“A cowboy came town on Friday
He stayed for two days
And left on Wednesday
How is this possible?”
“His horse’s name is Friday.”
Context and Analysis:
The informant claims she heard this riddle in her early childhood as she was watching the television show, iCarly. She claims when she heard it she was very excited and remembered it to tell her family later. When she told her family they were not able to decipher the answer and therefore the informant knew this was a good riddle. The informant claims she does not know of any meaning in this riddle nor does she think it originates from a particular place. She believes it could have originated anywhere as all places could have cowboys and horses. The informant believes this riddle is only for entertainment purposes.
When my informant first said to me this riddle I was shocked by my inability to decipher it. My first thought was that the riddle was a play on the week’s days, and I began to try to find a way in which I could go through the week with Wednesday occurring before Monday. I was unsuccessful in this attempt. After that I began to think of transportation methods that could travel fast through time; once again I was unsuccessful. I eventually gave up and begged my informant for the answer. When she said it to me, I thought to myself, “how did I not think of that.” This is not an unusual feeling when trying to come up with a solution and after giving up realizing how simple it was. I think this is what can make riddles so frustrating or fascinating. Often the answer to the riddle is simple, and when the riddle’s audience is unable to guess it, this can cause frustration for the audience and fascination for the person recounting the riddle.
There also seems to be a requirement for a riddle to be hard to guess but to have a simple answer to be distinguished as a good riddle. The most popular riddles are those that leave people thinking about them, how they were unable to guess the answer and are now only able to find joy in sharing this unsatisfied feeling with others by retelling this riddle. If the riddle is guessed or the audience has heard it before often the one recounting the riddle is disappointed at not having been able to make others feel what he or she felt by not being able to guess the riddle.