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The Riddle of the Runes: the Runic Passage in Cynewulf’s Fates of the Apostles

The Riddle of the Runes: the Runic Passage in Cynewulf’s Fates of the Apostles

Gleason, Raymond E.

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 9 (1992)

Abstract

In his article on Anglo-Saxon runes, John Kemble suggests that the word “rune” is related etymologically to the Old English word rynan, “to whisper” (328). This essay will examine the runic passage in Cynewulf’s Fates of the Apostles and argue that the runic symbols of Cynewulf’s signature do not serve merely to identify the poet and to provide words for the poem, but evoke within the context of the poem a tradition of Christian runic lore in order to “whisper” a moral allegory on the mysteries of salvation.

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