Exteter Book Riddle 29


Amphisbene – Bestiary Harley MS 3244, ff 36r-71v courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lay Wending (Verse Translation) by Þórbeorht
I saw a wondrous wight (being), laden with war-takings between its horns, a shining sky-vat, craftily bedecked.  The takings of the battle-march, it sought to bring home. There it would a-timber (build) a bower in the burg (stronghold) and skillfully set it so…if it might.

Then came another wondrous wight over the wall’s roof, known to all bondsmen of the earth. It freed the war-takings and drove the wretch, against its will, to its home.  Then west, to fare in its feud, it hastened forth.  Dust rose to heaven, dew fell on earth, night went away. None amongst men wist (knew) the wight’s wayfaring thereafter.

Old English Reading
Ic wiht geseah     wundorlice
horna abitweonun     huþe lædan
lyftfæt leohtlic     listrum gegierwed
huþe to þam ham     of þā heresiþe
walde hyre on þære byrig     bur atimbram
searwum asettan     gif hit swa meahte ·
ða cwom wundorlicu wiht     ofer wealles hrof
seo is eallum cuð     eorðbuendum
ahredde þa þa huþe     ⁊ to ham bedræf
wreccan ofer willan     gewat hyre west þonan
fæhþum feran     forð onetteð
dust stonc to heofonum     deaw feol on eorþan
niht forð gewat     nænig siþþan
wera gewiste     þære wihte sið

Highlight here for the riddle’s answer: The first wight is the Moon, who has stolen the Sun’s light. His “horns” are the moon’s crescents.  The second wight is the Sun, who rises in the sky’s horizon (over the wall’s roof) to reclaim the light.


About Þórbeorht Línléah

Ealdorblótere (chief priest) at Whitthenge Heall of the Ealdríce, an Anglo-Saxon Théodish fellowship. Author of Of Ghosts and Godpoles: Theodish Essays Pertaining to the Reconstruction of Saxon Heathen Belief, Both Old and Anglo (2014). Author of Þæt Ealdríce’s Hálgungbóc: The Théodish Liturgy of Þæt Ealdríce (2015, 2016). Þórbeorht resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife Eþelwynn and two daughters.
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