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A riddle is a statement, question or phrase 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 conundra, which are questions relying for their effects on punning in either the question or the answer.
Archer Taylor says that "we can probably say that riddling is a universal art" and cites riddles from hundreds of different cultures including Finnish, Hungarian, American Indian, Chinese, Russian, Dutch and Filipino sources amongst many others. Many riddles and riddle-themes are internationally widespread.
In the assessment of Elli Köngas Maranda (originally writing about Malaitian riddles, but with an insight that has been taken up more widely), whereas myths serve to encode and establish social norms, "riddles make a point of playing with conceptual boundaries and crossing them for the intellectual pleasure of showing that things are not quite as stable as they seem" – though the point of doing so may still ultimately be to "play with boundaries, but ultimately to affirm them".
Definitions and research
The modern English word riddle originates from the same word as read, stemming from the Old English word rǣdan which means 'to interpret or guess'. A derived noun developed into Middle English redel, evolving into the meaning of “to understand or interpret symbols.”
Defining riddles precisely is hard and has attracted a fair amount of scholarly debate. The first major modern attempt to define the riddle was by Robert Petsch in 1899, with another seminal contribution, inspired by structuralism, by Robert A. Georges and Alan Dundes in 1963. Georges and Dundes suggested that "a riddle is a traditional verbal expression which contains one or more descriptive elements, a pair of which may be in opposition; the referent of the elements is to be guessed". There are many possible sub-sets of the riddle, including charades, droodles, and some jokes.
In some traditions and contexts, riddles may overlap with proverbs. The Russian phrase "Nothing hurts it, but it groans all the time" can be deployed as a proverb (when its referent is a hypochondriac) or as a riddle (when its referent is a pig).
Much academic research on riddles has focused on collecting, cataloguing, defining, and typologising riddles. Key work on cataloguing and typologising riddles was published by Antti Aarne in 1918–20, and by Archer Taylor. In the case of ancient riddles recorded without solutions, considerable scholarly energy also goes into proposing and debating solutions.
Whereas previously researchers had tended to take riddles out of their social performance contexts, the rise of anthropology in the post-War period encouraged more researchers to study the social role of riddles and riddling. However, wide-ranging studies of riddles have tended to be limited to Western countries, with Oriental and African riddles being relatively neglected.
Many riddles appear in similar form across many countries, and often continents. Borrowing of riddles happens on a small, local scale, and across great distances. Dorvlo gives an example of a riddle that has been borrowed from the Ewe language by speakers of the neighboring Logba language: "This woman has not been to the riverside for water, but there is water in her tank". The answer is a coconut. On a much wider scale, the Riddle of the Sphinx has also been documented in the Marshall Islands, possibly carried there by Western contacts in the last two centuries.
Se pareba boves
In front of him (he) led oxen
The year-riddle is found across Eurasia. For example, a riddle in the Sanskrit Rig Veda describes a 'twelve-spoked wheel, upon which stand 720 sons of one birth' (i.e. the twelve months of the year, which together have 360 days and 360 nights).
The most famous example of this type is the riddle of the Sphinx. This Estonian example shows the pattern:
Hommikul käib nelja,
It goes in the morning on four feet,
The riddle describes a crawling baby, a standing person, and an old person with a walking stick.
Two-legs, three-legs, and four-legs
This type includes riddles along the lines of this German example:
Zweibein sass auf Dreibein und ass Einbein.
Two-legs sat on Three-legs and ate One-leg.
The conceit here is that Two-legs is a person, Three-legs is a three-legged stool, Four-legs is a dog, and One-leg is a ham hock.
An example of the cow-riddle is given here in thirteenth-century Icelandic form:
Four are hanging,
The cow has four teats, four legs, two horns, two back legs, and one tail.
White bird featherless
Flew from Paradise,
Perched upon the castle wall;
Up came Lord John landless,
Took it up handless,
And rode away horseless to the King's white hall.
Here, a snowflake falls from the sky, and is blown off by the wind.
Riddle-traditions by region
The riddle was at times a prominent literary form in the ancient and medieval world, and so riddles are extensively, if patchily, attested in our written records from these periods. More recently, riddles have been collected from oral tradition by scholars in many parts of the world.
According to Archer Taylor, "the oldest recorded riddles are Babylonian school texts which show no literary polish". The answers to the riddles are not preserved; they include "my knees hasten, my feet do not rest, a shepherd without pity drives me to pasture" (a river? A rowboat?); "you went and took the enemy's property; the enemy came and took your property" (a weaving shuttle?); "who becomes pregnant without conceiving, who becomes fat without eating?" (a raincloud?). It is clear that we have here riddles from oral tradition that a teacher has put into a schoolbook.
It is thought that the world's earliest surviving poetic riddles survive in the Sanskrit Rigveda. Hymn 164 of the first book of the Rigveda can be understood to comprise a series of riddles or enigmas which are now obscure but may have been an enigmatic exposition of the pravargya ritual. These riddles overlap in significant part with a collection of forty-seven in the Atharvaveda; riddles also appear elsewhere in Vedic texts. Taylor cited the following example: '"Who moves in the air? Who makes a noise on seeing a thief? Who is the enemy of lotuses? Who is the climax of fury?" The answers to the first three questions, when combined in the manner of a charade, yield the answer to the fourth question. The first answer is bird (vi), the second dog (çva), the third sun (mitra), and the whole is Viçvamitra, Rama's first teacher and counselor and a man noted for his outbursts of rage'.
Early narrative literature also sometimes includes riddles, prominently the Mahabharata, which for example contains the Yaksha Prashna, a series of riddles posed by a nature-spirit (yaksha) to Yudhishthira.
