Bern Riddles facts for kids
The Bern Riddles, also known as Aenigmata Bernensia, Aenigmata Hexasticha or Riddles of Tullius, are a collection of 63 metrical Latin riddles, named after the location of their earliest surviving manuscript, which today is held in Bern (though probably produced in Bourges): the early eighth-century Codex Bernensis 611.
Although it has been suggested that they were composed in late antiquity, most scholars consider that the Bern Riddles were inspired by the c. fourth-century collection of riddles attributed to Symphosius, and date to around the seventh century. The author of the Bern Riddles is not known but they might have been written by "a Lombard familiar with Mediterranean flora and food"; perhaps in the monastery of Bobbio. According to Archer Taylor, "The Berne Riddles are especially interesting for the author's familiarity with the North Italian landscape and its plants. Whoever he was, we may safely call him the first medieval riddle-master in Italy". However, some scholars see the origin of the Bern Riddles in Anglo-Saxon England, where several early medieval collections of metrical riddles originated, such as the Enigmata of Aldhelm.
The subjects of the Bern Riddles are as follows: 1. de olla/bowl; 2. de lucerna/lamp; 3. de sale/salt; 4. de scamno/bench; 5. de mansa/table; 6. de calice/(glass) chalice; 7. de uesica/air-bubble; 8. de ouo/egg; 9. de mola/millstone; 10. de scala/ladder; 11. de naue/ship; 12. de grano/grain of corn; 13. de uite/grapevine; 14. de oliua/olive; 15. de palma/palm-tree; 16. de cedride/cedar-berry; 17. de cribro/sieve; 18. de scopa/broom; 19. de cera/wax tablet; 20. de melle/honey; 21. de ape/bee; 22. de oue/egg; 23. de ignis scintilla/fire-spark; 24. de membrana/parchment; 25. de litteris/letters; 26. de sinapi/mustard; 27. de papiro/(papyrus)-paper; 28. de serico/silkworm; 29. de speculo/mirror; 30. de pisce/fish; 31. de nympha/siphon; 32. de spongia/sponge; 33. de uiola/violet; 34. de rosa/rose; 35. de liliis/lilies; 36. de croco/saffron; 37. de pipere/pepper; 38. de glacie/ice; 39. de hedera/ivy; 40. de muscipula/mousetrap; 41. de uento/wind; 42. de glacie/ice; 43. de uermis bombycibus sericas uestes formantibus/silkworms; 44. de margarita/pearl; 45. de terra/earth; 46. de pistillo/pestle; 47. de cochlea/snail-shell; 48. de castanea/chestnut; 49. de pluuia/rain; 50. de uino/wine; 50a. de charta/[wood-pulp] paper; 51. de alio/garlic; 52. de rosa/rose; 53. de trutina/weighing-scales; 54. de insubulo/weaving-loom; 55. de sole/sun; 56. de sole/sun; 57. de sole/sun; 58. de luna/moon; 59. de luna/moon; 60. de caelo/sky; 61. de umbra/shadow; 62. de stellis/stars; 63. de uino/wine.
LI. De alio.
LII. De rosa.
The Bern Riddles come down to us in the following manuscripts:
|Name||Folios||Date||Number of Riddles||Comments|
|Cod. Bern 611||73-80v||8th c. (early)||33||See manuscript here. Parts of this manuscripts are missing.|
|Cod. Berlin Philipps 167||37v-45||9th c.||2|
|Cod. Leipzig Rep. I 74||15v-24||9th or 10th c.||63|
|Cod. Vienna 67||168v-170||12th c.||62|
|Cod. Vienna 2285||206-12||14th c.||62|
|Cod. Paris Lat. 5596||165-||8th or 9th c.||9||See manuscript here.|
|Cod. Paris Lat. 8071||no foliation||9th c. (late)||2||See manuscript here. Sometimes referred to as Codex Thuaneus.|
|Cod. Vatican Reg. Lat. 1553||8v-21 (passim)||9th c. (early)||52||See manuscript here. Mixed with riddles of Symphosius and Aldhelm.|
|Newberry Case MS f.11||12th c. (first half)||62|
|Cod. Vatican Barb. Lat. 1717||16th c.||?|
Editions and translations
The best modern editions of the Bern Riddles are:
- 'Aenigmata in Dei nomine Tullii seu aenigmata quaestionum artis rhetoricae [aenigmata "bernensia"]', ed. by Fr. Glorie, trans. by Karl J. Minst, in Tatuini omnia opera, Variae collectiones aenigmatum merovingicae aetatis, Anonymus de dubiis nominibus, Corpus christianorum: series latina, 133-133a, 2 vols (Turnholt: Brepols, 1968), II 541–610.
- Strecker, Karl (ed). “Aenigmata Hexasticha.” MGH: Poetae Latini aevi Carolingi, Vol. 4.2; Berlin, 1914. pp. 732-759.
- The Bern Riddles, in The Riddle Ages: Old English Riddles, Translations and Commentaries, ed. by Megan Cavell and Neville Mogford, with Matthias Ammon and Victoria Symons (2013-). An edition and English translation of the Bern Riddles begun in 2020.
- Neville Mogford, 'The Moon and Stars in the Bern and Eusebius Riddles', in Riddles at Work in the Early Medieval Tradition: Words, Ideas, Interactions, ed. by Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020), pp. 230–46 , .
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