A wonderful examination of the “question” of riddles in the Exeter Book by Adam Roberts at The Valve (links/blockquotes in original). Here’s a nice snip:
So letâ€™s take it as a single, one-line riddle. Here it is, followed by Kevin Crossley-Hollandâ€™s concise translation
Wundor wearÃ° on wege: wÃ¦ter wearÃ° to bane.
On the way, a miracle: water becomes bone.
Scholars agree that answer to this riddle is: ice. Scholars donâ€™t always agree on the answer to any given riddle. For example, various OE riddle experts have looked at Riddle 74 (â€˜I was once a young woman,/a glorious warrior, a grey-haired queen./I soared with birds, stepped on the earth,/swam in the seaâ€”dived under the waves, languid amongst fishes. I had a living spiritâ€™) and variously suggested cuttlefish, water, siren and swan as the answer. By comparison, and remembering that the answers to these riddles are nowhere written down or â€˜officiallyâ€™ tabulated, â€˜on the way, a miracle: water becomes bone … iceâ€™ looks relatively straightforward. Itâ€™s a nicely satisfying and poetic image, too.
But hereâ€™s another answer to the riddle:
Climbing Cooperâ€™s Hill, and looking back at the curve of the Thames in the bright, cloudy light: the afternoon sun polishing away all grey or blue from the water until it is white, its edges sharpened by the angle of illumination, looking like nothing so much as a mighty rib-bone gleaming, set in the flesh of the land … and I thought to myself yes, water becomes bone.
The answer ice identifies two points of similarity (hardness, colour) with bone; but this vision of the Thames identifies three (colour, shape, setting). Does that make it a â€˜betterâ€™ answer to the Exeter Book riddle?