The Elements of Anglo-Saxon Wisdom Poetry in the Exeter Book Riddles

The Elements of Anglo-Saxon Wisdom Poetry in the Exeter Book Riddles

By Rafal Boryslawski

Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, Vol. 38 (2002)

Abstract: This paper investigates the parallels between the Old English wisdom poetry and a group of riddles contained in the Exeter Book. Although the riddle form in general as well as the Anglo-Saxon riddles in particular can be identified with broadly understood didactic functions, several of the Exeter riddles appear to be essentially interested in the nature of wisdom and in the intellectual game of wits ensuing from it. Moreover, the associations with Anglo-Saxon wisdom literature are not exclusively present on the thematic level of the riddles, but they are also evident on other levels of signification operating to the entire collection. The Old English riddles, therefore, are not only examples of wisdom literature themselves, but they may also be seen as the evidence for thee lack of rigid discrimination between riddles and other, seemingly non-riddlic, poems. What is more, the riddlic element seems to be one of the formative factors among the Old English wisdom literature.

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