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Riddle for the Ages

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He still doesn't know how that pineapple ended up on his nightstand after 25 years.
"What I couldn't work out was how he managed to make another man pregnant. I guess we'd never know. So, just to restate, that is something we'll never know; you're not going to find out later."
Rick Dagless, Garth Marenghis Darkplace

It is the nature of mysteries that people want to find answers, and since fiction is in the business of giving people what they want, just about any mystery introduced in a story is going to be resolved. Important character gets murdered? We're gonna find out who the culprit was. The Eiffel Tower disappears? We're gonna find out where it went and why. Someone blacks out and wakes up three days later wearing antique samurai armor and a bright pink Stetson? We're gonna find out what led them to that state of affairs. While mysteries might sometimes be left unanswered inadvertently (such as a series being abruptly canceled, or the writers simply forgetting the mystery exists), if the people in charge know what they're doing, for every mystery introduced there's going to be an answer introduced somewhere down the line.

Except when there's not. Sometimes writers will create a mystery but never have any intent of actually giving us an answer. Bob will wake up one day to find that $10,000,000 has appeared in his bank account, or Alice will discover that someone's rearranged all her furniture while she was out. They might brush these matters aside cavalierly, or they might become obsessed with discovering the truth, but eventually they come to realize that, if they're ever going to get an answer, it's not going to be any time soon, and write off their respective mysteries as "one of those things".

This might be done for comedic effect, as part of a Mind Screw, or just to reflect reality. After all, how many of us have had something weird happen in our lives but never discovered the "why" behind it all? Like all tropes, this sort of mystery can be used to tell really good or really horrible stories depending on the writers' skills, though if you're introducing an answerless mystery, it's generally considered good form to let your audience know they're not getting an answer. It's not quite fair to present viewers a mystery, suspects, and clues that clearly have some sort of resolution, if only in the author's head, but never say what it is. Make it clear that you're not going to let people in on an important secret that you or someone on the production staff knows the answer to, and years might go by and people will still be asking you, "Why did X commit Y on Z?"

Please note that, to keep the examples section from getting bogged down, we should list only cases where a mystery is left unanswered and, either through context within the story or via Word of God, we know it was never meant to receive an answer. Without either of these things, it should be assumed that the writers meant to answer the mystery, but have not yet gotten around to doing so.

Super-Trope of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. Cousin of the Cryptic Background Reference (they both add to the sense of a larger universe by leaving unexplained mysteries). See The Unreveal. Compare Noodle Incident, The Unsolved Mystery, What Happened to the Mouse?, Missing Secret, Ambiguous Situation and some Big Lipped Alligators. A common feature of a Mockstery Tale, and may lead to Wild Mass Guessing and Epileptic Trees. These riddles often act as Fanfic Fuel. For a whole setting made up of these, see World of Mysteries.

Not to be confused with A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma. Also has nothing to do with The Riddler. See also Riddle.

Example subpages

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 
  • How do they get the caramel inside a caramilk bar? No one knows.
  • Parodied in one memorable campaign for Golden Grahams cereal, in which the question, "How do they cram all that graham into Golden Grahams?" was debated. Here's one example.
  • How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know...

  • The question which plagues Lewis Black: "If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college," which he overheard someone discussing without context, and which drove him to distraction.
    Now those words are in your head, and those words don't go away.
  • In Joyce Grenfell's "Nursery School" routines, her catchphrase was "George, don't do that". We never learned what George was actually doing.

