Tag Archives: Riddle

Elementary School Riddles

Background: 

My informant, NK, is 19 years old and of South Korean descent from both her mother and father’s sides of the family. Her grandparents live close to her, so she spends a lot of time with them. She is very passionate about cooking. Even though she is majoring in biochemical engineering at UC Berkeley, she has always been, and remains to be, extremely interested in conspiracy theories. While she may not necessarily believe them, she enjoys hearing lore from across the world. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance: 

NK: I remember there used to be a lot of riddles from when I was a kid, like you describe a situation, what it looks like after something happened, and you have to guess what happened. There’s only one I remember, where you go into an empty room. It’s 4 walls blocked off and the only way in or out is like teleportation, and there’s a guy hanging in the middle of the room, like dead, and there’s a puddle of water below him on the floor, so what happened?

SW: Um..I’m not sure. What’s the answer?

NK: So, he stood on a block of ice with the rope around his neck, so as it melted he was hanged and he died. 

SW: Oh. Very dark.

NK: Yeah, I feel like I remember most of those were pretty messed up.

Thoughts: 

It was interesting to hear about these riddles that kids would tell, because as NK was describing them, I realized I remembered hearing similar riddles when I was in elementary schools. I think kids liked to one-up each other and prove how clever they were by stumping the other kids, or solving their riddles. I didn’t realize how dark these riddles were until now looking back and I wonder how we were so casual about topics like suicide at 8 or 9 years old.

Three Consecutive Days Riddle

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between myself, GK, and the informant, CZ. 

CZ: Can you name three consecutive days without using the words: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

GK: I don’t know. How?

CZ: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Background: The informant had heard this riddle from a camp counselor when he was 10 years old. He says it is his go-to riddle because the answer is so simple, yet so difficult to come to when proposed with the question for the first time. 

Context: The informant and I discussed this riddle over Face Time

My Thoughts: This riddle is very interesting, but its the way the informant came across it that catches my attention. I feel like it validates the fact that riddles are extremely popular within camp culture. This is the case because lots of camps do not allow kids to bring technology with them, and thus riddles serve as one of the best forms of entertainment during that time. This news was refreshing for me to hear, as it reminded me of my time at camp, and how much fun it was to be without technology for that portion of time. I also sometimes think about how riddles would be a lot more popular if technology wasn’t such a major part of our lives.

What happens in a minute?

Main Piece:

Informant: What hap– this is a riddle, what happens once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?

Interviewer: I don’t know.

Informant: The letter ‘M’

Background:

The informant is a nine-year-old Native American boy from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. He was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. He is in elementary school.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger brother. I asked him is he knew any jokes or riddles.

Thoughts:

Proverbs, riddles, and.charms are three of the shorter forms of folklore. They are not necessarily confined to oral expression, having appeared in written literature for ages. The purpose of the riddle is usually to deceive its listener regarding its meaning. A descriptions is given where the answer must be deciphered. Many times riddles are used as a contest of wits. In America, riddles are very popular with children though in most cases age segregation does not apply.

How many people are in family?

Main Piece:

Informant: There is one grandma, two mom’s and two daughters and one granddaughter. How many people are in the family?

Interview: Oh, shoot, my brain is running slow. How many?

Interview: Three. Because the grandmother, uh, two mothers: the grandmother and the mother (2), two daughters, the daughter and um . . the daughter and the daughter’s daughter and there is one granddaughter.

Background:

The informant is a ten-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in fourth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. I asked her is she knew any jokes or riddles.

Thoughts: 

Proverbs, riddles, and.charms are three of the shorter forms of folklore. They are not necessarily confined to oral expression, having appeared in written literature for ages. The purpose of the riddle is usually to deceive its listener regarding its meaning. A descriptions is given where the answer must be deciphered. Many times riddles are used as a contest of wits. In America, riddles are very popular with children though in most cases age segregation does not apply.

Doctor playing a prank to get money

Main Piece:

Informant: There was this man. He was older and kinda wanted to make money. So he did this thing, it’s kinda like a riddle or funny story. So the man wanted to get money quick, so he opened up a doctor’s office. And he said, “if you come in you have to pay me $500, but if I kill you I have to give you $1,000.

Interviewer: What happens if he kills you?

Informant: You have to give him $500, but if he doesn’t cure you he gives you $1,000. And so this man thought it was an easy way to get money, because he didn’t think he knew that much. He came in and said, “I lost my taste. I can’t taste anything.” And the man says “Open box #22.” And he gives him something. And he tastes it and says “Oh, this is gasoline.” And the doctor said, congratulations, you have your taste buds back. That’ll be $500. And then the man got really angry and he came back there and said something about, I forget what it was. Oh yea, he was like “I can’t see. I’m losing my eyesight.” And he said, “Open box 22” or something like that. And then he did something and um, “congratulations you have your eyesight back.” 

So that day he lost $1,500.

Background:

The informant is a ten-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in fourth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. I asked her is she knew any jokes or riddles.

Thoughts:

Proverbs, riddles, and.charms are three of the shorter forms of folklore. They are not necessarily confined to oral expression, having appeared in written literature for ages. The purpose of the riddle is usually to deceive its listener regarding its meaning. A descriptions is given where the answer must be deciphered. Many times riddles are used as a contest of wits. She kind left out a few bits or jumped around a bit. Sorry if the piece is a bit contradictory. I think this joke reflects the growing distrust that people have toward doctors and the overall healthcare system while simultaneously showing the greed of the populace.