As of the 1970s, folklorists had not undertaken extensive collecting of riddles in India, but riddling was known to be thriving as a form of folk-literature, sometimes in verse. Riddles have also been collected in Tamil.
Hebrew, Arabic and Persian
While riddles are not numerous in the Bible, they are present, most famously in Samson's riddle in Judges xiv.14, but also in I Kings 10:1–13 (where the Queen of Sheba tests Solomon's wisdom), and in the Talmud. Sirach also mentions riddles as a popular dinner pastime, while the Aramaic Story of Ahikar contains a long section of proverbial wisdom that in some versions also contains riddles. Otherwise, riddles are sparse in ancient Semitic writing.
In the medieval period, however, verse riddles, alongside other puzzles and conundra, became a significant literary form in the Arabic-speaking world, and accordingly in Islamic Persian culture and in Hebrew — particularly in Al-Andalus. Since early Arabic and Persian poetry often features rich, metaphorical description, and ekphrasis, there is a natural overlap in style and approach between poetry generally and riddles specifically; literary riddles are therefore often a subset of the descriptive poetic form known in both traditions as wasf. Riddles are attested in anthologies of poetry and in prosimetrical portrayals of riddle-contests in Arabic maqāmāt and in Persian epics such as the Shahnameh. Meanwhile, in Hebrew, Dunash ben Labrat (920–990), credited with transposing Arabic metres into Hebrew, composed a number of riddles, mostly apparently inspired by folk-riddles. Other Hebrew-writing exponents included Moses ibn Ezra, Yehuda Alharizi, Judah Halevi, Immanuel the Roman and Israel Onceneyra.
In both Arabic and Persian, riddles seem to have become increasingly scholarly in style over time, increasingly emphasising riddles and puzzles in which the interpreter has to resolve clues to letters and numbers to put together the word which is the riddle's solution.
Riddles have been collected by modern scholars throughout the Arabic-speaking world.
Riddles are known to have been popular in Greece in Hellenistic times, and possibly before; they were prominent among the entertainments and challenges presented at symposia. Oracles were also represented as speaking in often riddlic language. However, the first significant corpus of Greek riddles survives in an anthology of earlier material known as the Greek Anthology, which contains about 50 verse riddles, probably put into its present form by Constantine Cephalas, working in the tenth century CE. Most surviving ancient Greek riddles are in verse. In the second chapter of Book III of Aristotle's Rhetoric, the philosopher stated that "good riddles do, in general, provide us with satisfactory metaphors: for metaphors imply riddles, and therefore a good riddle can furnish a good metaphor."
Literary riddles were also composed in Byzantium, from perhaps the tenth century with the work of John Geometres, into the fifteenth century, along with a neo-Byzantine revival in around the early eighteenth century. There was a particular peak around the long twelfth century.
Latin and romance
Two Latin riddles are preserved as graffiti in the Basilica at Pompeii. The pre-eminent collection of ancient Latin riddles is a collection of 100 hexametrical riddles by Symphosius which were influential on later medieval Latin writers. The Bern Riddles, a collection of Latin riddles clearly modelled on Symphosius, were composed in the early seventh century by an unknown author, perhaps in northern Italy. Symphosius's collection also inspired a number of Anglo-Saxon riddlers who wrote in Latin. They remained influential in medieval Castilian tradition, being the basis for the second set of riddles in the thirteenth-century Libro de Apolonio, posed by Apolonio's daughter Tarsiana to her father.
The perhaps eighth- or ninth-century Veronese Riddle is a key witness to the linguistic transition from Latin to Romance, but riddles are otherwise rare in medieval romance languages. However, in the early modern period, printed riddle collections were published in French, including the Adevineaux amoureux (printed in Bruges by Colard Mansion around 1479); and Demandes joyeuses en maniere de quolibets, the basis for Wynkyn de Worde's 1511 Demaundes Joyous.
The Germanic-speaking world
Riddles survive only fragmentarily in Old High German: three, very short, possible examples exist in manuscripts from the Monastery of St Gallen, but, while certainly cryptic, they are not necessarily riddles in a strict sense. About 150 survive in Middle High German, mostly quoted in other literary contexts. Likewise, riddles are rare in Old Norse: almost all occur in one section of Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, in which the god Óðinn propounds around 37 riddles (depending on the manuscript). These riddles do, however, provide insights into Norse mythology, medieval Scandinavian social norms, and rarely attested poetic forms.
By contrast, verse riddles were prominent in early medieval England, following the seminal composition of one hundred and one riddles by Aldhelm (c. 639–709), written in Latin and inspired by the fourth- or fifth-century Latin poet Symphosius. Aldhelm was followed by a number of other Anglo-Saxons writing riddles in Latin. This prestigious literary heritage contextualises the survival of nearly one hundred riddles in the tenth-century Exeter Book, one of the main surviving collections of Old English verse. The riddles in this book vary in subject matter from ribald innuendo to theological sophistication. Three, Exeter Book Riddle 35 and Riddles 40/66, are in origin translations of riddles by Aldhelm (and Riddle 35 the only Old English riddle to be attested in another manuscript besides the Exeter Book). Unlike the pithy three-line riddles of Symphosius, the Old English riddles tend to be discursive, often musing on complex processes of manufacture when describing artefacts such as mead (Exeter Book Riddle 27) or a reed-pen or -pipe (Exeter Book Riddle 60). They are noted for providing perspectives on the world which give voice to actors which tend not to appear in Old English poetry, ranging from female slaves to animals and plants, and they often subvert the conventions of Old English heroic and religious poetry.
