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"A Joke" — The Riddler, Batman (2016) #30

"Riddles are perhaps the oldest of all the games people still play today. The gods and goddesses of Greek myth teased each other with riddles, and they were employed as teaching tools in ancient Rome. The bible contains several good riddles."

When is this riddle not a riddle? When it's a trope.

A riddle is a word puzzle with a logical but nonintuitive solution and which is typically coded through the use of Double Entendre, Double Meaning, Multiple Reference Pun, unconventional descriptions of natural phenomena, and an otherwise hidden but discernible meaning.

Riddles are primarily employed as a mental exercise or challenge that forces the listener to use their intuition, outside the box thinking, logical reasoning, and memory to find the hidden solution behind the phrasing and context given.

A riddle is not:

  • A test of knowledge as in a quiz with a single straightforward answer
  • A pure logic or math problem with no hidden meaning
  • A game of luck that depends on random chance
  • A trick question with no correct answer

Riddles are frequently used in works as a way for the protagonist to show off their smarts while unlocking the thing they desire. This can range from unimpeded passage, to the location of a treasure, to the answer to all their problems. In less common cases, a trickster or eccentric mentor may use riddles to test or strengthen the hero's mental fortitude.

Riddles appear frequently in all genres that have words and are typically expressed in the form of a poem, prose, song, anagram, crossword, or joke. Video Games and Tabletop Games commonly deploy riddles in the form of a Moon Logic Puzzle to make quests and challenges more interesting for players.

In Real Life, riddles are ancient worldwide traditional amusements, the first known of which dates back to ancient Sumer, making this trope Older Than Dirt. They are common in Oral Tradition and still appear frequently in modern works.

Generally speaking, all jokes that are structured as a question with an answer are riddles. Compare and contrast Koan, Ice-Cream Koan, Logic Bomb, and Literal Metaphor.

Please do not add examples to work pages, this merely defines the term.

Famous examples of riddles:

  • "There is a house. One enters it blind and comes out seeing. What is it?" A school.
  • "You hear my sound, you feel me when I move, but see me you never will." The wind.
  • "I can run, but never walk, I often murmur, but never talk, I have a bed but never sleep, I have a mouth but never eat. What am I?" A river.
  • "What disappears the moment you say its name?" Silence.

Tropes involving riddles:

Riddle composition


Riddle scenarios