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Exeter Book Riddle 83 facts for kids

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Exeter Book Riddle 83 (according to the numbering of the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records) is one of the Old English riddles found in the later tenth-century Exeter Book. Its interpretation has occasioned a range of scholarly investigations, but it is taken to mean 'Ore/Gold/Metal', with most commentators preferring 'precious metal' or 'gold', and John D. Niles arguing specifically for the Old English solution ōra, meaning both 'ore' and 'a kind of silver coin'.

Text and translation

As edited by Williamson, the riddle reads:

Frōd wæs mīn fromcynn [MS. from cym] [..................]
biden in burgum, siþþan bǣles weard
[...........] wera līge [MS līfe] bewunden,
fȳre gefǣlsad. Nū mē fāh warað
eorþan brōþor, se mē ǣrest wearð
gumena tō gyrne. Ic ful gearwe gemon
hwā mīn fromcynn fruman āgētte
eall of earde; ic him yfle ne māt,
ac ic [MS. ic on] hæftnȳd hwīlum ārǣre
wīde geond wongas. Hæbbe ic wunda fela,
middangeardes mægen unlȳtel,
ac ic mīþan sceal monna gehwylcum
dēgolfulne dōm dȳran cræftes,
sīðfæt mīnne. Saga hwæt ic hātte.

My ancestral family was venerable [...],
awaited in cities, after the guardian of conflagration
[...] of men, surrounded by flame,
cleansed by fire. Now the hostile brother
of earth guards[/inhabits?] me; he was first to turn into
the misfortune of men for me[?]. I remember very clearly
who originally wiped all my ancestors/descendants
from their homeland; I cannot do him evil,
but at times I raise up bond-oppression
widely across the lands. I have many wounds,
no little power in the world,
but I must conceal from each person
the secretive judgement of precious craftsmanship,
my journey. Say what I am called.


The principal analogue noted in past work is Riddle 91 in the collection by Symphosius on 'money':

Terra fui primo, latebris abscondita terrae;
Nunc aliud pretium flammae nomenque dederunt,
Nec iam terra vocor, licet ex me terra paretur.

Earth-child I was, skulking in ground
Till smelt-flames offered a new name and price:
No longer earth, I can purchase the earth.


  • Krapp, George Philip and Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie (eds), The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, 3 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1936), p. 236,
  • Williamson, Craig (ed.), The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), p. 112 [no. 79].
  • Muir, Bernard J. (ed.), The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry: An Edition of Exeter Dean and Chapter MS 3501, 2nd edn, 2 vols (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 2000).


  • Michael D. C. Drout, 'Riddle 83', Anglo-Saxon Aloud (19 November 2007) (performed from the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records edition).
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