The Unexpected Treasure of the 'Implement Trope': Hierarchical Relationships in the Old English Riddles

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The Old English riddles are generally valued for their triviality—for their humour and their connection to ordinary life. In this article, however, I argue that the characteristic incongruity of the riddles can be much more than a genre-marker. In one group of riddles, the so-called ‘implement riddles’, descriptions that, on the surface, seem to be too ridiculous to be true and thus instantly dismissible can be seen to present a remarkable discussion of dangerously radical ideas about reciprocal obligation and mutual power sharing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-519
Number of pages15
JournalReview of English Studies
Issue number256
Early online date27 Jan 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Old English Riddles
  • Implement Trope
  • Hierarchical Relationships

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