Wit and Wisdom: The Worldview of the Old Norse-Icelandic Riddles and Their Relationship to Eddic Poetry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

2 Citations (Scopus)


Hannah Burrows discusses the riddles found in Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, a thirteenth-century fornaldarsaga. Little scholarly attention has been directed toward the riddles from the Old Norse-Icelandic tradition. Hervarar saga contains thirty seven riddles in eddic meters, incorporated into the prose narrative as an exchange of wisdom between King Heiðrekr and the god Óðinn. Burrows argues that the riddles were collected by the saga author (or redactor) who then wrote this episode for the express purpose of incorporating them into the narrative. The riddles resist categorization and classification. Burrows calls them “beyond eddic.” They are composed in “eddic” meters, but they also have affinity with skaldic poetry. Burrows shows how the thematic content of the riddles situates them both within and outside the eddic tradition, and her detailed study of the ordering of the riddles in relationship to one another offers clues to the intentions of the saga author who inserted them into his prosimetrical narrative. Those interested in the wider medieval tradition of riddling will welcome her discussion of how this Nordic manifestation fits into it.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEddic, Skaldic, and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationPoetic Variety in Medieval Iceland and Norway
EditorsMartin Chase
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherFordham University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780823257812
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Publication series

NameFordham Series in Medieval Studies


  • riddles
  • Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks
  • fornaldarsaga
  • eddic meters
  • skaldic poetry
  • Óðinn
  • prosimetrical narrative
  • riddling
  • Hannah Burrows


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