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Encyclopedia > Riddle

A riddle is a statement or question having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddles are of two types: enigmas, which are problems generally expressed in metaphorical or allegorical language that require ingenuity and careful thinking for their solution, and conundrums, which are questions relying for their effects on punning in either the question or the answer. The term statement can have several meanings: In programming, a statement is an instruction to execute something that will not return a value. ... A question may be either a linguistic expression used to make a request for information, or else the request itself made by such an expression. ... A puzzle is a problem or enigma that challenges ingenuity. ...



Riddles have a distinguished literary ancestry, although the contemporary sort of conundrum that passes under the name of "riddle" may not make this obvious. Riddles occur extensively in Old English poetry, and also in the Old Norse literature of the Elder Edda and the skalds. The Exeter Book, a manuscript in Old English, preserves almost sixty versified riddles from the Old English literature. An example: Old English poetry is based upon one system of verse construction which was used for all poems. ... Old Norse or Danish tongue is the Germanic language once spoken by the inhabitants of the Nordic countries (for instance during the Viking Age). ... The Poetic Edda or Elder Edda is a term applied to two things. ... The skald was a member of a group of courtly poets, whose poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry. ... The Exeter Book, also known as the Codex Exoniensis, is a tenth century book (or, as some prefer, a codex) of Anglo-Saxon poetry. ... Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon[1], Old English: ) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in parts of what is now England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. ...

Moððe word fræt. Me þæt þuhte
wrætlicu wyrd, þa ic þæt wundor gefrægn,
þæt se wyrm forswealg wera gied sumes,
þeof in þystro, þrymfæstne cwide
ond þæs strangan staþol. Stælgiest ne wæs
wihte þy gleawra, þe he þam wordum swealg.
A moth ate words.
I thought that was quite curious,
that a mere worm,
a thief in the dark, ate what a man wrote,
his brilliant language and its strong foundation.
The thief got no wiser for all that he fattened himself on words.

The answer called for by the poem is bookworm. The general technique is to refer obliquely to the subject by kenning and other sorts of figurative language; because kennings formed such an important element of alliterative verse forms in the Germanic languages, the riddles served the dual purpose of puzzling the poet's audience and teaching the lore needed to use or understand the poetic language successfully. The god Odin was a master of riddle lore, and sparred with several of his foes using contests of riddles. In the Vafthruthnismal, Odin defeats his foe by posing a question to which only he could possibly know the answer. In literature, a kenning is a compound poetic phrase, a figure of speech, substituted for the usual name of a person or thing. ... The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written in alliterative verse. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ... For other meanings of Odin, Woden or Wotan see Odin (disambiguation), Woden (disambiguation), Wotan (disambiguation). ... In Norse mythology, Vafþruðnismál (Vafthruthnismal), or the Song of Vafþruðner, is the third poem in the Elder Edda. ...


"Charades" are reported to have originated in France in the 18th century, and later spread across Europe and around the world. The first mention of charades in English was in a letter written in 1776 by Lady Boscawen, a Bluestocking and widow of Admiral Edward Boscawen. Early charades were usually in rhyming form, and contained a clue for each syllable ("my first", "my second",...) of a chosen word or phrase, followed by a clue about the entire word ("my whole"). Charades played a role in Jane Austen's Emma. One famous composer of such charades is Winthrop Mackworth Praed; others are Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Pope Leo XIII. An example of this form of charade, taken from an early American magazine in 1834, goes like this: (17th century - 18th century - 19th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 18th century refers to the century that lasted from 1701 through 1800. ... World map showing the location of Europe. ... The Blue Stockings Society was an informal womens social and educational movement in England in the mid-eighteenth century, created in imitation of the French society of the same name, emphasizing education and mutual co-operation rather than the individualism which marked the French version. ... Edward Boscawen (August 10, 1711 - January 10, 1761) was a British (Cornish) admiral. ... 1873 engraving of Jane Austen, based on a portrait drawn by her sister Cassandra. ... // For other uses, see Emma (disambiguation). ... Winthrop Mackworth Praed (July 28, 1802 - July 15, 1839) was an English politician and poet of political wit. ... Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. ... Pope Leo XIII (March 2, 1810 – July 20, 1903), born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, having succeeded Pope Pius IX (1846–78) on February 20, 1878 and reigning until his death in 1903. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Year 1834 (MDCCCXXXIV) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian Calendar (or a common year starting on Monday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ...

