• newton4art

An anecdote to life that starts an art process

Exeter Book of Riddles : An iconic piece of literature from the tenth century, the Exeter book, is a very important piece of literature that has been stored in the library of the Exeter Cathedral for about almost a thousand years. This book is so important because most of the literature from this time didn't survive, most of it being destroyed. The book contains a lot of poetry including ninety riddles that have been intensely studied and analysed for years. The book and its content give us a lot of clues into the lives of people during this era with the very limited records available from this period of time.




I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation, a service for neighbours. I harm none of the citizens except my slayer alone. My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy somewhere down below. A very comely peasant's daughter, dares sometimes, proud maiden, that she grips at me, attacks me in my redness, plunders my head, confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly, woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye.

—Riddle 25 (Marsden 2015)


The ninety riddles of the Exeter book are on subjects very important and relevant to people of the time including religion and onions. All of the riddles from the book are very similar to what we now call 'what am I' riddles where clues are given to guess what the clues where describing. All of these riddles have been looked at under microscopes by many scholars. All of the riddles of the book have been speculated about and answers have been given for each of them and in some cases several when they are more ambiguous. This ambiguity makes them some of the best and most widely studied riddles.





Some of the riddles from the Exeter book are written in a way that makes it very hard to arrive at any solution without becoming very abstract; while many of the other riddles were written with one obvious answer that almost anyone could get but there is also a hidden or veiled meaning that can only be seen when analysed. This quest to answer all of these riddles that weren't given answers as pointless, but the real goal of the scholars who work on these riddles is to find the best answer that fits the context of the time period of the riddle best and makes sense to us. So the goal is to solve the riddles, but really it is to solve it the best we can and to guess what they meant the answer to be.



One of the riddles of the book, number 38, describes a young, strong creature. It goes: "I saw a creature: masculine, greedy with all youth's abandon. As his due his guardian gave him four springs, four fountains, shooting and shining. A man spoke, he said to me: 'Alive, the creature breaks the downs; dead and shredded, he binds the living.'" The answer that is currently accepted to be the answer because it fits the riddle extremely well is a young bull.


Riddle 38

Verse Indeterminate Saxon

Ic þa wiht geseah wæpnedcynnes,

geoguðmyrþe grædig; him on gafol forlet

ferðfriþende feower wellan

scire sceotan, on gesceap þeotan.

5Mon maþelade, se þe me gesægde:

"Seo wiht, gif hio gedygeð,duna briceð;

gif he tobirsteð, bindeð cwice."



The Exeter Book is an important book full of some of the best riddles and have been important in understanding literature of its era and to scholars in the field of literature. It will be used a reference of its time and will be the topic of many scholarly papers for years to come.


JUSTIN ZABLOCKI



15 views0 comments