ANGLO-SAXON / OLD ENGLISC RIDDLES
RIDDLES OF NATURAL PHENOMENA
Who is the man so shrewd and sage can say who sends me forth abroad, when I rise strong, severely stern with might resound, malicious move, fare over land, the folk-hall fire, houses spoil? Then smoke upsoars, grey over roofs; riots rules on earth; death-throes wrack men; I disturb the wood, quick-growing grove, its trees lay low, with water roofed, by potent powers despatched to drive wide in my wandering. I bear upon my back what erst enfolded forms of earth-sojourners – flesh and spirits both together- on the sea. Say who shelters me or what my name is who that burdens bears.
Sometimes I set off, as men suppose not, neath turbulent surges, to seek out the earth, the depths of the ocean. Disturbed is the main, the foam upflung; the whale-mere roars, loud rages then; streams lash the shore, savagely cast shingle and sand upon the steep slopes, seaweed and wave, when struggling, I, screened by sea-currents, the bottom stir up, the vast ocean-deeps. Nor may the sea-surface I scape ere the One who’s my guide suffers me on every excursion.
Guess, erudite man, who gathers me up from the grasp of the sea, when the surges grow still again, placid the waves, which covered me once.
A wight in wonderous wise saw I hale booty ‘tween her horns, a radiant air-vat, artfully adorned, forage homewards from the fray; she would a bower in that stronghold build herself, with cunning it contrive, if so she could.
Then came a wonderous wight above the rampart’s roof to all earth-dwellers is he known who snatched the soil and homewards drove the wanderer against her will. Thence went she west faring from the fued, hastened forth.
Dust to the skies uprose; upon the ground fell dew; night departed thence.
Thereafter no man wist where those wights journeyed to.
Wonderous came floating a wight on the wave aft; from the keel comely it called to the land, resounded; its laughter was grim, on the earth fearful; its edges were sharp. Hatefully cruel was it, in conflict quite sluggish, in battle- deeds bitter. With baleful charms bound, it cunningly discoursed of its own creations: “My mother is of the kindred of maidens the dearest, my daughter is she, with travel grown gross, that is well-known of old to me of the folk, that sheshall upon earth gloriously stand in lands everywhere.”
Writings say this wight has many years among mankind clear and plain.
A power it has much more than men might comprehend. It strives to seek each one apart of those that live, then goes its way. ‘Tis never there a second night, but ever must the exile’s track rove homeless; none the humbler ‘tis.
Neither foot nor hand has it, nor even touches turf, nor either of its eyes, nor has it mouth, nor speaks with men, nor has it wit; but writings say that it is quite the basest of all beings that after nature were begat.
Nor has it soul, nor life, but makes its way, this wonderous world through, far and wide. Neither blood nor bone has it; yet it becomes to many men throughout this world an aid. It never heaven touched, nor may it hell,but it forever must by God’s injunctions live. Too long it is to tell how its life-pattern later ‘twill pursue, fate’s crooked ways; that is a wondrousthing to chronicle. True then is each word told about this wight; nor has it any limb, yet nonetheless it lives. If thou canst rede this riddle rapidly with true words, say what it is called.
Wondrous into the world’s a warrior brought by two mute beings for the use of men; brightly extracted which, for his hurt, bears foe against foe.
Oft strong though he be a women him binds; to them he bends well,passively serves them, if him they attend, maidens and men, in adequate measure fairly him feed; he exalts them with favours in life for their glee.
He grimly requites the one that allows him lofty to grow.
1 – Storm on Land.
2 – Submarine Earthquake.
29 – Sun and Moon.
33 – Ship.
39 – Hypostasized Death.
50 – Fire.
RIDDLES CHIEFLY CHRISTIAN
Me, the welder of victories, Christ, for conflict created. Oft burn I the quick, races unnumbered, ranged over the earth, torment with trouble, though them I touch not, whenever my master to battle bids me.
