, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 455–468

Reading the Allegory of St. Erkenwald


DOI: 10.1007/s11061-017-9525-9

Cite this article as:
Cook, B. Neophilologus (2017) 101: 455. doi:10.1007/s11061-017-9525-9


In this article, I argue that the alliterative poem, St. Erkenwald, is a Middle English innovation on Old English and Anglo-Latin parchment riddles. By examining St. Erkenwald in light of the parchment riddles by Anglo-Latin riddlers Tatwine and Eusebius, and riddles contained in The Exeter Book, as well as the description of an ancient book in Matthew Paris’ Gesta abbatum monasterii Sancti Albani, I show that the Erkenwald-poet reimagined the motif of the talking piece of parchment as an ancient pagan judge. The Erkenwald-poet’s reimagining of the parchment riddle as an allegory of reading has perhaps been obscured by what I argue is an unnecessary emendation to the text.


St. Erkenwald Parchment riddles Reading Anglo-Latin riddles Emendation Middle English puns 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of MississippiUniversityUSA

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