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riddle,puzzling question, specifically one that consists of a fanciful description or definition of something to be guessed. A famous riddle was asked by the Sphinx: "What goes on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, on three at night?" OedipusOedipus
, in Greek legend, son of Laius, king of Thebes, and his wife, Jocasta. Laius had been warned by an oracle that he was fated to be killed by his own son; he therefore abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside.
..... Click the link for more information. guessed the answer correctly: "Man—in infancy he crawls, at his prime he walks, in age he leans on a staff." Samson's riddle is also famous: "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness" (Judges 14.14). It refers to a lion he had just killed, on which he saw bees and honey; he ate some of the lion and the honey. Punning riddles are common, as: "When is a door not a door?" The answer is, "When it's ajar." There is comparatively little riddle literature, but riddles do figure prominently in Old English. The Exeter Book contains many English verse riddles of uncertain date; they vary considerably in matter. There are also many riddles in Latin hexameters dating from Anglo-Saxon England.
See A. Taylor, English Riddles from Oral Tradition (1951); H. H. Abbott, ed., The Riddles of the Exeter Book (1968).
a genre of folk poetry common to all nations; the poetic, often metaphorical description of an object or occurrence.
In antiquity the riddle had religious significance and pertained to popular superstitions and rites that prohibited calling objects by their names. With time the riddle acquired predominantly aesthetic and cognitive importance. It began serving as a test of wit. Riddles are distinguished by the variety of themes and wealth of artistic devices; inherent in them are compositional precision, rhyme, rhythm, and sound effects. Riddles often contain a humorous element that has social significance—for example, “The priest is short, the vestments many” (a cabbage: Stoit pop nizok, na nem sto rizok). Riddles have been widely incorporated into other genres of folklore, as well as into literature.
REFERENCESAnikin, V. P. Russkie narodnye poslovitsy, zagadki i detskiifol’klor. Moscow, 1957.
Mitrofanova, V. “Sovremennoe sostoianie russkikh narodnykh zagadok.” In the collection Sovremennyi russkiifol’klor. Moscow, 1966.
Mitrofanova, V. Zagadki. Moscow, 1968.