Main Piece: Imagine
“Imagine you’re in a room with no windows, doors, or any openings. How do you plan an escape?”
This riddle is one of a series of riddles where you have to imagine yourself in a particular scenario that usually takes place in a type of nebulous room that you have to escape from. Oftentimes in these sorts of riddles, there are objects within the room that you can use to escape from the room. These are often challenging puzzles that require creativity and careful thought to figure out. However, this riddle is a play off of those riddles because there is nothing you can do to escape the hypothetical room other than stop imagining yourself within that room.
Context of the Performance:
These riddles, and riddles with the same premise as this one, are often told in a group of friends to try to stump people. There are many situations that the telling of this riddle is appropriate and there is no set time where this riddle should be performed. It is up to the teller of the riddle to decide when to tell it. However, due to the fact that this riddle is lighthearted, there are certain situations where it may not be appropriate, such as a funeral.
I have heard countless variations of this style of riddle where you are stuck in a room and have to escape using the explanation of the layout of the room and what is inside of it. I was not able to solve this riddle because I was used to hearing the other riddles where there really is a way that you can escape the room using the tools and scenarios outlined by the speaker. With this riddle, you must think outside the box and essentially dismiss the riddle completely and stop imagining the scenario in order to arrive at the correct answer.
“So well the game itself was from like a tv show. It’s uh–its uh basically a stupid party game that a host ask the other guests ‘who’s gonna die?’ and whoever talks first got shot because of the idiom ‘the gun shoots the bird that goes in the front.’ So I think thats like–I dont know–thats like one of those Chinese phrases that originated probably thousand or hundred years ago because of a story that got condensed into like four simple words or four to six simple words. The phrase itself is:
Phonetic: Qiāng dǎchū tóu niǎo
Transliteration: Gun beat out head bird
Translation: The gun strikes the bird which sticks its head out.
which means literally again the gun strikes like the first bird and I think this is pretty funny because there is another proverb that conflicts with this one.”
Informant (ZZ) is a student aged 19 from Shanghai, China. He attended high school in the U.S. and currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview over dinner in the dining hall. He learned the riddle from a tv show, and the proverb he learned from the tv show. He doesn’t really care much for its meaning.
The riddle demonstrates how proverbs can be incorporated into other folk genres. The proverb itself demonstrates a desire within culture to conform rather than stick out.
Context: The respondent learned this riddle as it was passed from friend to friend in elementary school.
M.A. : I have a riddle? Do I just tell you the riddle?
P.Z. : Yeah, tell me a riddle.
M.A. : Okay, so you’re stuck in a metal box, yeah?
P.Z. : Okay.
M.A. : And there’s no exits, um, and no way out. In the box, you have a table and a mirror. So how do you get out?
P.Z. : Alright, so I have heard this one —
M.A. : Oh, God
P.Z. : So I’m not gonna guess, but I want you to say it.
M.A. : Okay, so to get out, you look into the mirror, and you saw yourself. Okay? And so you take the saw from the mirror, and cut the table in half. And then who halves make a whole, and then you climb out the hole. That is the amazing riddle, thank you.
P.Z. : Bravo. So where did you hear that one?
M.A. : Okay, so I heard it from my brother, who heard it from, I have no idea. I’m assuming probably like school, or friends —
P.Z. : Was this like middle school, high school, elementary school?
M.A. : Um, I was definitely in elementary school when he told me this.
P.Z. : Okay, so that’s also, I heard it from my school around the same time, so —
M.A. : Yeah, I know I was young.
Thoughts: Like the respondent, I had also heard this riddle from a friend in elementary school. It did have slightly different wording, but that is seemingly inconsequential as the crux of the riddle remains the same. Riddles seemed extremely popular as some of my teachers would encourage us to share some in a weekly riddle competition. This had always remained my favorite and in my memory because of the deliver and double entendres.
Date: April 1, 2022
Source and Relationship: Grandfather
Type: Riddle, Family
Folklore/ Text: “How many tries does it take for a monkey with a wooden leg to kick the seeds out of a watermelon?”
Explanation/Context: My grandfather had seven children in the 60s, my mother being one of them. Needless to say, lots of nonsense was spilled around the house to merely fill the space with something more than chaos. One of my grandfather’s favorite sayings was this one, and depending on the day, the children would interpret it as rhetorical or not. It was then passed on through generations – my mom first taught it to me as a child and I have found myself teaching it to my younger cousins. The delivery of this riddle is best served quickly, so as to distract and confound the listener in a humorous way.
“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.”
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.
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/.