Riddles were popular in the Middle Ages – it was a tool to teach language, and a way to entertain friends. Among the collections of riddles we have are those made by Aldhelm (d.709) the Bishop of Sherborne and a leading scholar in Anglo-Saxon England. One of his works was the Enigmata, which contained 100 riddles written in Latin verse. Many of the riddles dealt with everyday objects such as trumpets or glass cups, or with birds, animals and things from nature.
Here are ten riddles from Aldhelm’s Enigmata. See if you can figure out the answers:
These riddles were translated by Nancy Porter Stork in her book Through a Gloss Darkly: Aldhelm’s Riddles in the British Library Ms. Royal 12.C.xxiii (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990). To learn more about riddles in the Middle Ages, please see:
Bite Me: Rude Food and the Anglo-Saxon Riddle Tradition
The Role of Riddles in Medieval Education
The Sexual Riddles of the Exeter Book
How well do you know the origins of English words?
Medieval Saints Quiz