JC: Alright, so, my name is JC and I heard this riddle the other day here in my German class. My German professor told it to me in German but I am unsure of the origin of the riddle.
Me: Can I hear it in German first?
JC: I can’t do it in German sorry. But basically, so, the idea is that, uh, so you come into a room right?
JC: and there are two bodies on the floor, and one of the bodies is Jim and one of the bodies is Sally. And, they’re lying in a pool of water and there is glass everywhere on the floor. And the murderer is also in the room. What happened?
Me: Am I the murderer?
Me: Was it a suicide?
Me: Is the murderer time?
Me: Is the murderer water?
Me: Is the murderer glass?
Me: *I ask clarifying questions about the riddle*
Me: Is there anything else in the room? Like a chair or a window?
JC: Its like a normal room, like a house
Me: Is the murderer a person
Me: Is the murderer a living being?
Me: Are there any fish in the room?
Me: Are they poisonous?
Me: Are they piranhas or sharks?
Me: Did the fish kill the people?
JC: No, did I say it was people?
Me: Oh, no…
JC: It was just two bodies right?
Me; I give up what’s the answer?
JC: So the bodies on the floor are two fish. And the murderer is a cat and he knocked the bowl off of the table. So the whole trick is that you’re supposed to think it was two people, but its actually two goldfish.
JC and I are in the same discussion section for our class, and we decided to share riddles to help us with our projects. We both shared the first riddles we could think of, and it seemed like this was the most recent on that JC had been told.
This riddle definitely relies on our thoughts of what a body could be. When looking at two dead fish, I would never consider them to be “bodies” as that is a term I would typically reserve for a dead human. However, the riddle works on the technical level that the dead fish are “bodies” and so by subverting my expectation for what a “body” was supposed to mean I was unable to get the answer to the riddle. If the origin of the riddle is, in fact, German, then perhaps it says something about the German perspective on both human and non-human life in that it treats the death of animals and humans relatively equally.