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riddles-msg -10/23/08


Medieval riddles.


NOTE: See also the files: humor-msg, jokes-msg, flirting-msg, p-swears-msg, p-sex-msg, Love-in-th-MA-art, P-Polit-Songs-art, Jestrs-Mumrs-lnks, jesters-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: drgntale1 at aol.com (DrgnTale1)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Old English Riddles

Date: 21 Aug 1997 19:27:02 GMT


Work is quiet and I'm bored.  So I am going to share with you some

research I did back in college (a looong time ago! ;0) )  I was, and am, a

student of Old English.  While researching in the stacks of the

university, I came across a book that fascinated me - riddlery as

translated from Old English.  It caught my attention so much, that I spent

four years of my life concocting an English to Old English Dictionary.

Here are two riddles - lets see if you can answer them and the bonus





My house is not quiet I am not loud;

But for us God fashioned our fate together.

I am the swifter, at times the stronger,

My house more enduring, longer to last.

At times I rest; my dwelling still runs;

Within it I lodge as long as I live.

Should we two be severed, my death is sure.




I am a daily dancer obedient to nimble hands.

My whirling legs are lead in the dance

By other feet.  My partner and I are

Entwined together at every turn, my

Pirouette an echo of my companion's

Entreaty.  Turn and turn again we create

A web from which a man may wrap himself.

My feet are wooden as are my arms, but

My flying hair is caught and clutched

And spiraled into orderliness.  Rythm is

My heart, timber is my body, work is

My soul and my beneficiary is man.

Name me.


(a spinning wheel)


3.  Which of the two riddles above is actually from the Old English time

period, and which was written by me?


Kira the Persian <DragonTale at bigfoot.com>



From: powers at woodstock.cis.ohio-state.edu (william thomas powers)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Old English Riddles

Date: 22 Aug 1997 08:20:07 -0400

Organization: The Ohio State University, Department of Computer and Information Science


This was enjoyable, thanks; but not a struggle since the Exter riddles

would be well known to anyone with an interest in "Old English" and a

spinning wheel dates to "middle English".


Have you tried to modify your riddle to read as a drop spindle so

as to get it applicable to the same period?


Perhaps; A women's friend, a young girls foe

         I'm often dropped but never fall

         My coat grows after another's lessens

         When my coat lessens another coat can grow

         I may dance all day twirling but never get dizzy




One source would be "From Age to Age", "Life and Literature in Angle-Saxon

England", Bernice Grohskopf


wilelm the smith, married to a spinster, maker of soapstone spindle whorls



Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 20:00:11 EST

From: Kathleen M Hogan <kathleen.hogan at juno.com>

Subject: SC - an early-morning smile


- --------- Begin forwarded message ----------


Here's a riddle from the "Exeter Book", an 11th century book written in a

monastery, although that's hard to tell sometimes, by the subject



I am a strange creature, for I satisfy women...

I grow very tall, erect in a bed,

I'm hairy underneath. From time to time

A beautiful girl, the brave daughter

Of some fellow dares to hold me

Grips my reddish skin, robs me of my head

And puts me in the pantry. At once that girl

With plaited hair who has confined me

Remembers our meeting. Her eye moistens.


Can you guess? Remember, this was written by monks....


[an onion]



Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2004 11:25:33 -0700

From: "Laura C. Minnick" <lcm at jeffnet.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Seeking bread recipe

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


At 08:48 AM 8/19/2004, you wrote:


>>>Hence the euphemism, "If Mr. Baker's dough doesn't rise..." (At least it

>>>_might_ be a legitimate euphemism, although my source is the

>>>Cabbage-Headed Man fro Kids In The Hall sketches, so one never knows...)



>Not to mention the Middle English riddle along these lines.  Lainie, have

>you got it (the riddle) somewhere?  I can't remember how it goes.


Actually it's Old English (Anglo-Saxon).I think the one you want is Exeter #45


Ic on wincle gefr¾gn      weaxan nathw¾t,

þindan ond þunian,      þecene hebban;

on þ¾t banlease      bryd grapode,

hygewlonc hondum,      hr¾gle þeahte


þrindende þing      þeodnes dohtor.


in modern English-


I'm told a certain something grows

in its pouch, swells and stands up,

lifts its covering. A proud bride grasped

that boneless wonder, the daughter of a king

covered that swollen thing with clothing.


The answer of course is bread dough.


There' also #25-


Ic eom wunderlicu wiht,      wifum on hyhte,

neahbuendum nyt;      n¾ngum sceþþe

burgsittendra,      nymþe bonan anum.

Staþol min is steapheah,      stonde ic on bedde,


neoþan ruh nathw¾r.      Neþeð hwilum

ful cyrtenu      ceorles dotor,

modwlonc meowle,      þ¾t heo on mec gripeð,

r¾seð mec on reodne,      reafað min heafod,

fegeð mec on f¾sten.      Feleþ sona


mines gemotes,      seo þe mec nearwað,

wif wundenlocc.      W¾t bið þ¾t eage.


modern English-


I'm a strange creature, for I satisfy women,

a service to the neighbors! No on suffers

at my hands except for my slayer.

