Tatwine (ca. 670-734) was archbishop of Canterbury from 731 until his death from old age. He is known for writing a Latin grammar—like an advanced student manual, explaining the finer points of the language—as well as composing forty Latin poetic riddles. He likely wrote these earlier in his career when he was first monk then abbot in Leicestershire. (As archbishop, he would probably not have had the time!)

The riddles show Tatwine’s desire to present everything from abstract concepts (like hope, faith, and charity in Riddle 2, and different modes of biblical interpretation in Riddle 3) to domestic and agricultural objects (like a table in Riddle 29 and a winnowing fork in Riddle 36) in an oblique and unfamiliar light. He displays somewhat less interest in the natural world than do some other riddlers (though Riddle 17’s squirrel is most excellent!), but that may owe more to the relatively small size of the corpus than to Tatwine’s own preferences.

Tatwine’s forty riddles survive in two manuscripts compiled roughly three hundred years after his death: London, British Library, Royal MS 12 C XXIII (digitised online here) and Cambridge, University Library, Gg.v.35 (digitised online here). As with other Latin riddles, these manuscripts give the riddles’ solutions in their titles. In both manuscripts, they are joined by Eusebius’ sixty riddles, which suggests that Eusebius composed his riddles to bring Tatwine’s set up to the full, Symphosian-Aldhelmian set of one hundred—or, at least, that that was how Eusebius’ riddles were received.

The following edition and translation of Tatwine's Latin riddles, based on both surviving manuscript witnesses, are by Alexandra Reider.


  • Glorie, Fr., ed. Variae collectiones aenigmatum Merovingicae aetatis. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 133. Turnhout: Brepols, 1968, pages 166-208 (with English translation by Erika von Erhardt-Siebold). Available online here.
  • Orchard, Andy, ed. and trans. The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021, pages 110-39; and A Commentary on The Old English and Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021, pages 131-72.
  • Williams, Mary, ed. & trans. "The Riddles of Tatwine and Eusebius." PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 1974, pages 101-56.

Studies of Tatwine’s Riddles

  • Cavell, Megan. "Seeing Red: Visuality, Violence, and the Making of Textiles in Early Medieval Enigmatic Poetry." Medieval Feminist Forum, vol. 57, issue 1 (2021), pages 17-48.
  • Lockett, Leslie. Anglo-Saxon Psychologies in the Vernacular and Latin Traditions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. Especially chapter 5.
  • Salvador-Bello, Mercedes. Isidorean Perceptions of Order: The Exeter Book Riddles and Medieval Latin Enigmata. Morgantown, West Virginia University Press, 2015. Especially chapters 1, 2 and 3.4.
  • Thornbury, Emily V. Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Especially chapter 2.
  • Whitman, F. H. "Aenigmata Tatwini." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, vol. 88 (1987), pages 8-17.

And referred to throughout:

  • Bitterli, Dieter. Say What I am Called The Old English Riddles of the Exeter Book and the Anglo-Latin Riddle Tradition. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2009.
  • Cavell, Megan and Jennifer Neville, eds. Riddles at Work in the Early Medieval Tradition: Words, Ideas, Interactions. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.

Digitised Manuscripts

  • London, British Library, Royal MS 12 C XXIII. Available here.  
  • Cambridge, University Library, Gg.v.35. Available here.

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