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March 2005
The Riddle of the new Exeter Statue
The riddle statue
A look up the six meters of the riddle statue

Riddle me this, riddle me that... The latest part of Exeter's renovation is a mindbending as well as eye popping attraction.

BBC Devon's Jo Bishop takes a look at the statue.
Leigh Rundle's Spotlight report.
Princesshay Redevelopment plans

The Exeter Book

Devon County Council

Exeter City Council
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Visitors and residents in Exeter High Street being asked questions is nothing new but this is a little older than "do you get this catalogue" or "can I have a moment of your time to fill in this questionnaire".

These questions date back to the 10th Century and have been chosen from the 96 riddles in the Exeter Book, a tome kept safe in Exeter Cathedral.

Scroll down to the bottom to try two of the riddles or click HERE

Leofric, the first Bishop of Exeter who died in 1072 bequeathed the book to the cathedral library. It's one of four great surviving miscellanies of old English poetry.

House of mirrors
The statue can become a house of mirrors

Of the 96 riddles it contained, 75 remain readable in the book and a selection of these have been imprinted on the statue.

They've been translated into modern English and in some cases have had to have a little editing to make them suitable for a family audience as the best word to describe them is "bawdy".

At six meters high the stainless steel sculpture was created by artist Michael Fairfax and it's been described as 'something to entertain and baffle visitors and residents.'

The riddles have been inscribed backwards onto the steel points that arc up from its stone base and are readable from their reflections on the polished opposite face.

For the most confused of viewers the answers can be found in small engraved spheres behind each point.

With such a prominent placing the new statue is important to the new redevelopment of Exeter.

People examining the riddle statue
The statue is already becoming an attraction

"The Riddles sculpture is an intriguing and eyecatching piece of artwork that forms the centrepiece of the High Street improvement works," said City Council Leader, Roy Slack

"This sculpture will add visual excitement to the street scene and be a unique feature," added Cllr David Morrish, Devon County Council's Executive Member for Environment.

"Many visitors are attracted to Exeter because of its history and this artwork reflects the city's rich heritage. The Exeter Book is one of the earliest surviving pieces of Anglo Saxon literature."

If you feel like a challenge two of the riddles sit below, can you beat them?

Riddle 1:

Some acres of this Middle Earth are handsomely attired with the hardest, sharpest, most bitter of man's fine belongings:

It is cut, threshed, couched, kilned, mashed, strained, sparged, yeasted, covered, wracked, and carried far to the doors of men.

A quickening delight lies in this treasure, lingers and lasts for men who, from experience, indulge their inclinations and don't rail against them; and then after death it begins to gab, to gossip, wrecklessly.

Shrewd men must think carefully must think carefully what this creature is.

Riddle 2:

I am a strange creature with various voices.

I can bark like a dog, bleat like a goat, honk like a goose, shreek like a hawk, and at time I imitate the ashen eagle, the battle bird's cry;

the vulture's croak trips off my tongue and them mew of the seagull as I sit here saucily.

The capital G suggests my name and AE, R, and O assist it so do H and I. I am called what these six characters clearly spell out.

To see the riddles answers click HERE

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