While medieval records of Germanic-language riddles are patchy, with the advent of print in the West, collections of riddles and similar kinds of questions began to be published. A large number of riddle collections were printed in the German-speaking world and, partly under German influence, in Scandinavia. Riddles were evidently hugely popular in Germany: a recent research project uncovered more than 100,000 early modern German riddles, with the most important collection being that Strassburger Rätselbuch, first published around 1500 and many times reprinted. This is one of the most famous riddles of that time:
Es kam ein Vogel federlos,
There came a bird featherless
That is, "the snow (featherless bird) lies on a bare tree in winter (leafless tree), and the sun (speechless maiden) causes the snow to melt (ate the featherless bird)".
Likewise, early modern English-speakers published printed riddle collections, such as the 1598 Riddles of Heraclitus and Democritus, which includes for example the following riddle:
First I was small, and round like a pearl;
Then long and slender, as brave as an earl;
Since, like an hermit, I lived in a cell,
And now, like a rogue, in the wide world I dwell.
After the early Middle Ages, the riddle was seldom used as a literary form in English. Tellingly, while Jonathan Swift composed at least eight verse riddles on these such as a pen, gold, and the privy, this was seen as a lapse in taste by many of his contemporaries. However, although riddles are seldom used today as a literary form in their own right, they have arguably influenced the approach to poetry of a number of twentieth-century poets, such as Francis Ponge, Wallace Stevens, Richard Wilbur, Rainer M. Rilke, and Henrikas Radauskas. The famed Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote "All is a riddle, and the key to a riddle ... is another riddle".
Riddles continued to flourish until recently as an oral form of entertainment, however; the seminal collection of Anglophone riddles from the early modern period through to the twentieth century is Archer Taylor's. Riddles are, for example, prominent in some early-modern ballads collected from oral tradition. Some of those included in the Child Ballads are "Riddles Wisely Expounded" (Child 1), "The Elfin Knight" (Child 2), "King John and the Bishop" (Child 45), "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (Child 46), and "Proud Lady Margaret" (Child 47). Contemporary English-language riddles typically use puns and double entendres for humorous effect, rather than to puzzle the butt of the joke, as in "Why is six afraid of seven?" "Because seven eight nine (eight can be replaced with ate)." These riddles are now mostly children's humour and games rather than literary compositions.
Some riddles are composed of foreign words and play on similar sounds, as in:
- There were two cats, 1 2 3 cat and un deux trois cat, they had a swimming race from England to France. Who won?
- 1 2 3 Cat because Un deux trois quatre cinq (un deux trois cat sank)
This plays on the fact that the French words for four and five are pronounced similarly to the English words "Cat" and "Sank", hence the pun being the cat sank while also counting to five in French.
The Celtic-speaking world
Few riddles are attested in medieval Celtic languages, though this depends on how narrowly a riddle is defined; some early medieval Welsh and Irish juridical texts have been read as being riddles. One undisputed riddle is attested in medieval Welsh, an elaborate text entitled 'Canu y Gwynt' ('song of the wind') in the fourteenth-century Book of Taliesin probably inspired by Latin riddles on the same theme. However, this record is supplemented by Latin material, apparently from a Brittonic cultural background in North Britain, about Lailoken: in a twelfth-century text, Lailoken poses three riddles to his captor King Meldred.
The earliest riddles attested in Irish are generally held to be found in a short collection from the fifteenth-century Book of Fermoy. However, other forms of wisdom contest do occur in Irish literature, such as The Colloquy of the Two Sages, first attested in twelfth-century manuscripts, and in one such contest, in Imthecht na Tromdaime, first attested in the fifteenth century, at least one riddle is arguably posed.
Even research on the post-medieval Celtic-speaking world has yielded a "comparatively meagre corpus".
The Finnic-speaking world
The corpus of traditional riddles from the Finnic-speaking world (including the modern Finland, Estonia, and parts of Western Russia) is fairly unitary, though eastern Finnish-speaking regions show particular influence of Russian Orthodox Christianity and Slavonic riddle culture. The Finnish for "riddle" is arvoitus (pl. arvoitukset), related to the verb arvata ("guess").
Finnic riddles are noteworthy in relation to the rest of the world's oral riddle canon for its original imagery, their abundance of sexual riddles, and the interesting collision of influences from east and west; along with the attestation in some regions of an elaborate riddle-game. Riddles provide some of the first surviving evidence for Finnish-language literature.
In modern Chinese, the standard word for 'riddle' is mi (謎, literally "to bewilder"). Riddles are spoken of as having a mian (面, "surface", the question component of the riddle), and a di (底, "base", the answer component). Ancient Chinese terms for 'riddle' include yin (讔) and sou (廋), which both mean "hidden".:56, 67
The Chinese riddle-tradition makes much use of visual puns on Chinese characters. One example is the riddle "千 里 会 千 金"; these characters respectively mean 'thousand kilometre meet thousand gold'.
- The first stage of solving the riddle is verbal:
- In Chinese culture, "it is said that a good horse can run thousands of kilometers per day", so "千 里" (thousand kilometer) is resolved as "马" (horse).
- Meanwhile, because "a daughter is very important in the family", in Chinese culture it is possible to resolve "千 金" (thousand gold) as "女" (daughter).
- The second stage of solving the riddle is visual: combining the radical "马" (horse) with the radical "女" (daughter) produces the character "妈" (mother).
Thus the answer to "thousand kilometres meet thousand gold" is "妈" (mother).
The posing and solving of riddles has long been an important part of the Chinese Lantern Festival. China also contributed a distinctive kind of riddle known in English as the kōan (Chinese: 公案; pinyin: gōng'àn), developed as a teaching technique in Zen Buddhism in the Tang dynasty (618–907). In this tradition, the answer to the riddle is to be established through years of meditation, informed by Zen thought, as part of a process of seeking enlightenment.
