Just a quickie this week. The following image comes from the lower border of a leaf of a late thirteenth-century manuscript today called the “Ormesby Psalter.” According to the catalogue notes, it illustrates a popular medieval riddle:
And here’s a closeup of the answer. It’s this guy:
The riddle comes from the story of Marcolf and Solomon. Marcolf (pictured above) is kind of the medieval version of Oscar Wilde. He gets invited to all the best dinner parties because of his reputation for being clever, but his cleverness mostly manifests itself in making fun of his hosts. Once he’s thoroughly annoyed Solomon, he is challenged to do impossible tasks, like the one above.
This, by the way, is exactly why I hate riddles. You’re not answering a question, you’re trying to divine what bullshit rules the riddler has decided to apply in order to make their clever answer the right one. I mean, c’mon. It’s not ‘morning’ when the baby is crawling, Mr. Sphinx, and crawling is really not the same as ‘walking on four legs,’ now is it?