What goes on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, on three at night?Oedipus guessed the answer correctly:
Man—in infancy he crawls, at his prime he walks, in age he leans on a staff.Samson's riddle is also famous:
Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness(Judges 14.14). It refers to a lion he had just killed, on which he saw bees and honey; he ate some of the lion and the honey. Punning riddles are common, as:
When is a door not a door?The answer is,
When it's ajar.There is comparatively little riddle literature, but riddles do figure prominently in Old English. The Exeter Book contains many English verse riddles of uncertain date; they vary considerably in matter. There are also many riddles in Latin hexameters dating from Anglo-Saxon England.
See A. Taylor, English Riddles from Oral Tradition (1951); H. H. Abbott, ed., The Riddles of the Exeter Book (1968).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Literature: General