In the twentieth century, thousands of riddles and similar enigmas have been collected, capitalising on the large number of homophones in Chinese. Examples of folk-riddles include:
- There is a small vessel filled with sauce, one vessel holding two different kinds. (Egg)
- Washing makes it more and more dirty; it is cleaner without washing. (Water)
- When you use it you throw it away, and when you do not use it you bring it back. (Anchor)
Quite similar to its English counterpart, the riddle in the Philippines is called Bugtong. It is traditionally used during a funeral wake together with other games such as tong-its or the more popular sakla, later generations use Bugtong as a form of past time or as an activity. One peculiarity of the Filipino version is the way they start with the phrase Bugtong-bugtong before saying the riddle, usually it is common to create riddles that rhyme.
This is an example of a Tagalog Bugtong:
Bugtong-bugtong, Hindi hari, hindi pari
Riddle-riddle, not a king, nor a priest,
Anthropological research in Africa has produced extensive collections of riddles over the last century or so. Riddles have been characterised as "one of the most important forms of oral art in Africa"; Hamnett analyzes African riddling from an anthropological viewpoint; Yoruba riddles have enjoyed a recent monograph study.
Native American traditions
Riddles in the Americas are of particular interest to scholarship because it was long thought that native American cultures had no autochthonous riddle traditions (as opposed to riddles inspired by European culture, as with the twenty-two Aztec riddles collected by Bernardino de Sahagún in the sixteenth century). If so, this would have suggested that riddles are not a universal art form. However, Hieronymus Lalemant gave a fairly detailed account of a riddle-contest among the Huron around 1639 as part of a healing ritual.
Someone will say, "What I desire and what I am seeking is that which bears a lake within itself;" and by this is intended a pumpkin or calabash. Another will say, "What I ask for is seen in my eyes—it will be marked with various colors"; and because the same Huron word that signifies "eye" also signifies "glass bead", this is a clue to divine what he desires—namely, some kind of beads of this material, and of different colors.
Accordingly, during the twentieth century, progressively more substantial collections of Native American riddles were made, including from the Alaskan Athabaskans (Ten'a) people in British Columbia; Amuzgo people in Central America; and Quechua people in South America. Thus, while data remains rather thin, it seems clear that riddling did exist in the Americas independently of European culture.
Riddles are found extensively in the settler-colonial cultures of the Americas.
One form of riddle features in payada de contrapunto ("counterpoint payada"), a Rioplatense musical genre in which guitar players compete in a symbolic duel. Two guitar players challenge each other in song by asking a riddle-like question and/or answering the opponent's questions. This is performed through several successive rounds of witty exchanges which may include banter and even insults—typically with a humorous intent. The most famous literary example of counterpoint payada comes from Martín Fierro, Part 2, Song 30, verses 6233–6838.
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 occur frequently in mythology and folklore as well as in popular literature.
It is important to understand that in many cultures or contexts, people are not actually expected to guess the answers to riddles: they may be told by the riddler, or learn riddles and their answers together as they grow up. Thus riddle-contests are not the only or even necessarily the main forum for the expression of riddles.
The unsolvable riddle with which literary characters often win a riddle-contest is sometimes referred to as neck-riddle.
In real life
Elaborate and unusual riddle-games took place in the culture of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Finnish-language riddles. For example, Elias Lönnrot observed customary riddle-contests in nineteenth-century Finland:
It took place without teams, but was a kind of a contest: a member of the group would be sent out of the room, the others agreed on the riddle to be posed; for three failures to divine the answer, the riddlee would have to drop out of the game, to step aside, and to "buy" with a token the right to participate again.
In ancient, medieval, and folk literature
In older texts, riddle-contests frequently provide the frame stories whereby riddles have been preserved for posterity. Such contests are a subset of wisdom contests more generally. They tend to fall into two groups: testing the wisdom of a king or other aristocrat; and testing the suitability of a suitor. Correspondingly, the Aarne–Thompson classification systems catalogue two main folktale-types including riddle-contests: AT 927, Outriddling the Judge, and AT 851, The Princess Who Can Not Solve the Riddle.
In modern literature
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's novel The Hobbit, Gollum challenges Bilbo Baggins to a riddle competition for his life. Bilbo breaks "the ancient rules" of the game but is able to escape with Gollum's magic ring. Rather like in the Old Norse Heiðreks saga, although Bilbo asked 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.
- In The Grey King, the third book of Susan Cooper's fantasy sequence The Dark is Rising, Will and Bran must win a riddle game in order for Bran to claim his heritage as the Pendragon.
- In Patricia A. McKillip's The Riddle-Master trilogy, the ancient art of riddlery is taught at the College of Caithnard – the study based on books recovered from the ruins of the School of Wizards. The riddles in the series are composed of three parts – the question, the answer, and the stricture – and are both a way of recording history and a guide to living life. Riddles play a crucial role in the series, the main protagonist, Morgon of Hed, beginning his journey by winning the crown of the kings of Aum in a Riddle Game with the ancient ghost of Peven of Aum; Peven had a standing wager going that no one could win a riddle-game with him, and those who lost against him forfeited their lives. "Beware the unanswered riddle."
- In Stephen King's The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands and The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, the ka-tet must riddle against Blaine the Mono in order to save their lives. At first Blaine can answer all riddles posed to him by the ka-tet easily, but then Eddie Dean, one of the ka-tet, gains the upper hand when he starts to ask joke riddles, effectively frustrating Blaine's highly logical mind.
