It’s always fun to watch as other scramble to try and find the answer to short riddles that you create, find in books or online.
What is a Riddle
Short riddles are a statement or a question that has a double meaning which is presented as a solvable puzzle. There are two riddle types that you will come across:
Enigma: These types of riddle are presented as either a metaphor or allegorical language which requires careful thinking and ingenuity in order for a solution to be found.
Conundrum: These riddles rely on the questions effects on punning the answer or the question itself.
A Brief History of the Riddle
One of humanity’s greatest assets is that we always want to learn and to test ourselves mentally. And, from time to time, we just want to have fun. Riddles have long since been a part of stimulating us mentally as well as striking our funny bones. Families that participate in brainteasers and riddles literally exercise their brains and can increase their overall thinking potential but where do puzzles and riddles come from?
Riddles are actually ancient games and archaeologists have found evidence of riddles and brainteasers from finds that date back thousands of years to ancient Persia. According to their evidence short riddles were used as part of religious and mystical rites. Japan, Tibet and China are right there alongside Persia with mathematical puzzles, short riddles and brainteasers being engraved on the walls of temples by the monks that resided there. These puzzles were also used to pass the time and could be considered the original forms of chess and board games in general. There are connections to riddles getting their birth in religious texts. Many bible verses (from the Koran, Torah and Christian text) and prophecies were written like riddles are today: as a guessing game.
The format of the riddle, reading much like a poem or limerick, made them easy to be adapted to song or entertainment. For this reason riddles are often more associated with the bards of the Middle Ages whom would form questions in poem or song and got the public to guess at the answers involving all around them making for great entertainment.
Short riddles also have a more nefarious history aside from the entertainment provided by bards riddles were also used to carry secrets. Since the complexity of a riddle can be very difficult to solve without a key it made information easier to pass along as the recipient may be the only person to know the meaning of the riddle. These types of riddles were often used by those fighting for a better way of life when more useful forms of communication were unable to be trusted. The French resistance during World War II often resorted to codes in the form of riddles to pass on information to the Allied Forces on Nazi troop movements.
The Greeks celebrated all games of challenge and would often throw parties and have banquets where trivia, riddles and puzzles were the main form of entertainment. The winners would be crowned with laurel and revered upon (at least until the next banquet where they could be dethroned). Riddles have, in the end, crossed great boundaries and have been found all over the world in one form or another and contributing to the educational systems of many nations and being the centerpiece for gatherings. Even in remote locations like the Fiji Islands there have been recorded riddle tournaments. Riddles and puzzles were used in Africa to determine if a young boy was prepared to become a man. The Middle East used riddles as oracles to determine if a woman would marry the man of her dreams and so on to today’s riddle which is used to educate as well as to bring humorous enjoyment.
How to Write Short Riddles
Anyone can write their own riddles. This is particularly helpful if you are a teacher wanting get your students to “think outside the box” or as a parent wanting your child to learn new facts in a fun and interesting way. There are three rules that apply when making your own riddle:
- Pick something you want to talk about but try to keep it short if you can as many riddles don’t lend themselves to long answers.
- Once you have your topic begin to think about things that aren’t too obvious about it. One of the most famous riddles is one of the simplest if you think outside of generalities and think on word usage so what is black and white and red (read) all over? The answer, knowing which “red” or “read” is being used is a newspaper.
- Once you have your answer (topic) and your list of descriptions it’s time to put them into obscure clues that serve to get your intended solvers to take pause and consider every possibility and angle.
Riddles can be as many lines as you like them to be but contemporary riddles are often very short. They are also often used as a type of joke or pun. Monty Python was famous for making very obscure riddles such as:
What is brown and sticky? A stick.
You could have people thinking on that one for ages getting guesses such as caramel, raw sugar or maple syrup.
Another simple riddle:
Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven ate (eight) nine.
Another good example of word play can be found in this riddle:
When is a door not a door? When it is ajar (a jar).
Where to Find Riddles
There are many resources on the Internet where you can find a great many riddles to use as a guide to your own masterpieces or just to throw out to your friends or family: