to explore the vibrant, poetic riddle tradition of early medieval England and
its neighbours. The chapters in this book present a wide range of traditional
and experimental methodologies. They treat the riddles both as individual poems
and as parts of a tradition, but, most importantly, they address Latin and Old
English riddles side-by-side, bringing together texts that originally developed
in conversation with each other but have often been separated in scholarship.
The ‘General Introduction’ situates this book in its scholarly context. Part I,
‘Words’, presents philological approaches to early medieval
riddles—interpretations rooted in close readings of texts—for riddles work by
making readers question what words really mean. While reading carefully may lead
to elegant solutions, however, such solutions are not the end of the riddling
game. Part II, ‘Ideas’, thus explores how riddles work to make readers think
anew about objects, relationships, and experiences, using literary theory to
facilitate new approaches. Part III, ‘Interactions’, explores how riddles work
through connections with other fields, languages, times, and places. Together,
the sixteen chapters reveal that there is no single, right way to read these
texts but many productive paths—some explored here, some awaiting future
Megan Cavell, Jennifer Neville, and Victoria Symons
his debt to literary tradition and his own literary ambitions. This preface is valuable on a number of counts. It is rare to have such a mission statement attached to any early medieval literary collection. No comparable reading context or textual framework exists for the Old English riddles of the ExeterBook , for example. But it also tells us something about how these riddles work. Aldhelm sings the praises not only of the Christian God, but also of his prophet Moses, Job the soldier, and the psalmist David, alongside references to Castalian nymphs and the peaks
informed by the notion that materiality—including that of fire—is a ‘cultural process’. 4 I argue that concentrating on the function and sensory experience of materiality in literature can provide new insights and interpretations of texts and, in this case, lead to an unexpected new solution to one of the ExeterBook riddles.
Legbysig, Ligbysig , and the accepted solution, ‘tree’
The riddle exists as two separate texts in the manuscript, Legbysig and Ligbysig . Liuzza notes that ‘the variations in the two texts of Riddle 30 are individually minor differences
Enigmatic Poems and the Play of the Texts (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), p. 105.
5 This link has been noted by Patrick J. Murphy, Unriddling the Exeter Riddles (University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 2011), p. 10. See also Frederick Tupper, Jr, ed., The Riddles of the ExeterBook (Boston: Ginn, 1910), p. 147.
6 Anita R. Riedinger, ‘The Formulaic Style in the Old English Riddles’, Studia Neophilologica , 76.1 (2004), 30–43, at p. 38.
7 Riedinger, ‘Formulaic Style’, p. 38.
8 See Heide Estes, Anglo-Saxon Literary Landscapes: Ecotheory and the