- 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 puzzles. Stereotypically, they are these kinds of simple children's riddles, but modern treatments generally prefer to have the character use more sophisticated puzzles.
- Missing dollar riddle
- Newspaper riddle
- Oedipus and the Sphinx
- Riddles (Anglo-Saxon)
- Riddles (Arabic)
- Riddles (Chinese)
- Riddles (Finnic)
- Riddles (Greek)
- Riddles (Hebrew)
- Riddles (Persian)
- Riddle joke
- Neck riddle
- Dilemma story
- Archer Taylor, English Riddles from Oral Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951), p. 3.
- Elli Köngäs Maranda, "Riddles and Riddling: An Introduction", The Journal of American Folklore, 89 (1976), 127–37 (p. 131); doi:10.2307/539686; JSTOR 539686; cf. Hannah Burrows, "Wit and Wisdom: The Worldview of the Old Norse-Icelandic Riddles and their Relationship to Eddic Poetry", in Eddic, Skaldic, and Beyond: Poetic Variety in Medieval Iceland and Norway, ed. by Martin Chase (New York: Forham University Press, 2014), pp. 114–35 (p. 116).
- Petsch, Robert. "Neue Beitrëge zur Kenntnis des Volksrätsels", Palaestra, 4 (1899).
- Georges, Robert A.; Dundes, Alan. "Towards a Structural Definition of the Riddle", Journal of American Folklore, 76(300) (1963), 111–18 doi:10.2307/538610, JSTOR 538610. Reprinted in Alan Dundes, Analytic Essays in Folklore (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), pp. 95–102.
- John C. Messenger, Jr. 1960. "Anang Proverb-Riddles". The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 73, No. 289: pp. 225–235. doi:10.2307/537975. JSTOR 537975.
- Finnegan, Ruth. Oral Literature in Africa. The Saylor Foundation, 1982. p. 418.
- Umoh, S. J. 2007. "The Ibibio Proverb—Riddles and Language Pedagogy". International Journal of Linguistics and Communication 11(2), 8–13.
- Alan Dundes, "On the Structure of the Proverb", in Analytic Essays in Folklore, ed. by Richard Dorson (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), pp. 103–8.
- Antti Aarne, Vergleichende Rätselforschungen, 3 vols, Folklore Fellows Communications, 26–28 (Helsinki/Hamina: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1918–20).
- Archer Taylor, A Bibliography of Riddles, Folklore Fellows Communications, 126 (Helsinki, 1939).
- E.g. Patrick J. Murphy, Unriddling the Exteter Riddles (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011).
- E.g. David Evans, "Riddling and the Structure of Context", The Journal of American Folklore, 89 (1976), 166–88; doi:10.2307/539688; JSTOR 539688; Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj, Riddles: Perspectives on the Use, Function, and Change in a Folklore Genre, Studia Fennica, Folkloristica, 10 (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2001), doi:10.21435/sff.10.
- A. A. Seyed-Gohrab, Courtly Riddles: Enigmatic Embellishments in Early Persian Poetry (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2010), 14–18.
- Elli Köngäs Maranda, "Riddles and Riddling: An Introduction", The Journal of American Folklore, 89 (1976), 127–37 (pp. 135–37); doi:10.2307/539686; JSTOR 539686.
- Claudia Schittek, Die Sprach- und Erkenntnisformen der Rätsel (Stuttgart: M und P, Verlag für Wissenschaft und Forschung, 1991): ISBN 978-3-476-45007-4; doi:10.1007/978-3-476-04165-4.
- Dorvlo, Kofi. "Ewe borrowings into Logba." International Journal of Bilingualism 18.4 (2014): 428-446.
- p. 266. Davenport, William. 1952. Fourteen Marshallese Riddles. The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 65, No. 257, pp. 265-266.
- Antti Aarne, Vergleichende Rätselforschungen, 3 vols, Folklore Fellows Communications, 26–28 (Helsinki/Hamina: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1918–20), I 35–73.
- Luke Powers, "Tests for True Wit: Jonathan Swift's Pen and Ink Riddles", South Central Review, 7.4 (Winter 1990), 40–52; doi:10.2307/3189093. JSTOR 3189093.
- Helen Price, Human and NonHuman in Anglo-Saxon and British Postwar Poetry: Reshaping Literary Ecology (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Leeds, 2013), pp. 92–128.
- Antti Aarne, Vergleichende Rätselforschungen, 3 vols, Folklore Fellows Communications, 26–28 (Helsinki/Hamina: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1918–20), I 74–178.
- Frederick Tupper, Jr, "Originals and Analogues of the Exeter Book Riddles", Modern Language Notes, 18.4 (April 1903), 97–106 (p. 102). JSTOR 2917102.
- Antti Aarne, Vergleichende Rätselforschungen, 3 vols, Folklore Fellows Communications, 26–28 (Helsinki/Hamina: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1918–20), II 3–23 (p. 12).
- Antti Aarne, Vergleichende Rätselforschungen, 3 vols, Folklore Fellows Communications, 26–28 (Helsinki/Hamina: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1918–20), II 24–59 (p. 24).
- Antti Aarne, Vergleichende Rätselforschungen, 3 vols, Folklore Fellows Communications, 26–28 (Helsinki/Hamina: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1918–20), II 60–172.
- The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, trans. by Christopher Tolkien (London: Nelson, 1960), p. 43 [no. 70].
- Antti Aarne, Vergleichende Rätselforschungen, 3 vols, Folklore Fellows Communications, 26–28 (Helsinki/Hamina: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1918–20), III 3–48.
- Jón Árnason, Íslenzkar gátur, skemtanir, vikivakar og Þulur, I (Kaupmannahöfn: Hið Íslenzka bókmenntafélag, 1887), http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/IcelOnline/IcelOnline-idx?type=HTML&rgn=DIV2&byte=187436.
- Archer Taylor, The Literary Riddle before 1600 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1948), pp. 12–13, citing M. Jaeger, "Assyrische Räthsel und Sprichwörter", Beiträge zur Assyriologie, 2 (1894), 274–305.
- A. A. Seyeb-Gohrab, Courtly Riddles: Enigmatic Embellishments in Early Persian Poetry (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2010), 14.
- L. Sternbach, Indian Riddles: A Forgotten Chapter in the History of Sanskrit Literature, Vishveshvaranand Indological Series, 67/Vishveshvaranand Institute Publications, 632 (Hoshiarpur: Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute, 1975).
- Martin Haug, "Vedische Räthselfragen und Räthselsprüche (Uebersetzung und Erklärung von Rigv. 1, 164)", Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-philologischen und historischen Classe der Köngl. bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München (1875), 457–515.
- Jan E. M. Houben, "The Ritual Pragmatics of a Vedic Hymn: The 'Riddle Hymn' and the Pravargya Ritual", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 120 (2000), 499–536 (English translation pp. 533–36), doi:10.2307/606614. JSTOR 606614.
- Archer Taylor, The Literary Riddle before 1600 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1948), pp. 13–17.
- See also J. Huizinga, Homo Ludens: Proeve eener bepaling van het spel-element der cultuur (Haarlem, 1940), pp. 154ff.
- Archer Taylor, The Literary Riddle before 1600 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1948), pp. 16–17, citing A. Führer, "Sanskrit-Räthsel", Zeitschrift der Deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 39 (1885), 99–100.
- Prakash Vatuk, Ved (1969). "Amir Khusro and Indian Riddle Tradition". The Journal of American Folklore. 82 (324): 142–54 . doi:10.2307/539075. JSTOR 539075. citing Durga Bhagwat, The Riddle in Indian Life, Lore and Literature (Bombay, 1965), 5-9.
- Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj, Riddles: Perspectives on the Use, Function, and Change in a Folklore Genre, Studia Fennica, Folkloristica, 10 (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2001), pp. 11–12; doi:10.21435/sff.10.
- Annemarie Schimmel, Classical Urdu Literature from the Beginning to Iqbāl, A History of Indian Literature, 8 (Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden, 1975), p. 129.
- Prakash Vatuk, Ved (1969). "Amir Khusro and Indian Riddle Tradition". The Journal of American Folklore. 82 (324): 142–54 [144, 143]. doi:10.2307/539075. JSTOR 539075.
- Alan Dundes and Ved Prakash Vatuk, 'Some Characteristic Meters of Hindi Riddle Prosody', Asian Folklore Studies, 33.1 (1974), 85-153.
- Shanthi (December 1993). "Tamil riddles". International Institute of Tamil Studies. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Dieter B. Kapp (1994). "A Collection of Jaffna Tamil Riddles from Oral Tradition". Asian Folklore Studies. Nanzan Institute for Religion & Culture. 53 (1): 125–149. doi:10.2307/1178562. JSTOR 1178562. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Joseph Jacobs, "Riddle", in The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, ed. by Isidore Singer (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1907), s.v.
- Archer Taylor, The Literary Riddle before 1600 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1948), pp. 41–42.
- G. J. H. van Gelder, "lughz", in Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, ed. by Julie Scott Meisami and Paul Starkey, 2 vols (London: Routledge, 1998), II 479.
- A. A. Seyed-Gohrab, Courtly Riddles: Enigmatic Embellishments in Early Persian Poetry (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2010).
- See further Archer Taylor, The Literary Riddle before 1600 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1948), pp. 35–37.
- Archer Taylor, The Literary Riddle before 1600 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1948), pp. 33–35, citing Nehemya Aluny, "Ten Dunash Ben Labrat's Riddles", The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, 36 (1945), 141–46, doi:10.2307/1452496, JSTOR 1452496.
- E.g. Charles T. Scott, Persian and Arabic Riddles: A Language-Centered Approach to Genre Definition (Bloomington, 1965).
- Frederick G. Naerebout and Kim Beerden, "'Gods Cannot Tell Lies': Riddling and Ancient Greek Divination", in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, ed. by Jan Kwapzt, David Petrain, and Mikolaj Szymanski (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 121–47 (p. 140).
- Frederick G. Naerebout and Kim Beerden, "'Gods Cannot Tell Lies': Riddling and Ancient Greek Divination", in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, ed. by Jan Kwapzt, David Petrain, and Mikolaj Szymanski (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 121–47.
- Christine Luz, "What has it got in its Pocketses? Or, What Makes a Riddle a Riddle?", in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, ed. by Jan Kwapzt, David Petrain, and Mikolaj Szymanski (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 83–99.
- Jan Kwapisz, "Were there Hellenistic Riddle Books?", in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, ed. by Jan Kwapzt, David Petrain, and Mikolaj Szymanski (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 148–67 (p. 148).
- Christine Luz, "What has it got in its Pocketses? Or, What Makes a Riddle a Riddle?", in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, ed. by Jan Kwapzt, David Petrain, and Mikolaj Szymanski (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 83–99 (p. 84).
- "Aristotle's Rhetoric Book III, Chapter 2". Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
- Milovanović-Barham, Čelica (1993). "Aldhelm's Enigmata and Byzantine Riddles". Anglo-Saxon England. 22: 51–64 [pp. 53–54, esp. n. 11]. doi:10.1017/S0263675100004300.
- Rebcca R. Benefiel, "Magic Squares, Alphabet Jumbles, Riddles and More: The Culture of Word-Games among the Graffiti of Pompeii", in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, ed. by Jan Kwapzt, David Petrain, and Mikolaj Szymanski (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 65–79 (pp. 72–75).
- Andrew Welsh, "Riddle" in Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs, ed. by Carl Lindahl, John McNamara and John Lindow, 2 vols (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000), II 824–32 (pp. 826–27).
- Doris Clark, "Tarsiana's Riddles in the LdA", in Medieval Hispanic Studies Presented to Rita Hamilton, ed. by Alan D. Deyermond (Támesis, 1976), pp. 31–43, cited by Harriet Goldberg, "Riddles and Enigmas in Medieval Castilian Literature", Romance Philology, 36(2) (1982), 209–21 (p. 216 n. 22).
- Andrew Welsh, "Riddle" in Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs, ed. by Carl Lindahl, John McNamara and John Lindow, 2 vols (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000), II 824-32 (p. 830).
- Tomas Tomasek, Das deutsche Rätsel im Mittelalter, Hermaea germanistische Forschungen, neue Folge, 69 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1994), pp. 158–74.
- Christopher Wells, "The Shorter German Verse Texts", in German Literature of the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Brian Murdoch, Camden House History of German Literature, 2 (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2004), pp. 157–200 (pp. 181–82).
- Jeffrey Scott Love, The Reception of Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century, Münchner Nordistische Studien, 14 (München: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2013), p. 198.
- Tomas Tomasek, Das deutsche Rätsel im Mittelalter, Hermea: Germanistische Forschungen, Neue Folge, 69 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1994).
- On German riddles, see further Mathilde Hain, Rätsel, Sammlung Metzler, 53. Realienbücher für Germanisten. Abt. E: Poetik (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1966).
- Alaric Hall, "Changing Style and Changing Meaning: Icelandic Historiography and the Medieval Redactions of Heiðreks saga", Scandinavian Studies, 77 (2005), 1–30, at pp. 9–10. JSTOR 40920553
- Burrows, Hannah, "Wit and Wisdom: The Worldview of the Old Norse-Icelandic Riddles and their Relationship to Eddic Poetry", in Eddic, Skaldic, and Beyond: Poetic Variety in Medieval Iceland and Norway, ed. by Martin Chase (New York: Forham University Press, 2014), 114–35; Hannah Burrows, "Enigma Variations: Hervarar saga's Wave-Riddles and Supernatural Women in Old Norse Poetic Tradition", JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 112 (2013), 194–216, doi:10.5406/jenglgermphil.112.2.0194, JSTOR 10.5406/jenglgermphil.112.2.0194.
- Frauke Rademann-Veith, Die skandinavischen Rätselbücher auf der Grundlage der deutschen Rätselbuch-Traditionen (1540–1805) (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 2010) (PhD thesis, Münster University, 2004).
- Strassburger Räthselbuch: Die erste zu Strassburg ums Jahr 1505 gedruckte deutsche Räthselsammlung, ed. by A. F. Butsch (Straßburg, 1876).
- Dominik Landwehr, "Review of Simpliciana: Schriften der Grimmelshausen Gesellschaft 2014", in Cryptologia, 41(1) (2017), 92–96. doi:10.1080/01611194.2016.1236628.
- Archer Taylor, The Literary Riddle before 1600 (Berkeley: University of California Pres, 1948), p. 2.
- Gregg A. Hecimovich, Puzzling the Reader: Riddles in Nineteenth-century British Literature (New York: Peter Lang, 2008).
- Živilė Gimbutas, The Riddle in the Poem (Dallas: University Press of America, 2004).
- "IX. Illusions. Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1904. The Complete Works". www.bartleby.com.
- Taylor, Archer, English Riddles from Oral Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951).
- Andrew Welsh, "Riddle" in Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs, ed. by Carl Lindahl, John McNamara and John Lindow, 2 vols (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000), II 824-32 (p. 829).
- Robin Chapman Stacey, 'Instructional Riddles in Welsh Law', in Heroic Poets and Poetic Heroes in Celtic Tradition: A Festschrift for Patrick K. Ford, ed. by Josoph Falaky Nagy and Leslie Ellen Jones (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005), pp. 336-43; Robin Chapman Stacey, 'Speaking in Riddles', in Ireland and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: Texts and Transmission, ed. by Próinséas Ní Chatháin (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002), pp. 243-48; Fergus Kelly, 'An Old-Irish Text on Court Procedure', Peritia, 5 (1986), 74-106.
- Christine Goldberg, Turandot's Sisters: A Study of the Folktale AT 851, Garland Folklore Library, 7 (New York: Garland, 1993), p. 35.
- Patrick Sims-Williams, Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 114–15.
- Stokes, Whitley (1904). "Irish Riddles". The Celtic Review. 1 (2): 132–35. doi:10.2307/30069786. JSTOR 30069786.
- Christine Goldberg, Turandot's Sisters: A Study of the Folktale AT 851, Garland Folklore Library, 7 (New York: Garland, 1993), pp. 36–37.
- Patrick Sims-Williams, Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 115. Cf. Vernam Hull and Archer Taylor, A Collection of Welsh Riddles, University of California Publications in Modern Philology, 26 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1942); Vernam Hull and Archer Taylor, A Collection of Irish Riddles, University of California Publications: Folklore Studies, 6 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1955; Thomas Parry, "'Y Gorcheston'", Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 5 (1930), 138–40.
- Leea Virtanen, "The Collecting and Study of Riddles in Finland", in Arvoitukset: Finnish Riddles, ed. by Leea Virtanen, Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj and Aarre Nyman, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Toimituksia, 329 ([Helsinki]: Suomen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1977), pp. 51–57.
- Leea Virtanen, "On the Function of Riddles", in Arvoitukset: Finnish Riddles, ed. by Leea Virtanen, Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj and Aarre Nyman, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Toimituksia, 329 ([Helsinki]: Suomen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1977), pp. 77–89 (at 80–82).
- Finnish Folk Poetry: Epic. An Anthology in Finnish and English, ed. and trans. by Matti Kuusi, Keith Bosley and Michael Branch, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran toimituksia, 329 (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 1977), pp. 33–34.
- Timothy Wai Keung Chan, 'A New Reading of an Early Medieval Riddle', T’oung Pao, 99 (2013), 53–87 doi:10.1163/15685322-9913p0002.
- Richard C. Rudolph, "Notes on the Riddle in China", California Folklore Quarterly, 1.1 (Jan. 1942), pp. 65–82 (pp. 79–81). JSTOR 1495728.
- Andrew H. Plaks, 'Riddle and Enigma in Chinese Civilization', in Untying the Knot: On Riddles and Other Enigmatic Modes, ed. by Galit Hasan-Rokem and David Shulman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 225–36.
- Chuanqi Tan, Furu Wei, Li Dong, Weifeng Lv, and Ming Zhou, "Solving and Generating Chinese Character Riddles", Proceedings of the 2016 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Austin, Texas, November 1–5, 2016 (Association for Computational Linguistics, 2016), pp. 846–55.
- Richard C. Rudolph, "Notes on the Riddle in China", California Folklore Quarterly, 1.1 (Jan. 1942), pp. 65–82 (p. 77). JSTOR 1495728.
- Charles G. Zug III, 'The Nonrational Riddle: The Zen Koan', The Journal of American Folklore, 80, no. 315 (January–March 1967), 81-88 doi:10.2307/538419.
- Richard C. Rudolph, "Notes on the Riddle in China", California Folklore Quarterly, 1.1 (Jan. 1942), pp. 65–82 (quoting pp. 74–75). JSTOR 1495728.
- Hart, Donn V. 1964. Riddles in Philippine Folklore: An Anthropological Analysis. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
- Quick, Phil (2007). "Riddles of death: The structure of the tangke-tangke riddle game used at Pendau memorial services" (PDF). In Iwasaki, Soichi; Simpaon, Andrew; Adams, Karen; Sidwell, Paul (eds.). SEALSXII: papers from the 13th meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (2003). pp. 203–212.
- Elli Köngäs Maranda, "Riddles and Riddling: An Introduction", The Journal of American Folklore, 89 (1976), 127–37 (p. 128); doi:10.2307/539686; JSTOR 539686.
- Lyndon Harries, "The Riddle in Africa", The Journal of American Folklore, 84 (1971), 377–93; doi:10.2307/539632; JSTOR 539632.
- Hamnett, Ian, "Ambiguity, Classification and Change: the Function of Riddles", Man, 2 (1967), pp. 379–391. doi:10.2307/2798727. JSTOR 2798727
- Akíntúndé Akínyẹmí, Orature and Yorùbá Riddles (Palgrave Macmillan US, 2015), doi:10.1057/9781137502636 Print ISBN 978-1-349-69958-2
- Archer Taylor, "American Indian Riddles", The Journal of American Folklore, 57 (no. 223) (January–March, 1944), 1–15 (pp. 1–2). JSTOR 53575.
- Cf. Wolfgang Mieder, "Proverbs of the Native Americans; A Prize Competition", Western Folklore, 48.3 (July 1989), 256–60. JSTOR 1499742.
- Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj, Riddles: Perspectives on the Use, Function, and Change in a Folklore Genre, Studia Fennica, Folkloristica, 10 (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2001), pp. 35–36; doi:10.21435/sff.10.
- Archer Taylor, "American Indian Riddles", The Journal of American Folklore, 57 (no. 223) (January–March, 1944), 1–15 (pp. 2–3). JSTOR 53575.
- J. Jetté, "Riddles of the Ten'a Indians", Anthropos, 8 (1913), 181–201, 630–51. JSTOR 41103129.
- Archer Taylor, "American Indian Riddles", The Journal of American Folklore, 57 (no. 223) (January–March, 1944), 1–15. JSTOR 53575.
- Charles T. Scott, "New Evidence of American Indian Riddles", The Journal of American Folklore, 76 (no. 301) (July–September 1963), 236–41. JSTOR 53852.
- Isbell, Billie Jean; Roncalla Fernandez, Fredy Amilcar, "The Ontogenesis of Metaphor: Riddle Games among Quechua Speakers Seen as Cognitive Discovery Procedures", Journal of Latin American Lore, 3:1 (1977), 19–49. hdl:1813/2271.
- R.Fernández Manzano y otros: El trovo de la Alpujarra. Ed. Centro de Documentación Musical de Andalucía, 1992, pág. 27
- Ghiano, Juan Carlos (1974). "El Contrapunto de Fierro y el Moreno". Revista Iberoamericana, XL:87-88, (1974): 337-352.
- Lyndon Harries, "The Riddle in Africa", The Journal of American Folklore, 84 (1971), 377–93 (pp. 387–88); doi:10.2307/539632; JSTOR 539632.
- Erin Sebo, "In scirpo nodum: Symphosius' Reworking of the Riddle Form", in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry, ed. by Jan Kwapzt, David Petrain, and Mikolaj Szymanski, Beiträge zur Altertumskunde (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), pp. 184–95 (p. 184).
- Christine Goldberg, Turandot's Sisters: A Study of the Folktale AT 851, Garland Folklore Library, 7 (New York: Garland, 1993), pp. 10–11.
- Adam Roberts, The Riddles of the Hobbit (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
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