Giedd mē es: Solving the riddle

Giedd is an Old English word which can be translated song, poem, story or saying. It carries the connotation of being oral and can also be translated riddle. Giedd mē es, then, literally translates riddle me this. Now that we have uncovered all the grammatical information, we can begin solving this intriguing puzzle. Below I have marked out the separate parts of speech so you can see how the grammar is broken down in its entirety. A glossary has also been provided in order to aid your final translation of the passage.

Legend: Riddle 8
Pronouns Hrgl mīn swīgađ onne ic hrūsan trede
Nouns   oe ā wīc būge oe wado drēfe.
Verbs Hwilum mec āhebbađ ofer hlea byht
Adjectives   hyrste mīne ond ēos hēa lyft,
Adverbs (5) ond mec onne wīde wolcna strengu


ofer folc byređ. Frtwe mīne
Conjunctions   swōgađ hlūde ond swinsiađ,
    torhte singađ, onne ic getenge ne bēom
  flōde ond foldan, fērende gst


Line 1: Line 2:
Hrgl: covering [nsn] oe: and
mīn: my [gs] ā: the [af]
swīgađ: fall silent (class two weak, present third person singular) wīc: abode [nsn]
onne: when būge: dwell [class two strong, present subjunctive, second person singular]
ic: I [ns] oe: or
hrūsan: earth [asf] wado: water [apn]
trede: tread (class five strong, present first person singular) drēfe: disturb [class one weak, present first person]
Line 3: Line 4:
Hwilum: time [dpf] hyrste: trapping [npf]
mec: me [as] Mīne: my [gs]
āhebbađ: lift (class seven strong, third person plural) ond: and
ofer: over ēos: this [nf]
hlea: man [gpm] hēa: high [nsf]
byht: dwelling [apn] lyft: air [nsf]
Line 5: Line 6:
ond: and ofer: over
mec: me [as] folc: mankind [nsn]
onne: then byređ: carry [class four strong, present third person singular]
wīde: far Frtwe: trapping [npf]
wolcna: sky [gpm] mīne: my [np]
strengu: strength [nsf]  
Line 7: Line 8:
swōgađ: rustle [class seven strong, present third person plural] torhte: splendidly
hlūde: loudly singađ: sing [class three strong, present third person plural]
ond: and onne: then
swinsiađ: sound melodiously [class two weak, present third person plural] ic: I [ns]
  getenge: touching [nsm]
  ne: not
  bēom: am [anomalous, present first person singular]
Line 9:  
flōde: sea [dsm]  
ond: or  
foldan: soil [asf]  
fērende: mobile [class one weak, present participle, ns]  
gst: spirit [nsm]  

           Using the information that we have uncovered try to translate the riddle and develop sentences. Let the punctuation that is already in the text guide you. If needed refer back to the Grammar Page for information about cases or sentence structure. You need to pay attention to case, gender and number in order to make your translation an accurate one, rather than the result of guess-work. Do not make sentences that simply sound like they make sense, because they will not necessarily be grammatically correct. The case of a word is elemental in telling us information about where it is to be placed in a sentence and how it is functioning. Number (plural or singular) indicates the quantity of the particular word we are analyzing. Knowing whether verbs are in past or present tense is also of particular importance. If the chart above seems at all confusing, write down the information yourself in a way that makes sense to you. Everyone learns differently and has their own way to approach translation, so find a strategy that works for you. At first, you will you find you need a lot of information in front of you in order to complete your translation, however, with practice, your ability to identify grammar will become second nature and you will need to write much less down. In the large text box below work out a translation that is grammatically correct. Spend time altering it and making necessary changes until you come up with something you are happy with. When you are finished, compare your work with the example at the bottom of the page and make any necessary corrections. Remember your translation does not have to look exactly like this one. There is nothing wrong with translating hrūsan in line one, for example, as ground rather than earth. As long as the words are in the right order and have the same general sense the translation is correct. Try not to get frustrated if your translation does not come together after your first attempt, or even your second. Making mistakes and attempting to understand them is one of the best ways to learn.

           It is important to note, while comparing translations, that the words provided in brackets have been added by the translator and do not exist in the original text. Sometimes adding words is necessary in order to make the final translation coherent. Because Old English and Modern English function so differently, certain elements have to be altered or added in order for the piece to make sense to modern readers. Often a single word in Old English can only be translated by using multiple words in Modern English in order to convey the same general meaning. At other times in Old English the subject being referred to is only mentioned once, and its presence merely implied in subsequent sentences. As a result when translating the subject seems to be missing altogether and needs to be added by the translator. Others prefer adding certain directional words in order to contribute to the overall tone of the piece. For these reasons anything that does not exist in the original text is made obvious, so as to not confuse you.


Your Translation

Back to Legend Back to Glossary Lines 1-4 Back to Glossary Lines 5-9
  Riddle 8  

Hrægl min swigad þonne ic hrusan trede

oþþe þa wic buge oþþe wado drefe.

Hwilum mec ahebbad ofer hæleþa byht

hyrste mine ond þeos hea lyft,

ond mec þonne wide wolcna strengu

ofer folc byred. Frætwe mine

swogad hlude ond swinsiad,

torhte singad, þonne ic getenge ne beom

flode ond foldan, ferende gæst.



Riddle Translation

  Riddle 8  
  Hrægl min swigad þonne ic hrusan trede My covering falls silent when I tread [the] earth
  oþþe þa wic buge oþþe wado drefe. and dwell [in the] abode or disturb the waters.
  Hwilum mec ahebbad ofer hæleþa byht At times my trappings and this high air
  hyrste mine ond þeos hea lyft, lift me up over [the] dwellings of men,
(5) ond mec þonne wide wolcna strengu and [the] strength [of the] skies then
  ofer folc byred. Frætwe mine carries me far over mankind. My trappings
  swogad hlude ond swinsiad, rustle loudly and sound melodiously, [they]
  torhte singad, þonne ic getenge ne beom sing splendidly, when I am not touching [the]
  flode ond foldan, ferende gæst. seas or soil, [a] mobile spirit.

           Can you figure out the answer to the puzzle now that we have a completed translation? Most sources state that the subject of the riddle is some type of bird, 'swan' being the most popular solution. The riddle, which is eloquently written, contains a vocabulary that flows together gently, like a bird gliding through the air. Now that we analyzed a text together in detail, you will have the opportunity to translate another riddle. This time I will indicate which grammatical clues to look for and you will look up the words in a glossary yourself.


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