Tag Archives: puzzle

Tale – Small Line


“The tale is one of the tales from Akbar and Birbal. Akbar was a mogul emperor; one of the biggest and most well-known mogul emperors of India. Birbal was a Hindu who was the minister in Akbar’s court and he was very well known for his wisdom and for being very wise. Akbar was often impressed by that and the other court ministers were often jealous of him, so one day, Akbar came into the court and he gave a puzzle to all his ministers by drawing a line. He said to make this line shorter without erasing any of it, and Birbal came forth when none of the other ministers could answer the riddle, and he drew another line, which was longer than the one Akbar drew. He was like, ‘now this line is shorter.’” 


This story was told by my roommate. She is from India and she shared how this might seem like a “kind of silly tale” that presents “just a trick or just a puzzle” but a lot of messages that are conveyed within the culture can be seen in this tale.  This story is very well known in India and it kind of just celebrates the history of India and the wisdom that a lot of the ministers had. It overall shows how important being wise is in solving problems. She heard this tale when she used to go to elementary school in India. Her parents bought her this book of Akbar and Birbal tales and this was one of the tales in that book.


In Indian culture wisdom and problem-solving is strongly valued. This story emphasizes thinking outside of the box and coming up with solutions that might not be obvious. This story shows that it is a very common fairy tale told to young children. This tale was more popular than ones like Cinderella as the lessons within this tale better represent the values of India. This tale also connects to one of the most powerful empires in India. It also consists of one of the most powerful kings and one of the smartest people. This story also gives people a touch of emotions.

Pinocchio Rebus

This is a rebus that consists of the image of a pin followed by an O, a key, and another O

My informant encountered this rebus at a school fair. It stuck with her because it was the one word puzzle, the type she loves, that she wasn’t able to solve. She found the answer by asking the person at the stall, which was Pinocchio.

The rebus in itself is pretty simple, all you need to do is say each part out loud and meld the words together into one. The difficulty comes from how simple it is. Most rebuses make you think about the positioning of the symbols, and the O’s can be misread as zeros.

What happens in a minute?

Main Piece:

Informant: What hap– this is a riddle, what happens once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?

Interviewer: I don’t know.

Informant: The letter ‘M’


The informant is a nine-year-old Native American boy from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. He was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. He is in elementary school.


During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger brother. I asked him is he knew any jokes or riddles.


Proverbs, riddles, and.charms are three of the shorter forms of folklore. They are not necessarily confined to oral expression, having appeared in written literature for ages. The purpose of the riddle is usually to deceive its listener regarding its meaning. A descriptions is given where the answer must be deciphered. Many times riddles are used as a contest of wits. In America, riddles are very popular with children though in most cases age segregation does not apply.

“One Up, One Down” Folk Game and Riddle

Main Piece

Informant: This is kind of a camp riddle and game mashup and it is called One up One down. I like it because it is difficult enough to take days to figure out, so people can spend time figuring it out. One person will run it, and will introduce the riddle. They are the keeper, of the uhh game I guess. It goes in a circle, and you have three options: two up, one up one down, and two down. And so like, each person will give one of the three and try to figure out the pattern that would consistently allow them to say the correct answer. The person in charge tells them if they are right or wrong, because they know the secret to the pattern. Then it keeps going in a circle, people guess, and the keeper tells them if they are right or wrong and it keeps going until people figure out the right answer. The correct answer is based on the orientation of their arms. So right now, I would be two down, because both of my hands are in my lap. But, if I left one hand on my lap and one to rest my chin on, the correct answer would be one up one down. Basically, people overthink and start trying to guess elaborate patterns, and you kinda just win when you figure it out and you usually can’t tell the people still figuring out what the right answer is. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this?

InformantI learned this in high school during my freshman river trip, where we would canoe down the Colorado river for four days. It was a game my group’s guide taught us, and I didn’t get it until our bus ride back. It drove me crazy, but when I got it I felt so frustrated but like I was part of a secret club!


The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. He also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, comfortable identifying as a bisexual man.


While on a road trip with some of our other housemates the informant taught us this game and began to play it with us. At the end of the trip, I was the only one in the group who could still not figure it out. During the interview I had him explain the rules and origin of the game. 


I think this game is a great combination of a kinesthetic folk game mixed with a folk riddle, as there is a secret pattern you have to find out in order to comprehend the game as a whole. It is also inherently folklore as the rules are never shared, you either understand the pattern of the game or you don’t. Being intended for longer trips, it also proves to be a great way to pass the time as it could take a while for players to figure it out.