Wealthy Man Riddle

Main Piece:

Informant: There was a very wealthy businessman and a woman on a flight who was sitting right next to each other. And the woman was just trying to get some sleep on her flight. But the wealthy businessman was like bored out of his mind so he decided to give the woman a trick. He said, “I’ll ask you a question and if you don’t know it, you pay me $5. Then you ask me a question and if I don’t know it, I pay you $500.” The woman was like “ok, fine.”

So the guy asked the woman, he asked her a riddle and she had no idea was it was, so she went ahead and gave him $5. Then the woman asked the man, “What goes up a hill with 4 legs, but comes down with two?” The man spent a really long time thinking about it. He called his friends, he looked it up, but he couldn’t find the answer anywhere. And then he finally asked her what was the answer. And she hands him back his $5. Because, she didn’t know the answer either.

Interviewer: Wait, what?

Background:

The informant is a twelve-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in sixth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. I asked her is she knew any jokes or riddles.

Thoughts:

Proverbs, riddles, and.charms are three of the shorter forms of folklore. They are not necessarily confined to oral expression, having appeared in written literature for ages. The purpose of the riddle is usually to deceive its listener regarding its meaning. A descriptions is given where the answer must be deciphered. Many times riddles are used as a contest of wits. Regarding this particular riddle . . . story? The rich man was bored and used his money for entertainment. I honestly really don’t know what to say. It was kind of funny. (also, between us, could it be a murderer who went to bury a dead body . . .? Hopefully something much more pleasant).

“One Up, One Down” Folk Game and Riddle

Main Piece

Informant: This is kind of a camp riddle and game mashup and it is called One up One down. I like it because it is difficult enough to take days to figure out, so people can spend time figuring it out. One person will run it, and will introduce the riddle. They are the keeper, of the uhh game I guess. It goes in a circle, and you have three options: two up, one up one down, and two down. And so like, each person will give one of the three and try to figure out the pattern that would consistently allow them to say the correct answer. The person in charge tells them if they are right or wrong, because they know the secret to the pattern. Then it keeps going in a circle, people guess, and the keeper tells them if they are right or wrong and it keeps going until people figure out the right answer. The correct answer is based on the orientation of their arms. So right now, I would be two down, because both of my hands are in my lap. But, if I left one hand on my lap and one to rest my chin on, the correct answer would be one up one down. Basically, people overthink and start trying to guess elaborate patterns, and you kinda just win when you figure it out and you usually can’t tell the people still figuring out what the right answer is. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this?

InformantI learned this in high school during my freshman river trip, where we would canoe down the Colorado river for four days. It was a game my group’s guide taught us, and I didn’t get it until our bus ride back. It drove me crazy, but when I got it I felt so frustrated but like I was part of a secret club!

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. He also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, comfortable identifying as a bisexual man.

Context

While on a road trip with some of our other housemates the informant taught us this game and began to play it with us. At the end of the trip, I was the only one in the group who could still not figure it out. During the interview I had him explain the rules and origin of the game. 

Analysis

I think this game is a great combination of a kinesthetic folk game mixed with a folk riddle, as there is a secret pattern you have to find out in order to comprehend the game as a whole. It is also inherently folklore as the rules are never shared, you either understand the pattern of the game or you don’t. Being intended for longer trips, it also proves to be a great way to pass the time as it could take a while for players to figure it out.

One Knight, Three Men.

One knight, three men are on a boat sailing across the ocean. In the morning, there were four people on the boat. How could this happen?

A: Someone swam up and hitched a ride.

O: But the boat never stopped so how did this happen?

A: Someone gave birth.

O: Oh my god. Three MEN?!

A: That’s all I got.

O: In the beginning, I said one KNIGHT along with three men. There were four people on the boat from the start but one was a knight.

This riddle works with its play on words to deceive its listeners. There are a number of other versions of this same riddle. One notable version involves a King and a Queen on a boat. It’s possible that in the past this particular riddle was meant to separate those who live or have lived under monarchies from those who haven’t as many of them deal with noble families. For the informant, this is a fun riddle they like to use because, considering the way it is carefully worded, they know it will confuse people.

Escape Room Riddle

O: You’re in a room with no escapes. There’s a mirror and a table… What do you do?

A: You use the table to break the window.

O: But there is no window.

A: Then what do you do?

O: You look in the mirror, you see what you saw, you take the saw, cut the table in half, two halves make a whole. You can escape through the hole.

This is definitely one of those riddles where if you know it, you know it. But if you don’t, you’d never guess the right answer even if you tried. You have to have heard the full riddle before to answer it correctly. The solution is not logical at all. It’s filled with double entendres to confuse the other. Which, in turn, determines who “the other” is. Unlike most riddles, this is one that simply cannot be answered. It leaves the audience forever puzzled.

E-Y-E-S Riddle

O: What does Y-E-S spell?

A: Yes

O: What does E-Y-E-S spell?

A: Eyes

O: Dammit, you were supposed to say “E-Yes”!
According to the informant, this is one of those riddles that is meant to give the performer a good laugh. From my understanding, the setup is designed to detect the fool. “Eyes” is a seemingly easy word but the moment it’s spelled out for you in the riddle, logic usually goes out of the window. This can make a fool out of even the smartest of us because it’s not really about intellect, it’s about listening.