Riddle: If a rooster…

Q: If a rooster lays an egg on a roof, does the egg roll down the left or the right side?

A: Roosters don’t lay eggs.

My informant learned this riddle in elementary school from a classmate, and it became her favorite riddle when she told it to her parents and they couldn’t answer it correctly.

The structure of the riddle is a familiar one that leads the audience to focus on the question (which way does the egg roll?) rather than the subject (the rooster laying the egg), because they have been conditioned by past experience with riddles to expect either a play on words or for the answer to be in the question. The answer subverts both expectations. This could be considered a catch riddle, since both a “left” and “right” answer would show that the audience had missed the point of the riddle.

The reason my informant liked the riddle so much as a child supports the theory that much of children’s folklore exists to empower children or to undermine the control of authority figures. That roosters can’t lay eggs is common knowledge, even for children, and children are delighted when people who are supposedly more knowledgeable than them fail to notice the obvious impossibility of the riddle.