Write Us A Riddle Contest: Results

Hello, riddlers! You are no doubt waiting with bated breath for the results of the riddle-composition contest. Well, as luck would have it, we have a final decision for you.

The panel of professional poets and Anglo-Saxonists who acted as judges would like me to let you know that ALL the entries were very good indeed. This is not an empty ‘you’re all winners on the inside’ accolade, but the real opinion of each and every judge. However, since this is supposed to be a contest…we’re pleased to announce a joint victory for: Alison Offer and Juliana Poole. If the winners are reading this: I’ll be in touch shortly to see about sending you your brilliant prize of Riddle Ages key-rings.

We hope the rest of you enjoyed writing your fantastic riddles and will consider entering again in the future.

Everyone, please enjoy reading Alison and Juliana’s riddles below:


Author: Alison Offer

(in Old English)

Ic ferede feorran      in fyrngearum

ofer ismerum      isernheardum,

hwælplegstowe.      Oft hwistlede seo lyft,

wind winterceald,      ymb min wæggræge hrægl.

Sungon and swegde      samod ætgædere

min flangefaran,      farena gliwcræft

amyrgde mine heortan.      Mirige ic eom giet ac heortleas,

for æt flæsce and felle      feond me bestripte,

mid scearpseaxe       sixfealdlice

min ban þurhdraf.       Nu þæs beornes æþm

hwistleþ þurh minum lice,      and heortan wera

min sweg frefraþ.      Sæge hwæt ic hatte.

(in Modern English)

Far I travelled       in former years

over iron hard      oceans of ice,

the whale’s playground.      Oft whistled the air,

the winter-cold wind,      about my wave-grey robes.

My comrades in the arrow      all called and sang

together,      their travellers’ music

Brightened my heart.      Bright I am still, but heartless,

for a fiend stripped off      my flesh and skin,

with a sharpened knife,     six times over

bored through my bone.     Now the breath of a man

whistles through my body     and the hearts of men

are consoled by my song.      Say what I am called.


Solution: a goose bone flute (the six piercings are one at either end, the three finger holes and the sound hole)


Author: Julianna Poole

I am a strange creature,

Vast and minute.

I am not opaque,

Yet I conceal exotic depths.

I am the vector of poison,

And you thirst for me.

You can freeze by my hand,

Or you can burn.

I teem with pestilence,

And I held you before you were born.

You cannot live without me,

Yet sometimes I kill.


Solution: Water


ANNOUNCEMENT: Write Us A Riddle Contest

For those of us studying or working in education: the middle of term is upon us. For those of us not: it’s freaking cold out. What unites these two things? Misery and darkness, my friends, misery and darkness. Luckily for us all, Old English poets love misery and darkness. And this is why we have a little announcement to make: ANOTHER CONTEST! Woohoo!

You’ve already seen Megan’s riddle-writing skillz, and now we want to see yours. We want you to send us riddles.

Here are the rules:

  • Anyone can enter! But only one riddle per person, please. And try to keep’em short-ish (shall we say, no longer than 15 lines?).
  • Because the point of this blog is to be accessible to Old English students and enthusiasts, we’re not going to insist on riddles in Old English. We just want nicely-written riddles that get to the heart of Anglo-Saxon style and tone. If you’d like to submit a riddle in Old English and Modern English, we’ll be very impressed, of course. If we get enough of these, we’ll judge them together in a separate category.
  • You must include your riddle’s solution, along with your name and email address, on a separate page (no spoilers!).
  • We must receive riddles by email (theriddleages@gmail.com) no later than December 14th.
  • By entering, you consent to have your riddle posted on our website. Please note that the blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

We’ll announce the results on December 18th. The judges will include a panel of Old English and creative writing experts, whose identities shall remain top secret. They don’t want to get trolled by angry riddlers. Can you imagine?!

“But wait: what do I win?,” we hear you asking. Dignity, power and bragging rights. “Hmm…going to all that effort for bragging rights seems a bit much,” you add. Fine then. You win a beautiful, customised Riddle Ages key-ring. Megan is crafting them as she types.

So, start your riddle-engines, folks! We’ll post a reminder closer to the contest closing date.

Contest Results

Thanks to everyone who took part in our Old English Riddles for the Modern World Contest (installment 1? maybe!). If you haven’t already guessed it (and quite a few of you have), the answer is “kettle” (OE cytel…although obv. the Anglo-Saxons didn’t have the electric kind that I had in mind when I was writing this riddle). Another great suggestion, “furnace,” just goes to show how riddles can often develop lives of their own and spawn multiple readings and interpretations.

