Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition

Words, ideas, interactions

Edited by Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville

Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3371-7
  • Pages: 344
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: March 2020
  • BIC Category: Literary studies: ancient & classical, GAMES / Puzzles, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Jokes & Riddles, LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval, Literature, Medieval Literature, Anglo-Saxon, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: classical, early & medieval
  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture


Capitalising on developments in the field over the past decade, Riddles at work provides an up-to-date microcosm of research on the early medieval riddle tradition. The book presents a wide range of traditional and experimental methodologies. The contributors treat the riddles both as individual poems and as parts of a tradition, but, most importantly, they address Latin and Old English riddles side-by-side, bringing together texts that originally developed in conversation with each other but have often been separated by scholarship. Together, the chapters reveal that there is no single, right way to read these texts but rather a multitude of productive paths. This book will appeal to students and scholars of early medieval studies. It contains new as well as established voices, including Jonathan Wilcox, Mercedes Salvador-Bello and Jennifer Neville.


'This collection of essays on the subject of the Old English and Anglo-Latin riddling traditions is the first of its kind and represents a major contribution to the field. It promises an up-to-date 'microcosm' of research on these texts and largely delivers on this, with the result that any new student or scholar, particularly of the Exeter Book Riddles, is now equipped with a clear starting point for their research.'
The Review of English Studies

'Riddles at Work can be described variously as a generous sampler, a rich buffet, a panoramic snapshot, or a sizeable cross-section of current Anglophone scholarship on early-medieval riddles originally written in both Anglo-Latin and Old English... Riddles at Work is a product of many authors who have demonstrated their ability to delight, frustrate, amuse, baffle, excite, terrify, impress, and make the readers think and re-think, nod enthusiastically in agreement, and learn something when they have to disagree.'
The Medieval Review


Introduction - Megan Cavell, Jennifer Neville and Victoria Symons
Exeter Book riddle titles
Part I: Words
Introduction - Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville
1 Sorting out the rings: astronomical tropes in Þragbysig (R.4) - Jennifer Neville
2 Wundor and wrætlic: the anatomy of wonder in the sex riddles - Sharon E. Rhodes
3 Domesticating the devil: the early medieval contexts of Aldhelm's cat riddle - Megan Cavell
4 The crafting of sound in the riddles of the Exeter Book - Francesca Brooks
5 Sound, voice, and articulation in the Exeter Book riddles -Robert Stanton
Part II: Ideas
Introduction - Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville
6 Warriors and their battle gear: conceptual blending in Anhaga (R.5) and Wæpnum Awyrged (R.20) - Karin Olsen
7 Humour and the Exeter Book riddles: incongruity in Feþegeorn (R.31) - Jonathan Wilcox
8 Memory and transformative fear in the Exeter Book riddles - Rafal Boryslawski
9 Monstrous healing: Aldhelm's leech riddle - Peter Buchanan
10Freolic, sellic: an ecofeminist reading of Modor Monigra (R.84) - Corinne Dale
11 Mind, mood and meteorology in Þrymful Þeow (R.1-3) - James Paz
Part III: Interactions
Introduction - Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville
12 The nursemaid, the mother and the prostitute: tracing an insular riddle topos on both sides of the English Channel - Mercedes Salvador-Bello
13 The moon and stars in the Bern and Eusebius riddles - Neville Mogford
14 Enigmatic knowing and the Vercelli Book - Britt Mize
15 The materiality of fire in Legbysig and Ligbysig (R.30a and b) and an unexpected new solution - Pirkko A. Koppinen
16 Dyre cræft: new translations of Exeter riddle fragments Modor Monigra (R.84), Se Wiht Wombe Hæfde (R.89), and Brunra Beot (R.92), accompanied by notes on process' - Miller Wolf Oberman
Afterword - Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville


Megan Cavell is Birmingham Fellow and lecturer in medieval literature at the University of Birmingham

Jennifer Neville is Reader in Anglo-Saxon Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition

Edited by Megan Cavell, Jennifer Neville

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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