Sometimes the mood of the many I gladden; sometimes I solace those I once assaulted from very far off; they feel it, however, the hurt and the healing, when afterwards I favour their fortunes, despite deep affliction.
Grey is my garment; ornaments bright, red and resplendent, my raiment adorn.
The dull I misguide and the ignorant goad to ventures imprudent; yet others prevent from useful approaches; I wot not a whit why they, maddened thus, bereft of their wits, led astray in their deeds, should then applaud my contrary ways. Woe to them for their conduct when the Most High dispenses the dearest of gifts, if they from their folly do not desist first.
A noble one I know that was nurtured as a guest in that dwelling, who cannot by grim hunger be harmed, nor yet by hot thirst, nor old age, nor sickness. If him, as is seemly, the servants attends, ever he who shall go along on that journey, he safety at home shall find him decreed, both food and delight, and unnumbered kindred; but care, if the serf obeys his lord badly, his prince on the trip. Nor will they be timid of each other, the brothers; that injures them both, when they both together abandon the bosom of their kindred quickly, their mother and sister. Let whoever will, in fitting words, set forth how that guest is called, or the servant, about whom I speak at this time.
I heard a ring for heroes plead, beautiful tongueless, well, though with loud voice it wove.
This treasure of men silently spoke: “Healer of souls, do Thou heal me!” May the rune of the red gold men understand, its magic import; may the prudent entrust their redemption to God just as the ring said.
I saw in the hall, where heroes were drinking, borne onto the floor, a thing of four kinds, a wonderful wood-tree, with gold that was twisted, a subtly- bound treasure, silver in part, and a rood-symbol which for us to the heavens a ladder erected, ere the people of hell’s castle he stormed. I can of that wood’s excellence easily speak before men; maple and oak were there and the tough yew and the dark holly; they are to the lord all together of help; one name have they: Wolf-head Tree.
Oft that afforded a weapon its lord, in the hall a precious heirloom, a gold-hilted sword. To me now this riddle’s answer reveal; himself herequites who. With words, can declare what that wood is called.
Greater am I than this word world is, lesser than the handworm, lighter than the moon, swifter than the sun. All the seas and floods are in my grasp, and then bosom of earth, and the green plains. I probe the depths,descend below hell, rise over the heavens, the region of glory; amply I reach above the angels’ abode, pervade the earth, the whole world and ocean-streams widely with myself. Say what I’m called.
6 – Sun
43 – Soul and Body
48 – Chalice
55 – Scabbard and Cross
66 – Creation
RIDDLES OF BIRDS
Hushed is my garb, when I tread on the ground, or sorjourn in creeks, or the shallows stir up. Over men’s homes there heave me sometimes my trappings, and this tulmultous wind, and widely the might of the welkin me then bears over mankind. These adornments of mine loudly resound and melody make; lustily sing, when I am not lying on flood and on field – a wayfaring sprite.
Through my moth I speak with many tongues; with modulating chant, I oftenchange my voice; I cry loud, my manner hold, not hide the melody. Old evening bard, to men I bring bliss in towns, when I transform my tone to sing out; still at home they silent sit.
Say what I’m called, who, brightly thus, buffoons do imitate aloud, to men announce with my voice many welcome things.
In those days they abandoned me for dead, father and mother both; not yet in me was life or stir within. Then someone tried to cover me with clothes, a woman kind; watched and cherished, wrapped me in a robe as gently as she would her proper progeny, until beneath her breast, as was my destiny, I grew a stranger, strong amid those not my kin. That tender fostress fed me afterwards till I waxed sound. More widely could set forth on trips; the fewer of her own had she, dear sons and daughters, due to what she did.
Ten in all the turf saw I tread, brothers six and their sisters too; beings that were alive. Their skins hung from their house-wall, clear and manifest, every one. Nor were any of them the worse, nor their going the sorer, though they should thus, bereft of their raiment, by the firmaments’ Lord’s might aroused, rend with their mouths the grey-green shoots. Their garment’s renewed who before birth their accoutrements leave behind them to lie when they tread upon land.
