“Internal/External Interactions in the Exeter Book ‘Storm Riddles’”
James Paz (King’s College London)
This paper discussed some of the Riddles in the Exeter Book in relation to storm imagery. Riddles #1-3 detail a series of storms described as related to the “Mod” (mind) of Anglo-Saxons. Anglo-Saxon literature made inner/outer distinctions, shaping and reshaping human bodies in time and space. This paper asked: how do Anglo-Saxons understand their spiritual and mental interactions around them?
The internal world is not always fixed in the human body as seen in The Wanderer & The Seafarer. The mind/external soul travels over seas & land. Anglo-Saxon authors often spoke of the need to control or contain the “Mod”. In riddles 1-3, the storms are described in relation to the body. Storms in 1-3 move over the water, like the mind/body.These riddles demonstrate the workings of the human body. Riddle 1 deals with violent emotions, and the idea that the Anglo-Saxon mind must be bound and fettered is alluded to in the storm. Riddle 3 says that storms must be contained in the interior of the earth and the riddles ask who or what this destructive force is. The poems engage the dynamic between the Latin and vernacular tradition.
What is the reader supposed to do with these double entendres/questions/solutions? The answers aren’t readily there. The poet is kind of showing off by employing goading questions. It is possible that this is not solvable but just a great unknown being identified. In the end, what controls the Anglo-Saxon “Mod” – ultimately, God does.