Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

The Dragon Offers Some Old English Riddles
Or…riddle me this

The Anglo-Saxons liked to tell each other riddles while they sat around drinking in the mead hall. So you can imagine how ribald some of these were/are. Even though the text of some is laced with innuendo, the answers aren’t as naughty as you’d think. (Answers appear at the end of the post. I collected these from the text of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, translated and edited by S.A.J. Bradley, 1982.)

1) “I am one on my own, wounded by weapon of iron, scarred by sword, wearied from the actions of the fray, exhausted from the edges of the blade, Often I see battle and fight the foe. The consolation that relief from the toil of war shall come to me before I am completely done for amongst men, I do not expect; instead, the product of hammers, the hard-edged blade, bloodily sharp, the handiwork of the smiths, buffet and bite me within the strongholds. I must continue to await encounters yet more hostile. Never have I been able to find in town the kind of physician that has healed with herbs my wounds; instead, the sword-gashes upon me grow bigger through mortal blows by day and by night.”

Well, you can tell this one was written by a drunken man:
2) “I am a wondrous creature to women a thing of joyful expectancy, to close-lying companions serviceable. I harm no city-dweller excepting my slayer alone. My stem is erect and tall—I stand up in bed—and whiskery somewhere down below. Sometimes a countryman’s quite comely daughter will venture, bumptious girl, to get a grip on me. She assaults my red self and seizes my head and clenches me in a cramped place. She will soon feel the effect of her encounter with me, this curly-locked woman who squeezes me. Her eye will be wet.”

3) “I saw in a wood a tree towering up, splendid in his branches. The tree was happy as a growing timber. Water and earth fed him well until, old of days, he came into a different, distressing state—deeply scarred, dumb in fetters, trussed over his wounds, covered to the front with dark ornaments. Now, by the main strength of his head, he clears the way for another, the treacherous warmonger. Often in a siege they have plundered the treasury together. Swift and unsluggish it was, this hinder one: if the one in front gained no headway in a tight spot, he would have to make the assay.”

4) “A curiosity hangs by the thigh of a man, under its master’s cloak. It is pierced through in the front; it is stiff and hard and it has a good standing-place. When the man pulls up his own robe above his knee, he means to poke with the head of his hanging thing that familiar hole of matching length which he has often filled before.”

I’m not making this stuff up.
Answers: 1) a shield; 2) an onion; 3) a battering ram; 4) a key (Another answer scholars have come up with for #4 is the sheath of a dagger, which I prefer because Chariss wears a dagger in a sheath at her thigh in Choices Meant for Gods, and that’s prettier imagery than the innuendo-laden business the Anglo-Saxons came up with above.)

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