Category Archives: Riddle

Little Green Door

Main Piece

DR learned this question-and-answer riddle game from camp. The participants repeatedly ask if arbitrary items can “pass through the Little Green Door” until the participants figure out the pattern of what can and cannot pass through.

Some selections from our rounds:

CT: “Can I pass through the Little Green Door?”

DR: “No.”

BM: “Can my beer pass through the Little Green Door?”

DR: “Yes.”

After about 20 rounds, the answer was deduced: anything with a double letter in it can pass through, anything else cannot.

Informant background

DR is a student at the University of Southern California. He is from Sudbury, MA.

Performance context

This story was told during a folklore collection event that I set up with a diversity of members from the USC men’s Ultimate Frisbee team. We were in a classic folklore collection setting: sharing drinks around a campfire, in a free flowing conversation.

Analysis

These interactive riddle games are often constructed so that the answer appears more complicated than it actually is. They often involve pointing out concrete objects, people, or places, so that the guesser’s attention is diverted to those specifics, while the real answer is something more abstract about the words used or delivery of the speaker. This paradigm shows up across almost all of the question-and-answer riddle games I have experienced.

Elephant Game

Main Piece

JD described a game called Elephant, where the person “in the know” running the game (the Teller) continues saying things following a hidden pattern until the pattern is found out by the guessers. JD learned this game from his friend PJ from Las Vegas, who “knows a bunch of these games.”

Some selections from our rounds:

JD: “There’s two elephants in the fire. There’s one elephant on Cy’s shoulder. How many elephants are there?”

               Answer: “There are 5 elephants.”

JD: “There’s 4 elephants in the big ol thing of IPA. There’s 2 elephants on that tree. How many elephants?”

               Answer: “There are 3 elephants.”

We went through about 10 rounds before we started to figure out the pattern.

The answer is that however many words are in the question asking how many elephants there are, is the number of elephants.

Informant background

JD is a student at the University of Southern California. He is from Las Vegas, NV.

Performance context

This story was told during a folklore collection event that I set up with a diversity of members from the USC men’s Ultimate Frisbee team. We were in a classic folklore collection setting: sharing drinks around a campfire, in a free flowing conversation.

Analysis

These interactive riddle games are often constructed so that the answer appears more complicated than it actually is. They often involve pointing out concrete objects, people, or places, so that the guesser’s attention is diverted to those specifics, while the real answer is something more abstract about the words used or delivery of the speaker. This paradigm shows up across almost all of the question-and-answer riddle games I have experienced.

Blind Dwarf Riddle

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JD told us he had heard this riddle in elementary school, around 4th grade:

“You walk into a room and you find a dead man. And all that’s in the room is a noose, because he hung himself, and a cane, and sawdust. What happened?”

The other participants and I took a few shots in the dark, and JD said: “It’s so dumb there’s no way you’d ever get it.” When I suggested that I might have heard it before, he said “there’s no way you’ve heard this before.”

Eventually, JD revealed the answer:

“Obviously, the man is a blind dwarf clown — he works at the circus, so his entire source of income is being a freak at the circus. He’s in the circus tent, but there are termites and they eat the bottom of his cane. Since he’s blind he thinks he’s growing, so he’s losing his source of income, and so he kills himself.”

Informant background

JD is a student at the University of Southern California. He is from Las Vegas, NV.

Performance context

This story was told during a folklore collection event that I set up with a diversity of members from the USC men’s Ultimate Frisbee team. We were in a classic folklore collection setting: sharing drinks around a campfire, in a free flowing conversation.

Analysis

This riddle seems to be of the kind where it is amusing to hear the answer because of its silliness, rather than one that a guesser might realistically have a shot at. The fact that JD clued us in by saying “it’s so dumb” we’d never get it allowed us to not be as disappointed or frustrated in how silly the answer was when it came.

Pelican Soup Riddle

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CT “heard this literally the other day” from one of his friends:

“A guy walks into a restaurant and asks for Pelican Soup. They serve it up to him and he tries it, then kills himself. Why did he kill himself?”

After we took several guesses to no avail, CT revealed the answer:

“The person was stranded on a desert island with their husband, wife, whatever. And after being stranded there a hella long time, in their delirium they ate their significant other under the impression that it was pelican soup, and when they get back to civilization they asked for pelican soup. And when it tasted completely different they killed themselves because they knew what happened.”

Informant background

CT is a student at the University of Southern California. He is from New York City.

Performance context

This story was told during a folklore collection event that I set up with a diversity of members from the USC men’s Ultimate Frisbee team. We were in a classic folklore collection setting: sharing drinks around a campfire, in a free flowing conversation.

Analysis

For another version of this riddle, called “Seagull Soup,” see the online riddle archive: https://www.riddles.com/archives/2581

“One man always lies” Riddle

Main Piece:

“Ok, wait, so you’re in a prison, there’s two knights guarding two doors. One always tells the truth and one always lies. One of the doors leads to your freedom, and one leads to instant death. What is the one question you ask to get to freedom? You can only ask one question to one of the knights.”

“So the answer is “Which door would the other knight say leads to freedom?” Because if you ask the knight who tells the truth, they would point to the door that leads to death because that’s the door the liar would point at, and if you ask the knight who lies, they’ll lie and say the knight who tells the truth will point at the door that leads to death. Either way, you’ll be able to figure out which one leads to freedom.”

Context:

 The informant is my friend. He is a sophomore at UC Berkeley and is Jewish. He has been sharing riddles with me since high school. This information was collected during a FaceTime call. 

Analysis:

This is a very classic riddle that embodies the concept of “multiplicity and variation.” I have heard versions of this riddle that take place at a fork in the road, in a basement, and even in space! This riddle is even featured as a part of the plot in the movie Labyrinth. Even though the setting of the riddle changes, the core stays the same. There is always one person who lies and one person who tells the truth. Additionally, no one knows where this riddle originated, which further cements this riddles place as a part of folklore. 

Keartes, Sarah. “How to Beat the LABYRINTH Two-Door Riddle.” Nerdist, Geek Sundry, 14 Jan. 2016, 4:30 pm, nerdist.com/article/how-to-beat-the-labyrinth-two-door-riddle/.