Exeter Riddle 12


Date: Thu 22 Aug 2013
Matching Commentaries: Commentary for Exeter Riddle 12

This week’s translation is a guest post from the enigmatic Cameron Laird. Cameron is PhD student at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, where he is working on a thesis about this very riddle collection! Stay tuned for his commentary in the next post.

Original text:

Fotum ic fere,      foldan slite,
grene wongas,      þenden ic gæst bere.
Gif me feorh losað,      fæste binde
swearte Wealas,      hwilum sellan men.
5     Hwilum ic deorum      drincan selle
beorne of bosme,      hwilum mec bryd triedeð
felawlonc fotum,      hwilum feorran broht
wonfeax Wale      wegeð ond þyð,
dol druncmennen      deorcum nihtum,
10     wæteð in wætre,      wyrmeð hwilum
fægre to fyre;      me on fæðme sticaþ
hygegalan hond,      hwyrfeð geneahhe,
swifeð me geond sweartne.      Saga hwæt ic hatte,
þe ic lifgende      lond reafige
15     ond æfter deaþe      dryhtum þeowige.


I travel on feet, tear the ground,
the green fields, while I bear my spirit.
If life leaves me, I bind fast
swarthy slaves, sometimes better people.
5     Sometimes I give drink to a brave man
from my breast; sometimes a bride treads on me
so proudly with her feet.  Sometimes a dark-haired
slave girl brought from far away clutches and crushes me;
the dim drunken maid in dark nights
10     wets me in water, sometimes warms me
pleasantly by the fire.  A lustful hand
shoves me to a bosom, turns just enough,
and touches me throughout the dark. Say what I am called,
who, living, ravages the land
15     and after death serves men.

Click to show riddle solution?
Ox, Ox-hide, Leather (object), etc.


This riddle appears on folios 103v-104r of The Exeter Book.

The above Old English text is based on this edition: Elliott van Kirk Dobbie and George Philip Krapp, eds, The Exeter Book, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), page 186.

Note that this edition numbers the text Riddle 10: Craig Williamson, ed., The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), page 74.

Tags: anglo saxon  exeter book  riddles  old english  solutions  riddle 12