Now, sometimes people say that it’s not about winning or losing, but about playing the game. Sometimes people say that we’re all winners in our own special way. Sometimes people say there are no winners if everyone’s having fun. And that’s just fine. But as far as this contest is concerned, there is an actual, non-touchy-feely winner: Cameron Laird. Unless my computer is lying to me, Cameron solved this riddle in under three minutes. Close runners-up include Linden Currie and Josh Smith. Since some of us are feeling generous today, we’ll be sending them some bookmarks too (but NO postcard, or Cameron may get jealous!).

Chances are we’ll run another contest like this in the autumn or winter, so start studying up. If you’re an instructor, think about encouraging your students to have a go. We’re not about shameless self-promotion here at The Riddle Ages.


UPDATE: here’s a photo of Cameron enjoying his prize. He tells me it was taken in the offices of the Dictionary of Old English project, which seems quite appropriate.

Riddle Ages

Contest: Old English Riddles for the Modern World

Well, here it is folks: the riddle you’ve all been waiting for! Get reading, and then email me (mccavell@gmail.com), send The Riddle Ages facebook group a message or tweet @TheRiddleAges with your solution.


Ic eom wunderlicu wiht,      geworht in fyrwylme.

Hwilum ic eom hat     ond hwilum cald.

Stille ond swige     ic stande, hwonne cald,

heah on hylle,     hlifiende ofer minum londe.

5     Hwonne hat, ic acwece,     hrere ond sceace,

ic hwine ond geblawe,     gebolgen mid yrre.

Stundum ic stande      stille eft ond blinne.

Gif mid lafum beama     geblanden bið min wombhord,

ic bringe wynne werigum,     wreccum sib,

10     ic unbinde freorige bendas.     Frige hwæt ic hatte.


I am a wondrous creature, fashioned in fire.

Sometimes I am hot and sometimes I am cold.

When cold, I stand still and silent,

high on a hill, towering over my realm.

5     When hot, I move about, shiver and shake,

I hiss and spit, swollen with rage.

At times I stop and stand still again.

If my contents combine with the leavings of trees,

I bring joy to the weary, peace to the wretched,

10     I unbind icy bonds. Find out what I am called.

Contest Announcement: Old English Riddles for the Modern World


Here at The Riddle Ages, we think summer is a time for fun. And since for some of us, FUN = CONTESTS, we have decided to do one of those. Spread the word!


This is how it works (see also conditions below): On Saturday, August 2nd at 5pm (British Summer Time), I will post a new riddle of my own creation. It will be in both Present-Day English and Old English. Although it will imitate Old English style as much as possible, its solution will be something familiar to us modern-types. The first person to correctly solve it by email, facebook message or tweet will be the winner. No sore losing will be permitted.

This is what you get: Not one, not two, but ten fabulous Riddle Ages bookmarks to share with your favourite friends, family members, instructors or students, as well as a personalized postcard from the lovely and suitably-steeped-in-Anglo-Saxon-history city of Durham.


Here are the bookmarks in all their glory.

As I see it, you, my readers, will likely have one of two reactions. Firstly (and correctly): “Ermahgerd, bookmeeeerrrrrrkkkkkssss! Bookmarks are the best! Who wouldn’t want to win two handfuls of those bad boys? And a postcard?! Sent to me anywhere in the world for free? Even better!” Secondly (and incorrectly): “What in the world am I supposed to do with ten rubbishy bookmarks and a postcard from some person I don’t even know? You’re clearly trying to fool us all into promoting your blog for you. You are bad people.” We welcome the former reaction and shan’t dignify the latter with a response.

So, be sure to prepare yourselves accordingly: brush up on your riddle-solving skills, make sure you have your computer/tablet/phone/Google glasses/neural link/etc. at hand on Saturday, and spread the word to anyone you’d particularly enjoying beating. But first, read the following conditions:

The winner of this contest agrees to The Riddle Ages posting her/his name on the blog, twitter and facebook. S/he also agrees to send us her/his postal address by private message (it will not be used for anything except mailing the prize). If the winner is an especially lovely person, s/he will obligingly send us a photo of her/him enjoying the prize, which we will post on the blog. This last one is voluntary, and subject to good taste.