Sunday, 10 July 2016

Riddle Me Good and Hard

Facsimile of the Exeter Book, 10th century
The dirty joke has a very long history in literature. The 10th Century Exeter Book is a collection of poetry which contains, among other things, ninety riddles - and some of these riddle are VERY RUDE - the joke being of course, that once the dirty solution has got into your head, you can't think of the "true" one, and the riddlemaster can look all innocent and tell you that you just have a mucky mind :-)

Here are some of the riddles...

"A splendid thing hangs near a man's thigh,
Under his cloak. It is stiff, strong,
Bold, brassy, and pierced in front.
When a young lord lifts his tunic
Over his knees, he wants to greet
With the hard head of this hanging creature
The familiar hole it has long come to fill."

Answer: A key
"I am a wonderful thing, a joy to women,
Useful to all neighbours. I harm
No citizen except my slayer.
Rooted I stand up high and steep over the bed.
I am shaggy below. Sometimes the beautiful
Peasant's daughter, an eager-armed,
Proud woman grabs my body,
Rushes my red skin, holds me hard,
Claims my head. The curly-haired
Woman who catches me fast will feel
Our meeting. Her eye will be wet."

Answer: an onion
"I heard of something rising in a corner,
Swelling and standing up, lifting its cover.
The proud-hearted woman grabbed at that boneless
Wonder with her hands; the prince's daughter
Covered that swelling thing with a swirl of cloth."

Answer: dough

"Sometimes a lady, comely and proud,
Locks me up, boxes me tight -
Sometimes draws me out on demand
And hands me over to her fine lord
Who shoves his hard head in my hole,
Slides up from below while I slip down -
A tight squeeze. If the man who seizes me
Presses with strength, something shaggy
Will fill me up, muscle me out--
Guess what I mean."

Answer: a nice clean shirt
Heh heh heh!

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