    Comic Books 
  • 100 Bullets:
    • What other country did the Trust order the Minutemen to take over? The Minutemen's refusal to do this kicks off the entire plot, but the reader never learns what country it was.
    • What was the exact significance of the Morte dil Cesare painting, and why did Echo Memoria want it so badly? Echo quite literally takes these secrets to her grave — her body is wrapped in the painting and both sunk into a swamp.
    • How did Remi Rome kill Mia Simone? Mia dies when she falls out a high window onto a car, but Remi's already at the bottom of the building talking to Cole, so he can't have pushed her. Remi declines to answer when Cole asks.
    • Who was the mysterious man in glasses seen at the end of volume 10, and was he really going to murder that homeless couple he gave a ride to?
    • Mr. Branch, the only known person who didn't seek revenge against his enemy after getting Graves attache case, never reveals just what the man did do to him (although he says it was bad enough that he would have been justified if he had killed him).
    • The Minutemen typically leave the families (if any) of the Trust leaders alone, but they do apparently gun down Sigmar Rhone's wife and very young children in front of him before executing him. The only previous similar instance was when Fulvio Carlito's (adult) children were also killed after he was accused of having attempted to murder the son of another Trust leader. Whether Rhone was guilty of a similar offense in the eyes of the Minutemen, or they just hated the guy for reasons of their own and wanted to make him suffer is left vague.
    • While Mr. Shepherd was a murderer who got away with it, Lono was a death-row inmate, and Victor was the son of a previous Minuteman, it's never revealed how most of them (including Graves) came to the attention of the Trust and were approached to work for them. This is especially true of Jack Daw (who apparently had an honest job in the past and an ordinary upbringing), and Milo Garret (whose backstory isn't revealed at all).
    • How exactly the Minutemen are trained so well, and mentally conditioned to become Manchurian Agents until they hear or read the word "Croatoan" is never explained.
    • During the final issue, Benito, Tibo, and Joan are all apparently Killed Offscreen via drowning, stabbing and being smothered respectively, but it's never definitively revealed who killed any of them. Joan, Megan, Tibo, Lono, and even Augustus himself all had motives to kill Benito. It's strongly implied that Cole Burns killed the other two, but his exact motives for doing so are unrevealed, and it may have also been Augustus taking out the opposition.
    • It's never revealed how close the Vote to dissolve the Minutemen in the first place was. Roland Dietrich (one of their main supporters) didn't oppose the motion, at Graves's request, and it's mentioned that "others" raised the points he would have. Presumably Vasco said something in his Commander Contrarian role, but whether any of the others were against it before Roland's murder is never touched upon.
    • Mr. Shore (Shepherd's predecessor as Warlord of the Trust) accuses Graves of having murdered his predecessor, Neil Walker. Graves denies this (and according Word of God, he never lies) but that promotion to Agent did help his agenda (which he is more than willing to kill for) very nicely. Whether or not Walker really did die of natural causes, Graves was lying that one time, or it was a case of Exact Words and Augustus or Javier killed Walker for Graves is left unanswered.
    • During the backstory, Rose Madrid and Roland Dietrich (supposedly) made a move against Augustus Medici that warranted their executions, but it's never revealed exactly what they (or maybe just Rose) were trying to do, and why.
    • It's never revealed exactly how the Minutemen faked their deaths in Atlantic City, although the fact that the man sent to kill them actively helped them escape probably helped. Burned bodies were apparently involved.
    • Did Jack Daw and/or Crete survive their life-threatening experience in the final issue?
    • What exactly happens to the families of the Trust members whose houses are dissolved isn't fully described, although Mia Simone's talk with the Nagel Twins implies that it's more of a buyout than anything lethal.
    • Did the Japanese man from Amorality Play choose to kill the woman whose picture was in his attache case? Lono presents him with good reasons for why he should, and why he shouldn't, then walks away with a nasty smile.
    • The final issues heavily imply that, despite trying to kill everyone else in the Trust, the Big Bad and his allies were prepared to let Megan and Tibo live, although the exact why of it is never explained, especially considering that Megan had been specifically targeted early on. Possibly it had to do with their youth, and the implication that neither of them had been voting members of the Trust during several of the decisions that made it easier to target the others.
  • American Virgin:
    • How did Mel, a female-to-male transgender man, father a child with Cyndi?
    • Did Adam choose to stay on Earth or move on to Heaven during the Bolivian Army Ending?
  • Uderzo, the author/artist of Asterix, has said that two things will never be revealed about the Astérix universe: What are the exact contents of the Magic Potion (only mistletoe, fresh fish, and oil/beetroot juice have been conclusively revealed) and what is the name of Geriatrix's wife (even Asterix calls her "Mrs. Geriatrix").