"My first, tho’ water, cures no thirst,
My next alone has soul,
And when he lives upon my first,
He then is called my whole."

The answer to this charade is "sea-man". Another, composed by Jane Austen herself, is this:

When my first is a task to a young girl of spirit,
And my second confines her to finish the piece,
How hard is her fate! but how great is her merit
If by taking my whole she effects her release!

The answer is "hem-lock".

This form of charade appeared in magazines, books, and on the folding fans of the Regency. The answers were sometimes printed on the reverse of the fan, suggesting that they were a flirting device, used by a young woman to tease her beau. Regency may have several meanings: A regency may be a period of time when a regent holds power in the name of the current monarch, or in the name of the Crown itself, if the throne is vacant. ...

The name "charades" gradually became more popularly used to refer to acted charades. Examples of the acted charades are described in William Thackeray's Vanity Fair and in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre Charades or charade is a word guessing game. ... William Makepeace Thackeray (July 18, 1811 - December 24, 1863) was an English novelist of the 19th century. ... Title-page to Vanity Fair, drawn by Thackeray, who furnished the illustrations for many of his earlier editions Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray that satirizes society in early 19th-century England. ... Charlotte Brontë (IPA: ) (April 21, 1816 – March 31, 1855) was an English novelist and the eldest of the three Brontë sisters whose novels have become enduring classics of English literature. ... Jane Eyre is a classic novel by Charlotte Brontë that was published in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Company, London, and is one of the most famous British novels. ...

Poetic form

The poetic form became very popular in Victorian times, when each line of a classic riddle would describe individual letters or syllables of the solution, with the last line describing the complete answer, for example,

My first is in tea but not in leaf
My second is in teapot and also in teeth
My third is in caddy but not in cosy
My fourth is in cup but not in rosy
My fifth is in herbal and also in health
My sixth is in peppermint and always in wealth
My last is in drink, so what can I be?
I’m there in a classroom, do you listen to me?

The solution here is Teacher.

On the Indian subcontinent, Amir Khusro made the poetic riddles popular. An example: Map of South Asia (see note) This article deals with the geophysical region in Asia. ... Abul Hasan Yaminuddin Khusro (1253-1325 CE), better known as Amir Khusro Dehlavi (in Persian اميرخسرو دهلوى), is one of the iconic figures in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent. ...

(In Hindi)
Nar naari kehlaati hai,
aur bin warsha jal jati hai;
Purkh say aaway purkh mein jaai,
na di kisi nay boojh bataai.
English translation
Is known by both masculine and feminine names,
And lightens up (or burns up) without rain;
Originates from a man and goes into a man,
But no one has been able to guess what it is.

The solution here is"Ashley" Hindi ( , Devanagari: or , IAST: , IPA: ), an Indo-European language spoken mainly in northern and central India, is the official language of the Union along with English. ...

Riddle Game

The Riddle Game is a formalized guessing game, a contest of wit and skill in which players take turns asking riddles. The player that cannot answer loses. Riddle games occurs frequently in mythology and folklore, particularly Scandinavian, as well as in popular literature. A guessing game is a game in which the object is to guess some kind of information, such as a word, a phrase, a title, or the location of an object. ... The word mythology (from the Greek μυολογία mythología, from mythologein to relate myths, from mythos, meaning a narrative, and logos, meaning speech or argument) literally means the (oral) retelling of myths – stories that a particular culture believes to be true and that use the supernatural to interpret natural events and... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Gollum challenges Bilbo Baggins to a riddle competition; Bilbo wins the competition by asking the riddle, "What have I got in my pocket?" (though he notes that it was not exactly a riddle "according to the ancient rules") which Gollum cannot answer. The answer was the One Ring, which Gollum had lost and Bilbo had found. Although this is more of a simple question than a riddle, by attempting to answer it rather than challenging it Gollum accepted it as a riddle; by accepting it, his loss was binding. A similarly deceptive riddling contest features prominently in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, in which the protagonists win by asking the difference between a truck full of bowling balls and a truck full of woodchucks. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English philologist, writer and university professor, best known as the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. ... This article or section contains a plot summary that is overly long or excessively detailed compared to the rest of the article. ... Gollum is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkiens legendarium. ... Bilbo Baggins (2890 Third Age - ? Fourth Age) is an important character in J. R. R. Tolkiens legendarium. ... The One Ring, also known as the Ruling Ring, The Doom of Man, the Great Ring of Power, The Ring, or Isildurs Bane, is an artifact from J. R. R. Tolkiens fictional Middle-earth universe. ... Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of over 200 stories including over 50 bestselling horror novels. ... The Dark Tower can refer to one of several things: The Dark Tower (series) — a series of novels by Stephen King. ...

