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

Riddle 49 (or 47)

Ic wat eardfæstne      anne standan,
deafne, dumban,      se oft dæges swilgeð
þurh gopes hond      gifrum lacum.
Hwilum on þam wicum      se wonna þegn,
5     sweart ond saloneb,      sendeð oþre
under goman him      golde dyrran,
þa æþelingas      oft wilniað,
cyningas ond cwene.      Ic þæt cyn nu gen
nemnan ne wille,      þe him to nytte swa
10     ond to dugþum doþ      þæt se dumba her,
eorp unwita,      ær forswilgeð.


I know a lone thing standing earth-fast,
deaf, dumb, which often by day swallows
from a slave’s hand useful gifts.
Sometimes in those dwellings the swarthy servant,
5     dark and sallow-nosed, sends others
from his mouth, dearer than gold,
which nobles often desire,
kings and queens. I will not yet
name that race/kind, who thus renders for their use
10     and advantage what the dumb one here,
the dusky fool, swallows before.


Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Oven, Beehive, Falcon Cage, (Book)case, Pen and ink, Barrow, Sacrificial altar, Millpond and sluice

Riddle 48 (or 46)

Ic gefrægn for hæleþum      hring gyddian,*
torhtne butan tungan,      tila þeah he hlude
stefne ne cirmde,      strongum wordum.
Sinc for secgum      swigende cwæð:
5     “Gehæle mec,      helpend gæsta.”
Ryne ongietan      readan goldes
guman galdorcwide,      gleawe beþencan
hyra hælo to gode,      swa se hring gecwæð.


I heard a ring sing before men,
bright, without a tongue, rightly with strong words,
although it did not yell in a loud voice.
The treasure, silent before men, spoke:
5     “Heal me, helper of souls.”
May men interpret the mystery of the red gold,
the incantation, may they wisely entrust
their salvation to God, as the ring said.


Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Paten, Chalice, Sacramental vessel


*note that I have followed Williamson’s emendation; the manuscript reads hringende an, and Krapp and Dobbie’s ASPR edition emends to endean.

Riddle 47 (or 45)

Moððe word fræt.      Me þæt þuhte
wrætlicu wyrd,     þa ic þæt wundor gefrægn,
þæt se wyrm forswealg     wera gied sumes,
þeof in þystro,     þrymfæstne cwide
5     ond þæs strangan staþol.    Stælgiest ne wæs
wihte þy gleawra,    þe he þam wordum swealg.


A moth ate words. That seemed to me
a curious happening, when I heard about that wonder,
that the worm, a thief in the darkness, swallowed
a certain man’s song, a glory-fast speech
5     and its strong foundation. The stealing guest was not
at all the wiser for that, for those words which he swallowed.


Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the possible solutions: Book-worm, Book-moth, Maggot and psalter

Riddle 46 (or 44)

This week’s translation is a guest post from the terribly clever and witty Victoria Symons. Victoria teaches Old and Middle English at University College London and researches medieval attitudes toward the written word. Stay tuned for her commentary post next week.


Wær sæt æt wine      mid his wifum twam
ond his twegen suno     ond his twa dohtor,
swase gesweostor,      ond hyra suno twegen,
freolico frumbearn;      fæder wæs þær inne
5     þara æþelinga      æghwæðres mid,
eam ond nefa.      Ealra wæron fife
eorla ond idesa     insittendra.


A man sat [drinking] wine with his two wives
and his two sons and his two daughters,
the dear sisters, and their two sons,
noble firstborns. The father of each
5    of those princes was in there,
uncle and nephew. In all there were five
warriors and women sitting within.


Highlight the box with your cursor to reveal the likely solution: Lot and his family