Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Anglo Saxon Riddle

he people of Anglo Saxon England loved riddles. The telling and solving of these early interactive poems was a major source of entertainment for young and old around the campfire or fire pit, and luckily for us many such riddles were recorded in The Exeter Book. Here is just one of 91 such which you can find in Old English and Modern English at http://www2.kenyon.edu/AngloSaxonRiddles/texts.htm.

Riddle 37

Writings reveal this creature's plain
Presence on middle-earth, marked by man
For many years. Its magic, shaping power
Passes knowing. It seeks the living
One by one, winds an exile's road,
Wanders homeless without blame, never there
Another night. It has no hands or feet
To touch the ground, no mouth to speak
With men or mind to know the books
Which claim it is the least of creatures
Shaped by nature. It has no soul, no life,
Yet it moves everywhere in the wide world.
It has no blood or bone, yet carries comfort
To the children of men on middle-earth.
It has never reached heaven and cannot reach
Hell--but must live long through the word
And will of the king of creation's glory.
It would take too long to tell its fate
Through the world's web: that would be
A wonder of speaking. Each man's way
Of catching the creature with words is true.
It has no limbs, yet it lives!
If you can solve a riddle quickly,
Say what this creature is called.

Riddle 71

I grew in the ground, nourished by earth
And cloud-until grim enemies came
To take me, rip my living from the land,
Strip my years-shear, split, shape me
So that I ride homeless in a slayers hand,
Bent to his will. A busy sting,
I serve my lord if strength and strife
On the field endure and his hold is good.
We gather glory together in the troop,
Striker and death-step, lord and dark lunge

My neck is slim, my sides are dun,
My head is bright when the battle-sun
Glints and my grim loving lord bears me
Bound for war. Bold soldiers know
That I break in like a brash marauder,
Burst the brain-house, plunder halls
Held whole before. From the bone-house
One breaks ready for the road home.
Now the warrior who feels the thrust
Of my meaning should say what I'm called.

Find the solutions at the very bottom of the right hand column on Nan Hawthorne's Booking History.


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