In Norse mythology, the king of the gods, Odin, like Bilbo, won such a contest by the questionable tactic of asking a question to which only he could know the answer. However, as with Gollum, the adversary who accepts such a question is bound to honor the terms of the game. Norse or Scandinavian mythology comprises the pre-Christian religion, beliefs and legends of the Scandinavian people, including those who settled on Iceland, where the written sources for Norse mythology were assembled. ... Look up deity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other meanings of Odin, Woden or Wotan see Odin (disambiguation), Woden (disambiguation), Wotan (disambiguation). ...

Richard Wagner placed a riddle game in Act One of his opera Siegfried. Richard Wagner Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, conductor, music theorist, and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or music dramas as he later came to call them). ... Siegfried is the third of the four operas that comprise Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), by Richard Wagner. ...

Modern television

In the Batman comic books, one of the hero's best known enemies is The Riddler who is personally compelled to supply clues about his upcoming crimes to his enemies in the form of riddles and cats. Stereotypically, they are the kind of simple riddles as described below, but modern treatments generally prefer to have the character use more sophisticated cats. Batman (originally referred to as the Bat-Man and still referred to at times as the Batman) is a DC Comics fictional superhero who first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. ... A comic book is a magazine or book containing the art form of comics. ... Detective Comics #140 (October 1948), the first appearance of The Riddler. ...

Contemporary riddles

Contemporary riddles typically use puns and double entendres for humorous effect, rather than to puzzle the butt of the joke, as in: A pun (also known as paronomasia) is a figure of speech, or word play which consists of a deliberate confusion of similar words within a phrase or phrases for rhetorical effect, whether humorous or serious. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... A joke is a short story or series of words spoken or communicated with the intent of causing laughter or being found humorous by either listener/reader or performer/writer. ...

When is a door not a door?
When it's ajar.
What's black and white and red (read) all over?
A newspaper. (or a sunburnt nun/penguin/zebra)
What's brown and sounds like a bell?
Why is six afraid of seven?
Because seven eight (ate) nine.

These riddles are now mostly children's humour and games rather than literary compositions. Look up humour in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Tug of war is an easily organized, impromptu game that requires little equipment. ...

See also

Oedipus with the Sphinx, from an Attic red-figure cylix from the Vatican Museum, ca. ... The Great Sphinx of Giza, with the Pyramid of Khafre in the background For other uses, see Sphinx (disambiguation). ... Illustration of Rumpelstiltskin from Andrew Langs The Blue Fairy Book, ca. ... The Da Vinci Game box cover. ... A puzzle is a problem or enigma that challenges ingenuity. ... The newspaper riddle is a joke, a riddle or conundrum that begins with the question:[1] Q: What is black and white and red all over? The traditional answer, which relies upon the fact that the words red and read are homophones, is:[1][2] A: A newspaper Barrick[1...

External links

  • Riddles at the Open Directory Project – An active listing of riddle links.
  • Isbell, Billy Jean. "Riddle Games among Quechua Speakers." Journal of Latin American Lore 3:1 (1977), 19-49. (pdf)

  Results from FactBites:
Riddle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1254 words)
Riddles have a distinguished literary ancestry, although the contemporary sort of conundrum that passes under the name of "riddle" may not make this obvious.
Riddles occur extensively in Old English poetry, and also in the Old Norse literature of the Elder Edda and the skalds.
The god Odin was a master of riddle lore, and sparred with several of his foes using contests of riddles.
Rock Riddle Bio (2914 words)
Riddle was asked to read several lines from a script to an audience of producers and casting directors.
In one of his skits, Riddle wore a Mexican sombrero and, with maracas in hand, was situated on a platform, singing and dancing around while trying to undo himself from a straight jacket and leg irons.
Riddle guest-starred in the recurring role of "Rock Mondo" and was asked to return for a second season, but other commitments prevented him from doing so.
  More results at FactBites »



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