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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in riddles

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Riddle Me This

One of the genres you may not expect to be popular in the Middle Ages is that of riddles. They're not usually as straightforward as the riddles we know. They tend to be more metaphorical. I mentioned before in The Magic of Names the riddle that has 'magpie' as its solution (probably). Many of them are scatalogical or full of double entendres, which also doesn't fit our image of pious monks -- but it's our picture of monks that's wrong.

The myth persists that the church ruled the Middle Ages with a heavy hand. Like the myth that people thought the world was flat, it's just wrong. Many people who thought of themselves as Christian went to church once a year to confess and that was enough for them. Many monks who were part of the church were no more devoted to their religion than the average slacker working for a giant corporation is. It gave them a living if they weren't inheriting any wealth. For many it was an easy life (see Chaucer's monk for example).

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Sweet riddle! Love it. Thanks for sharing! A most interesting blog.
  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    Haha, I was gonna say apple.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    The answer is of course -- an onion!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
What Am I?

The ancestors loved to hone their wits on a good, gritty riddle, especially on long winter nights. (Words in winter are light, they say.)  Here's one that occurred to me while out walking today.


Go ahead, kill me.

Break me in pieces;

see if I care.

In one winter's night,

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    I love the riddles in the Exeter Book, this is my favorite: https://youtu.be/AMrVhkq0954 Yes, I agree with your comments, border
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    It's interesting that, according to the conventions of the riddle genre--as, for example, among the Old English riddles in the Exe
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    That's it. I was out early enough that what, during the day, had been puddles of melt-water, were still frozen smooth.
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    Ice?
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Fractured? Or melting and reforming.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Magic of Names


The Exeter Book is a collection of medieval poetry from the late tenth century written down by a single scribe. Amongst other treasures, it contains almost a hundred riddles. If you think of medieval monks as pious and devoted -- well, for one thing, you've probably not read Chaucer! Many of the riddles are bawdy and full of double entendres, just like the songs the monks would sing. 

Much of our casual information about life in the Middle Ages comes texts like these: details of natural phenomena or the habits of birds. Riddle 68 is particularly delightful not only for the vivid depiction of the magpie, but also the embedding of the runic puzzle of its name which adds an additional challenge to the reader. 'Hiroga' the Anglo-Saxon name for magpie is only apparent once you unscramble the runic letters.  

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