Unriddling the Exeter Riddles

By (author) Patrick J. Murphy

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 November 2015

Length of book:

272 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271048420

The vibrant and enigmatic Exeter Riddles (ca. 960–980) are among the most compelling texts in the field of medieval studies, in part because they lack textually supplied solutions. Indeed, these ninety-five Old English riddles have become so popular that they have even been featured on posters for the London Underground and have inspired a sculpture in downtown Exeter. Modern scholars have responded enthusiastically to the challenge of solving the Riddles, but have generally examined them individually. Few have considered the collection as a whole or in a broader context. In this book, Patrick Murphy takes an innovative approach, arguing that in order to understand the Riddles more fully, we must step back from the individual puzzles and consider the group in light of the textual and oral traditions from which they emerged. He offers fresh insights into the nature of the Exeter Riddles’ complexity, their intellectual foundations, and their lively use of metaphor.

“[Unriddling the Exeter Riddles] is a stimulating and engaging study that is sure to be invaluable in the study of the enigmatic Exeter riddles. It provides both an excellent foundation for undergraduates (and non-specialists in the Old English) to study these murky texts, and an important (if rousing) contribution to scholarly analysis of them in situating them within the riddling tradition. Murphy’s unriddling of the Exeter riddles sheds some light on these dark texts by unraveling the intricate relationship between their form and meaning and will make a significant impact on how scholars and students alike understand their form and genre.”

—Eric Lacey, English Studies