Shannon Ferri , University of South Carolina Previous solutions for Exeter Book Riddle 4 have been unsatisfactory because they could not accommodate at least one metaphorical "clue" in the poem. Craig Williamson has characterized the misdirections: "This riddle is in many respects the most puzzling riddle in the Exeter Book. With its plentitude of rings . . . its horde of ambiguous words . . . and its occasional anomalies . . . it has perplexed and will probably continue to perplex the proudest of solvers."1 Solutions previously entertained for this riddle include "handmill," "bell," "flail," "well-bucket," "quill" and "watchdog," all of which yet lack the precise metaphorical correspondences implicit in the poem's ambiguous terms.2 For this reason, Williamson himself listed the riddle as unsolved in 1977. As recently as last year, an article posited the solution "devil," but this answer also has certain weaknesses.3 An explora1. Craig Williamson, The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1977), p. 141. 2. Erika von Erhardt-Siebold's article "Old English Riddle No. 4: Handmill," PMLA, 61 (1946), 62023, as the title suggests, championed the century-old solution "handmill," first proposed by Franz Dietrich in 1859
JEGP, Journal of English and Germanic Philology – University of Illinois Press
Published: Jun 20, 2009
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