Boris the Spider

Boris the Spider's Riddle Page

Nowadays the ancient art of riddling has vanished, though it could be said that the cryptic crossword is it's modern day descendent. Many will recall the riddle contest between Gollum and Bilbo in The Hobbit, which is conducted in very much the traditional form.
Here are a few examples, mostly taken from roleplaying game sessions. The first three were asked by a Troll guarding a bridge, the next two were devised extempore by Daisy the Redsmith's daughter when challenged by a Yelmalio in Sun County. Finally comes a genuine Saxon riddle from the Exeter Book. All the riddles in this verse anthology have been translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland; I have the Folio Society edition but there may be a paperback by now, look for The Exeter Riddle Book.

(1) From the sea I came to the land
From the land I went to the sea
Vikings follow my road
No one is greater than me
(2) We are the three in one
Legend and fancy they call us
But when we burn and stab and tear
Then they will believe us
(3) At noon I put on my green dress, and rise to greet the sun
In the afternoon my yellow dress, and my work is almost done
At eventide men take my heart, and cast my dress aside,
But at dawn they foresake my charms, and in my cold bed I hide.
(4) I am twisted
I am beaten
I am drowned
Yet the more they torture me
The more men value me
(5) I hide in caverns deep
But also under your bed
At birth I bid you farewell
But await you in your grave
(6) I'm a strange creature, for I satisfy women,
a service to the neighbours! No one suffers
at my hands except for my slayer.
I grow very tall, erect in a bed,
I'm hairy underneath. From time to time
a beautiful girl, the brave daughter
of some churl dares to hold me,
grips my russet skin, robs me of my head
and puts me in the pantry. At once that girl
with plaited hair who has confined me
remembers our meeting. Her eye moistens.

Answers Mr Smiley knows the answers!

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