I grow tall, erect in a bed,

I'm hairy underneath. From time to time

a good-looking girl, the doughty daughter

of some churl dares to hold me,

rips my russet skin, robs me of my head

and puts me in the pantry. At once that girl

with plaited hair who has confined me

remembers our meeting. Her eye moistens.


And that answer is an onion!


(Not bad considering my books are still down south and  had to search online!)





Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2004 07:21:22 +0200

From: UlfR <ulfr at hunter-gatherer.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Seekingbread recipe

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Laura C. Minnick <lcm at jeffnet.org> [2004.08.19] wrote:

> >Not to mention the Middle English riddle along these lines.  Lainie, have

> >you got it (the riddle) somewhere?  I can't remember how it goes.


> Actually it's Old English (Anglo-Saxon). I think the one you want is Exeter


While we are at food content in the Exeter riddles we must not forget

number 52:


Hyse cwom gangan,      þ¾r he hie wisse

stondan in wincsele,     stop feorran to,

hror h¾gstealdmon,     hof his agen

hr¾gl hondum up,     hrand under gyrdels

hyre stondendre      stiþes nathw¾t,

worhte his willa;      wagedan buta.

þegn onnette,     w¾s þragum nyt

tillic esne,     teorode hw¾þre

¾t stunda gehwam     strong ¾r þon hio,

werig þ¾s weorces.      Hyre weaxan ongon

under gyrdelse     þ¾t oft gode men

ferðþum freogað      ond mid feo bicgað.


The young man came over to the corner

Where he knew she stood. He stepped up,

Eager and agile, lifted his tunic

With hard hands, thrust through her girdle

Something stiff, worked on the standing

One his will. Both swayed and shook.

The young man hurried, was sometimes useful,

Served well, but always tired

Sooner than she, weary of the work.

Under her girdle began to grow

A hero's reward for laying on dough.


(a milk churn)  




UlfR Ketilson                               ulfr at hunter-gatherer.org



Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2004 02:48:27 -0700

From: "Laura C. Minnick" <lcm at jeffnet.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] period riddles

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


At 12:29 AM 9/13/2004, you wrote:

> Lainie gave two period riddles here back on Aug 19 and then said:

>> (Not bad considering my books are still down south and  had to search

>> online!)

> Yes, it was. How did you find these online?

> I did find and buy a book on (I think. Right now, I can't find it)

> Anglo-Saxon riddles at this last Pennsic.

> I'd like to be able to do more bardic, and these might be good, although

> riddles may be a problem because the entire thing needs to be memorized

> word for word. Anyway, more sources or book recommendations would be

> excellent, either for the Florilegium or my own use. And probably being

> off subject for this list, unless food related, email would be fine.


Silly Stefan, now that everyone will want to know...


For searches for something like that I start with:


http://www.the-orb.net/  The ORB (On-line Resource Book)

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html  The Internet Medieval Sourcebook

http://labyrinth.georgetown.edu/  The Labyrinth


(Those three being seriously good places to start looking for about

anything. If you can't find it there, you're looking for the wrong  

thing! ;-)


It's been nearly a month now, so to best that I can reconstruct my steps, I

found the riddles through this path:


Starting at the ORB, then click on the Encyclopedia section, top left, which goes to


scroll down to 'Literature' and choose Old English, to


select 'Primary Sources' near the top of the page, to


and scroll down to 'Riddles', where there are several choices. The first one takes you to


and if you scroll down you'll find the riddles, numbered in order. They are still in the Anglo-Saxon though- so to find the translation-


Dang. Link be broken.


Ok- after a Google search I found  http://www.technozen.com/exeter/ which

has all of them translated, and after consulting the magic memory of

Beyondo! (which is 'Lainie-speak for 'Uh, looks ok to me!') I determine

that the translations are pretty decent.


I have to admit that it helped that I knew what I was looking for. There's

bazillions of riddles out there. But only some of them are in the  

Exeter book!





Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2004 22:53:21 -0500

From: Stefan li Rous <StefanliRous at austin.rr.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] period riddles

To: SCA-Cooks maillist SCA-Cooks <SCA-Cooks at ansteorra.org>


Tonight I was able to spend more time looking and I found the book I had bought. So just in case anyone else might be interested:


Anglo-Saxon Riddles by John Porter

Anglo-Saxon Books, Norfolk, England

4th reprint, Expanded and Reprinted 2003

ISBN 1-898281-32-7


94 riddles in the original and modern English plus the solutions in

modern English with occasional explanations.

137 paages. Paperback. It's marked as 4.95 pounds. I bought it for

$8.95 at Pennsic.




THLord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad    Kingdom of Ansteorra

     Mark S. Harris           Austin, Texas


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org