We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Husband's Message

The Husband's Message

  

by Anonymous

Analysis: Calling Card

Mystery Speaker, Runes

"The Husband's Message" isn't technically a riddle, but in The Exeter Book it's preceded by a series of short poems in which inanimate objects or animals ask the reader to "say what I am." This – and the fact that it's voiced by a mystery speaker who promises to reveal his identity through self-description – makes it like a riddle.

Very quickly, though, the focus of the poem shifts to the message the speaker bears. Not until the end does it return to a riddling mode, this time when it presents five runes, or mysterious pictograms, as a guarantee of the lord's commitment to his love-vows. These runes, which Anglo-Saxons may have believed had magical properties, represent both whole words and single letters. They implicitly ask the reader to "say what I am," because only through knowing them can their message be deciphered. Alas, the technique of rune-reading has been lost to us, making "The Husband's Message" as much of a riddle today as it was a thousand years ago.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement