By Wendy Streater – 2009
Riddles are solved all over the world. There are riddles from Mongolia, Finland, China, Russia, Africa, Persia, India, Hungary, Scandinavia and The Philippines. The Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Greeks and the American Indians all admired riddle solvers. Riddles have been around since before recorded history. In some cultures, they were one of the ways folklore was handed from one generation to the next.
According to Greek mythology, the Sphinx sat outside of Thebes and asked passing travellers a riddle. If they could not answer, they would die.
“What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?”
When Oedipus gave the correct answer, man, the Sphinx destroyed herself.
The Ancient Greeks thought highly of riddles as they were supposed to prove the intelligence of a man. Homer, who wrote the story of Oedipus, was believed to have died indirectly because of a riddle he was unable to solve.
“What we caught we threw away. What we didn’t catch, we kept.”
The answer is Lice.
There is the riddle Samson uses to outwit the Philistines, in the Bible.
“Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.”
The answer was that Samson had taken honey from a hive that had been formed in the carcass of a lion.
In the Middle Ages, street entertainers lived by asking riddles. If they could come up with an interesting riddle, they were able to entice travellers to pay them.
In Africa, riddles were once used as a rite of passage for young people. Occasionally today, they are used as a non-violent form of competitive game.
In Fiji, they once held riddle tournaments and the champions would have a feast held in their honour.
This riddle was said to be a favourite of Theodore Roosevelt.
I talk, but I do not speak my mind.
I hear words, but I do not listen to thoughts.
When I wake, all see me.
When I sleep, all hear me.
Many heads are on my shoulders.
Many hands are at my feet.
The strongest steel cannot break my visage.
But, the softest whisper can destroy me.
The answer is an actor.
Riddles are still popular today although getting the right answer is not a matter of life or death, as it was in ancient times.
Wendy Streater is a huge fan of brain games, exercises and logic puzzles, including Sudoku, cryptic crosswords and physical exercise and nutrition for optimum brain maintenance. Go to [http://brainfare.info] for some interesting ideas to stimulate your thinking.
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