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.


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.