Latin and Hebrew analogues to the Old Norse leek-riddle
- Alaric Hall (see profile)
- Hebrew literature, Latin language, Middle Ages, Ecocriticism
- Item Type:
- riddles, Heiðreks saga, Bern Riddles, Dunash ben Labraṭ ha-Levi, allium, Old Norse, Medieval Latin
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- It has been thought that of the forty or so surviving Old Norse riddles, only two have close parallels in the wider international riddle tradition. This note shows, however, that the riddle on the leek in the probably thirteenth-century Heiðreks saga has a close parallel in one of the late antique or early medieval Bern Riddles, on garlic. Moreover, the larger conceptual structure of the leek-riddle, which positions the leek as an inverted person situated between the earth and the sun, is paralleled by one of the riddles of the tenth-century Hebrew poet Dunash ben Labraṭ ha-Levi, which figures the sun and its light as a tree with its roots in the sky and its branches in the ground. The riddles of Heiðreks saga are more integrated into wider riddle-culture than has been realised, and comparison of Dunash’s work with the Old Norse and Latin material helps to settle debate about the solution to Dunash’s riddle.
- This is a working-paper, made available 10 January 2021. It is on its way (all being well) to journal publication and so will eventually be superseded by the published version, so be sure to check for that, before citing this version, at https://alarichall.org.uk and https://hcommons.org/members/alarichall/. Comments on this paper would be very welcome: please send any to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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