Most people who go through the American schooling system are somewhat familiar with Homer, the Greek poet. He, like most learned people of his time, loved riddles. In fact, it may have been a riddle that killed him. Homer went to an oracle who told him when he went to Ios he would encounter some boys who would tell him a riddle, marking his death. Some say he tripped and died while trying to solve this riddle:
We have what we did not find; what we did find we left behind.
Some boys who were fishing posed this riddle to him, but the true answer to the riddle is lice. Another famous riddle associated with him is the riddle of the Sphinx, a riddle posed to a character in Homer’s epic the Odyssey:
What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?”
The father of philosophy, Socrates, was also a man of riddles. The most popular one comes from the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle is asked by a man:
Is anyone wiser than Socrates?
The Oracle answers simply with “no!” This becomes a riddle for Socrates and he must find out why this Oracle said he is the wisest person since he knows that he is not. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that his wisdom comes from the fact that he can admit that he does not always know the answer, unlike other wise men.
Aristotle is probably the best Philosopher of the Greek empire with many of his original writings are still very relevant, even today. He thought that they were very useful in creating metaphors and explaining things that would be very hard to explain otherwise (through the use of straightforward text). Here is what he said about riddles:
Well-constructed riddles are attractive [because] a new idea is conveyed, … The thought is startled, and … does not fit in with the ideas you already have… The effect produced … is a surprise.
Plato is one of the best and first philosophers in Western society. Being one of the first great academic men of history he had very little to work off of and a lot of work to do. One little known fact about him is that he was a sucker for some good riddles. One of his riddles from his dialogue, the Republic, goes as follows:
There is a story that a man and not a man Saw and did not see a bird and not a bird Perched on a branch and not a branch And hit him and did not hit him with a rock and not a rock.
Essentially this riddle is asking you how this set of conditions could be possible. The answer is pretty clever and allows for all of the ambiguity in the riddle:
A eunuch who did not see well saw a bat perched on a reed and threw a pumice stone at him which missed.
Edgar Allan Poe is a great poet who has written countless well-known works. But did you know he was also an avid writer of riddles. He also thought of himself as one of the greatest cipher/riddle solvers of his time. Here is one of his great riddles from one of his short stories called The Gold-bug:
This riddle is a cryptogram and can be decrypted using a substitution cipher using letter frequencies. When decrypted this reads:
A good glass in the bishop’s hostel in the devil’s seat twenty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the death’s-head a bee line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out.
Dan Brown is a great author, one of the greatest of our time and has become wildly popular recently for his novels staring Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor. These books have a lot of great riddles that have been taken from real history and combined into the story in a comprehensive way. One of his riddle from one of his novels Angels and Demons:
From Santi’s Earthly Tomb with Demons Hole, ‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold, The Path of Light is laid, the sacred test, Let angels guide you on your lofty quest.
The meaning of this riddle dictates Robert Langdon’s movements across Rome and the Vatican in attempting to save the city itself and four of the cardinals who are up to be the next pope. For the answer to the riddle and more on Dan Brown’s riddles visit Riddles of Dan Brown.
For some great riddles of your own visit Good Riddles Now’s kids riddles section.
Riddles are great for your brain, they are a good way to stay sharp, and have fun. Another group of little nuggets of literary fun are jokes. Good Riddles Now has always been a great source of riddles, but now we also have jokes! One of our good jokes:
John, Phil, and Tyler are driving down a highway and their car breaks down. It’s a three hour walk to the gas station. They plan to carry their gas tank there and bring it back full. For the first hour John will tell a happy story, for the next hour Phil will tell a sad story, and for the last hour Tyler will tell a scary story.
After two hours of walking it is Tyler’s turn and he says “Okay guys… I forgot the money.”