The Anglo-Saxon Riddle Tradition: Is it Really a Laughing Matter?
with Professor Andy Orchard
(Rawlinson & Bosworth Professor  of Anglo-Saxon, Pembroke College, Oxford)
at Sutton Hoo on Saturday, 10th June, 2017.

Anglo-Saxon riddles link the learned and the lewd, the inherited and the imported, and the oral and the literary: they suggest startling ways of perceiving the past, while appreciating how wondrous the world can seem, and how marvellous the mundane.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:          Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:          Introduction: Riddling the Monstrous

                                in Anglo-Saxon England

11.15 – 11.40:          Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:          The Riddle of Writing and the Writing

                                of Riddles in Anglo-Saxon England

12.40 – 14.00:          Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:          Riddling the Natural World in

                                Anglo-Saxon England

14.50 – 15.10:          Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:          Riddling the Human World in

                                Anglo-Saxon England

c.16.00:                   Thanks and Close

About Professor Andy Orchard

Andy Orchard is the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the University of Oxford, and has published widely on many aspects of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic culture. He is a Former Provost and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in the University of Toronto, and both a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the British Academy.  For other information, including links (via ‘Other Information’) to the podcast of his inaugural lecture as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon go to


When asked ‘What was best about the day?‘ at a previous Study Day by Andy people said:

  • Brilliant speaker and one of the very best days here.  Hugely enjoyable day.  Please re-book Andy again or I may go on hunger strike!
  • The liveliness and humour of the lecturer.
  • Andy’s wonderful knowledge and energy and excellent handouts. Just the whole thing!  Fab
  • Scintillating, crammed with ideas and allusions
  • The handouts.  Terrific


Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

  • Abbott, H. H., The Riddles of the Exeter Book. Cambridge, 1968.
  • Alexander, Michael, The Earliest English Poems. Harmondsworth, 1966.
  • Baum, Paull F., The Anglo-Saxon Riddles of the Exeter Book. Durham, NC, 1963.
  • Bayless, Martha, ‘The Collectanea and Medieval Dialogues and Riddles.’ In Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae, ed. Bayless and Lapidge, pp. 12–24.
  • Bitterli, Dieter, Say What I Am Called: the Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book and the Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Toronto, 2009.
  • Cook, Eleanor, Enigmas and Riddles in Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Crossley-Holland, Kevin, trans. The Exeter Book Riddles. Harmondsworth, 1993.
  • Lapidge, Michael, & James L. Rosier,  Aldhelm: the Poetic Works. Cambridge, 1985.
  • Leary, T. J., Symphosius, The “Aenigmata:” An Introduction, Text, and Commentary. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • Murphy, Patrick J., Unriddling the Exeter Riddles. University Park, PA, 2011.
  • Niles, John D., Old English Enigmatic Poems and the Play of the Texts. Studies in the Early Middle Ages 13. Turnhout, 2006.
  • O’Brien O’Keeffe, Katherine, “The Text of Aldhelm’s Enigma no. c in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson C.697 and Exeter Riddle 40.” Anglo-Saxon England 14 (1985): 61–73.
  • Ohl, Raymond Theodore, The Enigmas of Symphosius. Philadelphia, 1928.
  • Orchard, Andy, “Enigma Variations: The Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Tradition.” Latin Learning and English Lore: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature for Michael Lapidge. Ed. Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe and Andy Orchard. Toronto Old English Series. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. I, 284–304.
  • Pitman, James H., trans., The Riddles of Aldhelm. Yale Studies in English 67. New Haven, 1925.
  • Porter, John, trans. Anglo-Saxon Riddles. Hockwold-cum-Wilton, 1995.
  • Tupper, Frederick M., Jr., ed., The Riddles of the Exeter Book. Boston, 1910. Repr. 1968.
  • Williamson, Craig, Ed. The Old English Riddles of the ‘Exeter Book’. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977.
  • –––—————––. A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle-Songs Translated with Introduction, Notes and Commentary. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
  • Wyatt, Alfred J., Old English Riddles. Boston, 1912.