Techniques of Concealment in the Early Medieval Bern Riddles

Röösli, Samuel (13 September 2018). Techniques of Concealment in the Early Medieval Bern Riddles (Unpublished). In: 6th international SAMEMES conference. Universität Bern, Schweiz. 13.09.2018.

This paper offers an exploration of the early medieval Bern Riddles both as a technique of concealment and as a way of learning about the secrets hidden behind the veil of concealing language. The Bern Riddles are a collection of Latin riddle poems dating back to, at least, the 7th century. In contrast to more widely studied collections such as the late Roman Aenigmata of one Symphosius, the Anglo-Latin Enigmata of Aldhelm, or indeed the Old English Exeter Book riddles, the Bern Riddles have been studied only marginally. Latin Riddle poems, or aenigmata, were a prominent part of early medieval education, especially but not exclusively in Anglo-Saxon England. Their usage in schools pertained to language acquisition and to familiarising a particular kind of rhetorics. The riddle or aenigma in the grammatical and rhetorical works used or produced in the period appears as a sub-category of allegory, defined as “an obscure thought through a hidden likeness of things” (Donatus, de tropis GL 4,401), or “an obscure meaning” which is “represented through certain semblances” (Isidor of Seville, Etymologiae I.37.22.26). The obscured meanings of riddle poetry such as the Bern Riddles produce simultaneously concealment and revelation: they construct, as it were, a secret only to offer the key to reveal their own meanings.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

UniBE Contributor:

Röösli, Samuel


400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures




Leona Josefine Irmgard Goop

Date Deposited:

23 Jan 2019 12:42

Last Modified:

29 Jan 2019 13:44


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