: We didn't know if it was rude to ask, but, uh... How do you eat with no mouth? Ax
: What do you mean, how do I eat? I have hooves, don't I?
Whenever the heroes, and by extension the audience, have a question, it's generally good form for it to be answered at some point, lest the audience get pissed and demand their money back. These questions can vary in importance, but when it comes to the Cryptically Unhelpful Answer
, they sometimes have one thing in common: The answers are cryptic. As well as unhelpful.
Sometimes "answers" don't really answer your question. Sometimes they leave the heroes and the audience even more confused than they were before. It's intentional on the part of the author, but not intentional on the part of whoever's doing the answering.
Contrast the Cryptic Conversation
, where the Eccentric Mentor purposely
makes the answer cryptic and unhelpful. Often overlaps with the Mathematician's Answer
, where the answer is technically
correct, but not helpful in the slightest. Compare Ice-Cream Koan
Compare with Non Answer
, and Voodoo Shark
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Anime and Manga
Film - Animated
Film - Live Action
- In the Belgariad / Malloreon these are abundant, leading to various characters (mostly Beldin and Belgarath) remarking how they hate riddles. When asked of one character why this is the only answer she gives, she tells them that it makes people think more about her words. Plus she knows it irritates people.
- As evidenced by the page quote, Ax of Animorphs had a tendency to answer personal questions this way early on since not sharing information with other species is deeply engrained in Andalite culture (and with good reason.)
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Worf refuses to explain why 23rd-century Klingons don't look like their 24th-century counterparts, saying only, "We do not discuss it with outsiders!"
- The X-Files: This is the job of pretty much every one of Mulder's "informants".
- Ambassador Kosh of Babylon 5 has dialogue consisting of almost nothing but this trope. It's even lampshaded in the series.
Sheridan: (sighs) Well, as answers go, short, to the point, utterly useless, and totally consistent with what I've come to expect from a Vorlon.
- Lampshaded by Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1, when conversing with Oma Desala, who generally speaks in koans:
Oma: If you're seeking truth that applies to all, you will not find it. Only truth that applies to you.
Daniel: That is so amazingly unhelpful...