Small sprites this wind sustains over the hillsides. Quite bright are they, blackdark-coated. Doughty of song, they fare in flocks; loudly they cry; the head- lands they tread, sometimes the houses of the children of men. They name themselves.
7 – Swan.
8 – Jay.
9 – Cuckoo.
13 – Ten chickens.
57 – Swallows.
RIDDLES ON ANIMALS
I fare on feet the turf tear up, the green plains, while I spirit bear. If I lose life, I bind secure the swart Welsh, sometimes better men. Drink I sometimes give a bold man from my bosom; me, at times, a bride treads proudly underfoot; fetched from afar, at times, the dark-haired slave conveys and squeeze me; the foolish drunken servant maid on darksome nights, in water wets me, sometimes warms me fair beside the fire; in my bosom thrusts her wanton hands, revolves them frequently, sweeps me in the dark. Say what I’m called, who, living ravage land and, after death, administer to men.
White is my neck and tawny my head, so too are my sides. Swift in motion am I who bears battle-gear. Under my back stand hairs such as those on my cheeks.
Tower two ears over my eyes. I tread on my toes in the green grass. For me is there grief if anyone within my covert catch me, a warrior grim, where I hide in my haunt, my lair with my litter; and there do I lurk with my recipient brood when the intruder comes up to my doors; for them death is doomed. So must my off- spring I from our abode faint-hearted bear, protect them by flight, if he should come following close after me; a-crawl on his breast. I dare not abide his fierce deeds in my den that were ill counsel but then must I fast with my forefeet a passage provide through the high hill. I can easily save the lives of my loved ones if I be allowed my household to lead by a hidden route through a hole in the hill, my kinsfolk and dear ones; later I need not a whit the encounter dread with the death-whelp. If the savage adversary along a straight path pursues me behind, he shall surely not lack the conflict of battle on his hostile course when I reach through the roof of the hill and with war-darts strike wildly the malignant foe whom I long fled.
A wight of the weaponed kind saw I greedy of youthful joys; a gift he gave of four life-saving springs to shoot forth brightly, gush in fitting form. A man spoke, who declared t me: “This wight, if he survive, will break the downs; if burst asunder, will the living bind.”
12 – Oxhide
15 – Badger
38 – Young Bull
RIDDLES OF DOMESTIC SUBJECTS
My Thane must I busy from time to time, ring-bound, readily obey, destroy my rest and noisily declare my master gave me a band for my neck. Me oft the sleep-weary maiden or man hastes to greet; hostile towards him I wintry-cold answer: “A warm limb the bound ring bursts sometimes!” However, ‘tis sportive unto my servant, a half-witted man, to me likewise, when one knows aught and so with words my riddle can rightly give answer to.
My nose inclines downwards; deeply I fare and dig up the grounds; I move as he guides me, the grey foe of the forest and my overseer, who double-bent goes, the guide at my tail. He drives, urges, presses me into the plain, sows in my swath. I go sniffing the ground, brought from the grove, bound strong, borne on the wain. Many wounds have I; on one side of me, as I go, there is green; and, on the other, my swath is clear swart. Through my back driven, there hangs underneath an ingenious point, on myhead yet another; fixed and prone. At the side falls what I tear with my teeth, if rightly he serves me from behind, who my master is.
I saw a wight, in the dwellings of men, that feeds the cattle. It has many teeth; the beak is gainful, downwards it goes, ravages faithfully and then returns home; wanders along walls, reaches for roots; always it finds those that are not firm; the fair ones it leaves fixed by their roots in their station still standing, brightly gleaming, blooming and growing.
One I know stands settled, deaf and dumb, who, oft by day, devours gifts greedily, the slave’s hand from. Sometimes in the dwellings the dark-hued thane, dusky and dun-faced, despatches others down its gullet, dearer than gold, which the noble- born desire oft, kings and queens. Its