The Exeter Riddles
By: Tre Brock (author, Zablocki Bros. LLC) on August 22nd, 2013 12:00 AM.
A prized piece of literature has been hidden away in the Exeter Cathedral since the eleventh century. The Exeter book. Most of the literature from its era has been lost to religious escapades, making it one of the few pieces left from this time period. This book contains an array of Anglo-Saxon poetry including nearly a hundred riddles that have been prized for the intrigue they create. The book gives insight into how people of its time lived and behaved.
The solutions of the riddles cover a variety of topics from religion to onions. All of the riddles have their own hidden messages and meanings that can be taken from them, a very common literary practice of the time. Each of the riddles have been extensively studied and are now understood to some extent. Most of the riddles can only be speculated about since no answers were given in the book. Some consensuses have been reached about the riddles but still they are mostly disputed.
A few of these riddles are written in a very straight-forward way so they can be understood and solved easily, while most of them are very cryptic and hard to get with underlying meanings and messages. It may seem like there is no reason to study riddles that you can never truly solve, but this why so many people find them so interesting. What they are really trying to do is find the best answer for the riddles itself and the time it was written. One of the riddles from the book, riddle 38, is about a young creature. It goes as follows: "I saw a creature: masculine, greedy with all youth's abandon. As his due his guardian gave him four springs, four fountains, shooting and shining. A man spoke, he said to me: 'Alive, the creature breaks the downs; dead and shredded, he binds the living.'" The answer is supposed to be a young bull, although many other animals could also fit the description.
This book of riddles, the Exeter Book, is very important to the field of literature. It will be used a reference of its time and will be the topic of many scholarly papers for years to come. But more importantly, it gives us some good riddles.