“Feorran Broht”: Exeter Book Riddle 12 and the Commodification of the Exotic

  • Peter Robson
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In the past ten years, the Exeter Book’s hitherto somewhat overlooked Riddle 12 has become rather a cause celebre in the realm of Old English poetic scholarship, thanks to the combination of its apparently sensational, and salacious, subject matter with critical issues of class, sex, and gender. Riddle 12 is something of a peculiarity among its fellows and is consequently quite difficult to classify as a particular type or subgenre of riddle. The problem arises from the fact that the riddle seems to fall neatly into two halves, the first, running from lines 1 to 7a, taking the form of the classic “speaking subject” riddle, in which the subject of the enigma invites us to speculate on its identity, and the second, running from lines 7b to 15b, which seems to include a second layer of riddling, this time of the double entendre type. The first part of the riddle involves the subject, in this case, an ox, describing its uses before and after death:


Sexual Desire Compound Word Sexual Ideology Exeter Book Semantic Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Robson

There are no affiliations available

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