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Delighting in Riddles

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Shaggy: Can you give us a straight answer?
Mr. E: Where's the fun in that?

There are many reasons why characters may puzzle others by speaking cryptically through Riddles. Sometimes it may be a test for the protagonist to figure out the meaning. Or they have to employ a code to keep the meaning hidden from strangers. In other cases, they simply cannot express their thoughts properly due to being mentally unhinged... And finally, there is the simplest reason: they may be doing it for fun, as an unusual form of amusement.

Many mentors, sages and oracles can be suspected of this due to their cryptic speech mannerisms, though they would rarely admit to it. This motive often overlaps with the others listed above: for example, Koans may serve both as a way of amusement for the mentor and as a challenge for the disciple. Eccentric Mentors and Trickster Mentors are especially prone to this; beautiful females and Love Interests can also have such inclinations, since mysteries and riddles are often the best way to intrigue the hero. As a result, a love interest who doubles as a mentor would almost inevitably indulge in this.

Compare with Cryptically Unhelpful Answer, as well as with Teasing from Behind the Language Barrier, when a foreign language is used for the same purpose, and Loves Secrecy, when a character delights in keeping secrets from others. Subtrope of It Amused Me; may overlap with Proverbial Wisdom.


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    Comic Books 


  • Tia Dalma from Pirates of the Caribbean. It is often implied that her cryptic speech patterns are due to the fact that she takes joy in allowing people to figure things out by themselves.

  • In Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann, the old man who saved Joseph from the well loves speaking in riddles for amusement. For instance, when he introduces Joseph to Mont-Kaw, he says that "a barren mother bore him to me", which means that he found him in a dry well.
  • Nightfall (Series): Prince Vladimir puts Myra through a series of tests to determine is she is useful to him alive. She must answer his riddles without knowing what he is looking for and what is a part of the test.
  • Emmie Reese, the main character's wife from The Harry Reese Mysteries series by Robert Bruce Stewart. She simply loves all sorts of pranks, surprises and schemes, and keeps many secrets from her husband. She will only speak clearly when she absolutely has to; otherwise she almost always speaks in riddles.
  • The beautiful Naina from Boris Akunin's Pelagia And The White Bulldog often talks like this, mainly for the purpose of intriguing everyone around her (especially the opposite sex):
    She read somewhere that modern young ladies always speak in riddles, and she's practising on us.
  • The Hobbit:
    • Gollum is a downplayed example: he doesn't speak in riddles all the time, but he's more than happy to challenge Bilbo into a game of riddles.
    • According to the same book, dragons in general, including Smaug, enjoy being spoken to in riddles.
  • Angela the Herbalist from Inheritance Cycle frequently speaks in Non Sequiturs and cryptic statements, and the others' astonished reactions seem to amuse her.
  • In Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mice books, the bat brothers Orfeo and Eldritch will give predictions, but in such a cryptic manner that no one can make any sense of what they say. They get enjoyment from confusing those who come to them for help.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle has Kvothe's Eccentric Mentor and Bunny-Ears Lawyer Master Elodin, who devises lessons for his student like standing out in a storm, naked, or ripping up a pillow, chasing the fluff throughout the room, and cursing up a storm in several different languages when he bangs his knee, then limping out of the room.
    Elodin: Uresh. Your next assignment is to have sex. If you don't know how to do this, see me after class.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gotham: As in the comics, Edward Nygma/The Riddler enjoys delivering his information in riddles. During the first season and much of the second, he works as a forensic analyst for the GCPD, where this habit (along with his other eccentricities) annoys the rest of his colleagues to no end - Jim Gordon is basically the only one who even tries to be nice to him, and even he has trouble sometimes. After Nygma's Face–Heel Turn, his riddles become a lot more sadistic.

  • In Stephen Sondehim's Into the Woods, this is the defining trait of the Mysterious Man, an enigmatic figure who dwells in the titular forest. His rhyming catchphrase is "When first I appear, I seem mysterious—but when explained, I'm nothing serious," which is itself a riddle—a riddle with the answer "a riddle." He absolutely delights in the confusion and frustration of those who hear his cryptic clues, although by the end of the first act, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs and people either ignore him or tell him to shut up. The tendency is deconstructed, though, when the Mysterious Man is revealed to be the Baker's Disappeared Dad—he was too proud and ashamed to admit his mistakes and fled to the woods after his wife died in childbirth with the Baker's sister Rapunzel, and uses riddling to keep himself from having to confront the reality of his own past. In "No More," the Baker, who is planning to flee his responsibilities in a similar way, begs the Mysterious Man to stop his constant puzzles—and he complies with a straightforward answer about how running away absolutely destroyed his life and has left him feeling empty and hopeless for decades.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • In Xblaze Lost Memories, the Mysterious Waif "Nobody" who lived in the Phantom Field liked to entertain herself with riddles. When our hero "Watashi" stumbled into the realm, Nobody gave her riddles regarding the "memory fragments" they found in the realm.

  • In El Goonish Shive, the Ancients, the counterparts of the Immortals from the gryphons' universe (or side of the universe, or whatever) are said to generally give information in the form of riddles, unlike the Immortals. This may be partly because, also unlike the Immortals, they Will Not Tell a Lie, but from the way Tara describes it, it's also because they enjoy doing so.

    Western Animation 
  • Mr. E from Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is this one. He hangs a lampshade in one episode when he wants to give a Riddle to Mystery Inc, but Shaggy demands a straight answer.
    Mr. E: Where's the fun in that?


Video Example(s):


Looney Louie

Looney Louie is an oddball who typically speaks in riddles. When Mayor Peppers ask Louie if he knows where the bad smell is coming from, he admits he knows but he only decides to tell them in riddles.

How well does it match the trope?

3.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DelightingInRiddles

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