Riddle 56 (or 54)

Ic wæs þær inne      þær ic ane geseah
winnende wiht      wido bennegean,
holt hweorfende;      heaþoglemma feng,
deopra dolga.      Daroþas wæron
5     weo þære wihte,      ond se wudu searwum
fæste gebunden.      Hyre fota wæs
biidfæst oþer,      oþer bisgo dreag,
leolc on lyfte,      hwilum londe neah.
Treow wæs getenge      þam þær torhtan stod
10     leafum bihongen.      Ic lafe geseah
minum hlaforde,      þær hæleð druncon,
þara flana,      on flet beran.*

I was inside there, where I saw
a wooden object wounding a certain struggling creature,
the turning wood; it received battle-wounds,
deep gashes. Darts were
5     woeful to that creature, and the wood skillfully
bound fast. One of its feet was
held fixed, the other endured affliction,
leapt into the air, sometimes near the land.
A tree, hung about by leaves, was near
10     to that bright thing [which] stood there. I saw the leavings
of those arrows, carried onto the floor
to my lord, where the warriors drank.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Loom, Lathe


*Note that I’ve followed Craig Williamson’s emendation of line 12a, which in the manuscript reads þara flan (Krapp and Dobbie change it to þara flana geweorc). See:  Williamson. The Old English Riddles of The Exeter Book. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977, page 307.

Riddle 55 (or 53)

Riddle 55’s translation is by Franziska Wenzel from Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Franziska is currently writing a PhD on the Exeter Book riddles, their Latin counterparts and narratological theory.

Ic seah in healle,      þær hæleð druncon,
on flet beran      feower cynna,
wrætlic wudutreow      ond wunden gold,
sinc searobunden,      ond seolfres dæl
5     ond rode tacn,     þæs us to roderum up
hlædre rærde,     ær he helwara
burg abræce.     Ic þæs beames mæg
eaþe for eorlum      æþelu secgan;
þær wæs hlin ond acc      ond se hearda iw
10     ond se fealwa holen;      frean sindon ealle
nyt ætgædre,      naman habbað anne,
wulfheafedtreo,      þæt oft wæpen abæd
his mondryhtne,     maðm in healle,
goldhilted sweord.      Nu me þisses gieddes
15     ondsware ywe,      se hine on mede
wordum secgan     hu se wudu hatte.

I saw in the hall, where the warriors drink,
four different kinds carried onto the floor,
a wondrous forest-tree and twisted gold,
a cunningly bound treasure, and some silver
5     and the sign of the cross of him who
raised a ladder for us up to the skies, before he
conquered the stronghold of the hell-dwellers. I can
easily speak before men of the tree’s nobility:
there was maple and oak and the hard yew
10     and the tawny holly. All of them
together are useful to a lord; they have one name,
wolf’s-head-tree, that often obtained a weapon,
for its lord, treasure in the hall,
a gold-hilted sword. Now reveal to me
15     the answer of this song, he who has the courage
to say with words how the wood is called.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Shield, Scabbard, Harp, Cross, Gallows, Sword rack, Sword box, Hengen (see commentary for more on this last one!)

Riddle 54 (or 52)

This post comes to us from Andrea Di Carlo, who’s a PhD candidate at Pisa University. Andrea’s research interests include the “obscene” riddles from the Exeter Book, and Protestant medievalism in Renaissance England. Take it away, Andrea:

Hyse cwom gangan,      þær he hie wisse
stondan in wincsele,      stop feorran to,
hror hægstealdmon,      hof his agen
hrægl hondum up,      hrand under gyrdels
5     hyre stondendre      stiþes nathwæt,
worhte his willan;      wagedan buta.
Þegn onnette,      wæs þragum nyt
tillic esne,      teorode hwæþre
æt stunda gehwam      strong ær þon hio,
10     werig þæs weorces.      Hyre weaxan ongon
under gyrdelse      þæt oft gode men
ferðþum freogað      ond mid feo bicgað.

There came walking a young man, to where he knew
she was standing in a corner. From afar he went,
the resolute young man, heaving his own clothing
with his hands, pushing something stiff
5     under her girdle while she was standing there,
worked his will; the two of them shook.
A retainer hastened, his capable servant
was useful sometimes; still, at times, he grew tired
though stronger than her at first,
10     weary due to work. Under the girdle,
there began to grow what good men often
love in their hearts and buy with money.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Butter churn, Baker’s boy and oven

Riddle 53 (or 51)

This week’s translation post is brought to you by the fabulous Sharon Rhodes. Sharon has just completed her PhD at the University of Rochester (defending this summer!), where she worked on Old English, biblical translation and translation theory.

Ic seah on bearwe      beam hlifian,
tanum torhtne.      Þæt treo wæs on wynne,
wudu weaxende.      Wæter hine ond eorþe
feddan fægre,      oþþæt he frod dagum
5 on oþrum wearð      aglachade
deope gedolgod,      dumb in bendum,
wriþen ofer wunda,      wonnum hyrstum
foran gefrætwed.      Nu he fæcnum weg
þurh his heafdes mægen      hildegieste
10 oþrum rymeð.      Oft hy an yste strudon
hord ætgædre;      hræd wæs ond unlæt
se æftera,      gif se ærra fær
genamnan in nearowe      neþan moste.

I saw a tree towering in a wood
with radiant branches. That tree was in joy
growing in the forest. Water and earth
fed him well, until he, wise in days,
5     came into a second, miserable state
deeply wounded, silent in his shackles,
racked all over with wounds, adorned with dark ornaments
on his front. Now he, through the might of head,
clears the path to another
10     treacherous enemy. Often they stole by storm
the treasure together; he was unhesitating and unflagging,
the follower, if the first was compelled to undertake
the journey, as a companion in confinement.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Battering Ram is the most common solution, but Cross and Gallows have also been suggested

Riddle 52 (or 50)

Riddle 52’s translation is by Dr. Lindy Brady, from the University of Mississippi. Lindy works on all manner of medieval languages (Old and Middle English, medieval Irish and Welsh, Old Norse, Anglo-Latin!), and is especially interested multilingualism, landscape and identity.


Ic seah ræpingas      in ræced fergan
under hrof sales      hearde twegen,
þa wæron genumne,*      nearwum bendum
gefeterade      fæste togædre;
5     þara oþrum wæs      an getenge
wonfah Wale,      seo weold hyra
bega siþe      bendum fæstra.

I saw captives brought into the house
under the roof of the hall – a hard pair –
who were seized, fettered fast together
by narrow bonds.
5     Near to one was
a dark-coloured Welsh woman, she controlled them
both on their journey, fixed by bonds.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Buckets, Broom, Flail, Yoked oxen

*Note that the manuscript and ASPR edition read genamne; this emendation is from Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of The Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), pages 99 and 296.

Riddle 51 (or 49)

Riddle 51’s translation is once again by Britt Mize (who translated and provided commentary for Riddle 33). Britt is Associate Professor and Interim Associate Head of English at Texas A&M University where he works on Old and Middle English language and literature, with special interests in linguistics, poetics and drama.

Ic seah wrætlice      wuhte feower
samed siþian;     swearte wæran lastas,
swaþu swiþe blacu.      Swift wæs on fore,
fuglum framra      fleag on lyfte;
5     deaf under yþe.     Dreag unstille
winnende wiga,      se him wegas tæcneþ
ofer fæted gold      feower eallum.

[note that the punctuation of the above Old English text differs from Krapp and Dobbie’s ASPR edition at lines 4 and 6]

I saw four wondrous creatures
travel together. Dark were the tracks,
very black the footprints. It was swift in its going:
faster than birds it flew through the sky;
5     it dove under wave. Vigorously he labored,
that striving warrior who showed it—all four—
the paths across ornamental gold.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solution: Pen and fingers

Riddle 50 (or 48)

Wiga is on eorþan      wundrum acenned
dryhtum to nytte,      of dumbum twam
torht atyhted,      þone on teon wigeð
feond his feonde.      Forstrangne oft
5     wif hine wrið;      he him wel hereð,
þeowaþ him geþwære,      gif him þegniað
mægeð ond mæcgas      mid gemete ryhte,
fedað hine fægre;      he him fremum stepeð
life on lissum.      Leanað grimme
10     þam þe hine wloncne      weorþan læteð.

A warrior is wondrously brought forth on earth
for the profit of people, a bright thing produced
from two speechless ones, which one marshals in anger
foe against his foe. A woman often binds him,
5     the very strong one; he obeys them well,
peaceably serves them, if women and men
minister to him in a fitting manner,
feed him fairly; he furnishes them with benefits,
with the delights of life. Grimly he repays
10     those who let him become proud.

Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Fire, Anger, Dog