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Allomorphs, Transformation Riddles, Exeter Book


The following article argues that the idea of the allomorph is a productive way to view two “transformation” riddles from the Old English collection of riddles in the Exeter Book. In the view of the authors, Riddles 74 and 33 should both be solved generally as “water,” and specifically as “in the form of a thunderstorm.” Both riddles dramatize the multiple forms that water may take, and meditate on the divinely-ordained grandeur of the storm and the particular paradox of a thing being both immensely violent and necessary for life on earth. Understanding how these riddles play out these truths provides students of the riddles with further examples of the happy epistemological sense to be widely found in them.