Students from Richard Hill School holding the books they won through the Riddle Competition.
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The Riddle Ages: Anglo-Saxon-Style Poetry Writing in Charnwood Forest

Did you know that the Anglo-Saxons were adept at writing riddles? The tenth-century manuscript known as the Exeter Book contains many incredible riddles, and lots of them were written about things found in the natural world. They have inspired writers for a very long time, including J.R.R. Tolkein, who filled The Hobbit with his own Anglo-Saxon-style riddles. This got us thinking, and we decided to collaborate with award-winning Leicestershire poet John Berkavitch in order to create something exciting, magical, and – let’s face it – a bit different for our local schools.

Berkavitch is most well-known for his oral poetic performances, and the spoken word genre has been described as a modern version of ancient oral artistic tradition. As Anglo-Saxon poetry in all its forms would originally have been performed orally, we felt that Berkavitch would be the perfect artist to help us produce some new teaching resources, creating a framework for teachers to guide students through the process of writing their own Anglo-Saxon-style riddles.

As we shared the new resources with schools across Charnwood Forest, we became so excited about the ease with which local children produced their own really high-quality riddles, that we decided to create a competition. This was open to any child within two age categories: 7-10 and 11-14, and the only criteria was that the riddle had to feature something found in Charnwood Forest. We launched the competition on Ben Jackson’s afternoon show on BBC Radio Leicester, and it ran for six weeks until the summer half-term. We were inundated with entries, and it was really difficult for John Berkavitch to choose our winners and runners-up. After much deliberation, the winners and runners-up were:

7-10 Winner: Josh Jordan (Home Educated)

7-10 Runner-Up: Annabelle Bailey (St Paul’s C of E Primary, Woodhouse Eaves)

11-14 Winner: Ethan Jay Jewell (Richard Hill Primary, Thurcaston)

11-14 Runner-Up: Jakub Tyvonczuk (Richard Hill Primary, Thurcaston)

Our winners each received £50 worth of books from Fox Books in Leicester, and their school received £75 worth of books (which in Josh’s case, were donated to Markfield Community Library). They were also invited to Timber Festival in early July, where John Berkavitch read their riddles out to the festival audience. Runners-up each received £25 worth of books.

To create your own riddle, watch the video with John Berkavitch guiding you through the process, and download our classroom resources, go HERE, (we’d love to see the results, so do get in touch!).

You can find all the winning riddles below. Can you guess what our young authors are writing about? The answers are at the bottom of the page…

Josh’s Riddle

I was formed low down but came high up. I never broke the blistered skin.

I came from heat and give heat. My memories are those of heat.

Dinosaurs ate me but didn’t hate me. I kept them safe and became them.

I hurt and help but I always remember my dead.

I was near the nine-day queen and am her name.

Sky candles and fish roads shaped me, life and death carved me.

My enemies are those that made me.

I once was big but now I’m small.

Bone houses worship in me but walk over me too.

I am hard to break alone but I can be broken by myself.

I am always the winner in ro-sham-bo because I am all players.

Annabelle’s Riddle

Where do I come from? I come from a tree,

I live outside in the mud that is dirty,

I’m smooth and spikey at the same time,

I am silent all the time,

Me? I’m not useful, I just lie there,

With humans I’m fine, my spikes are like their hair,

I dream of being bigger than them,

My neighbours are bigger than me,

My family look the same as me,

Heavy things make me go “EEE!”

My mood is always tired,

My first memory is waking inside,

If I could change me, I would be big,

I’m brown and sometimes green,

I can be mean,

I can’t fly,

What am I?

Ethan’s Riddle

I live outside in nature. I do not move, I do not make a sound.

I multiply. I was tiny but now I’m big.

I am useful to humans; people are my enemy.

I am scared of people; I spend most of my time staying still.

My first memory is a human. I dream of people not destroying me.

If I could change one thing about me it would be to be bigger.

The colour of my outside can be multiple colours. My inside is not the same as my outside.

If I had a wish I would like to be a leaf.

What am I?

Jakub’s Riddle

I live in everything.

I move when I’m picked up, although there are a lot of other ways I can move.

I sometimes change, depending on where I am.

I’m most useful when I’m made into something that supports humanity.

Everything is my frenemy, everything is the same as me.

I’m scared of all living things, they eat my friends and sometimes me.

I’m in all moods at once.

My first memory is the big bang.

I dream of being a part of something else.

In the world, I would change the fact that living creatures have to eat – they eat me.

I can be any colour, it depends what I’m part of.

I’m the same inside as outside.

My wish would be that I’m part of something that’s my favourite colour.

Poet John Berkavitch reads the winning entries at Timber Festival.

Poet John Berkavitch reads the winning entries at Timber Festival.

Riddles Answers:

Josh: Markfieldite. (This is a rock type from Charnwood Forest – you can see it in Bradgate Park and Hill Hole Nature Reserve)

Ethan: The lines on the inside of a tree.

Annabelle: A conker

Jakub: An atom

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