  • Astro City: In the "Tarnished Angel" arc, did Donnelly Ferguson purposefully help Steeljack solve the black mask killer case, and if so why? Was he working for Conquistador all along, knowingly sending him supervillains for his scheme, or was he an Unwitting Pawn? And was he really the Scarlet Snake post-retirement? Those are all questions that Steeljack and the reader alike are left to ponder, and it's notably the only mystery that isn't resolved by the end of the story. Ferguson himself, when confronted about it all in the aftermath of Conquistador's defeat, just glares at Steeljack before leaving without responding. Steeljack is left uncertain if this means Ferguson was indeed innocent and offended by the accusations, or guilty and silently threatening Steeljack to let it go or else. Ferguson takes any answers to his grave.
  • Batman:
    • The identity of The Joker, Trope Namer for Multiple-Choice Past.
      • Nobody believes his claims of a tragic background, as he's only doing it to gain sympathy. In addition, it's unknown whether he was insane even before falling into a vat of acid during a botched robbery and becoming who he is today. He sometimes believes his origins, Depending on the Writer of course. Despite the popularity, DC Comics refuses to take a stance on his origins. Joker is a prime example of From Nobody to Nightmare.
      • It's even a discussed trope in Injustice 2, where an intro with Atrocitus has the Red Lantern wondering what drove Joker to nihilism. Also, despite only appearing as a hallucination to Harley in story mode, he spews out multiple reasons for his Unexplained Recovery and will say Sure, Let's Go with That with one of these responses: someone revived him, he's from another universe, escaped from either the Source Wall or the Phantom Zone, or just a dream.
      • In Batman: Three Jokers Batman reveals that he has actually known the true identity of the Joker since a week after his first confrontation with the criminal in question, but keeps that name secret because he is protecting the Joker's former wife and child, who were actually put into witness protection rather than dying in an accident. But that only accounts for one out of three.
    • Did Jason Todd, as Robin, push the ambassador's son off a balcony or did he fall on his own? Neither Batman nor the readers see what happens between Jason reaching him and the man falling and Jason claims that he slipped. Many readers believe, though, that Jason did do the deed.
    • One of the stories leading up to Batman: No Man's Land features a death row prisoner named Jared Manx who professes his innocence and gets a large number of Heroic Bystander feats when a tsunami hits the prison. At the end of the issue, Jared, his Crusading Lawyer, and a nun who was ministering to him before his execution are left desperately trying to hold up a fallen concrete beam that is poised to crush them. Jared tells the other two to escape while he holds it up long enough for them to do so, then claims that he lied about his innocence and that two of the victims were his biological children. His lawyer and the nun let go and run to safety, and the falling concrete crushes Jared. The book ends with the nun wondering if Jared's confession was sincere and he made it because he had nothing left to lose, or if it was a lie to keep the two people who believed in him from throwing away their lives in a doomed attempt to save his. Neither the nun nor the fans ever get an answer.
      Nun: He did lie, but when? And about what?
  • The Boys: Who killed Billy Butcher's beloved dog Terror? The group assumed it was Jack from Jupiter, prompting a grief-stricken Butcher to stab the Martian Manhunter stand-in to death. The work itself never confirms or denies that was the case.
  • The Dan Dare story "The Red Moon Mystery" concerns an asteroid-like object that can move freely in space to attack other planets despite being home to nothing but some bee-like insects. Dan and co. are ultimately forced to destroy it before they can discover how any of this works.
  • Deadpool: Is the titular Merc with a Mouth really Wade Wilson or not? Is T-Ray the real Wade Wilson like he says or is he just lying or crazy? Did a guy named Wade Wilson ever really exist to begin with? Nobody knows for certain and probably never will. At the very least, Deadpool himself seems pretty sure that he's the real Wade Wilson, but this is Deadpool...
  • The Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • Whatever happened to Della Duck, sister of Donald and mother of Huey, Dewey, and Louie? A special Dutch comic produced for the 80th anniversary of the triplets' creation stated that she was a NASA test pilot who got lost in space, but fan reaction was mixed, and as the Duckverse has multiple continuities, this isn't necessarily the one "true" explanation (especially as the story contradicts well-known canon: Della is shown passing the nephews to Donald while they are babies/infants, except Donald clearly adopted the children as they were at least older than four).
    • Also, what happened to her husband? An unpublished story by Don Rosa implied that the triplets' father was from Tra-la-la and returned there after his wife's disappearance.
    • What happened to Donald's parents? Even when Donald meets Mathilda again in Don Rosa's A Letter from Home, they don't even mention Hortense, Donald's mother and Mathilda's sister. In fact, Donald has only ever interacted with Hortense when he sees her as an infant in Scrooge's dream.
    • In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, did Scrooge really single-handedly destroy Soapy Slick's riverboat, or did he — as he himself claims — simply use a conveniently-timed boiler explosion to escape, with the tale being exaggerated over the years? Don Rosa has stated that he will never answer this question, as he meant the scene to be a nod to the various tall tales and semi-legendary figures of the 19th century American frontier such as Pecos Bill.
    • The Beagle boys are always referred to by their numbers. What are their given names? In the Don Rosa comic The Beagle Boys vs. The Money Bin, one Beagle Boy wants to see his criminal record to find out his and mentions his mother never telling him, meaning even they don't know.
  • ElfQuest: Why did Olbar the Mountain Tall take away his brother's name? And what was he called, anyway?
  • Hillbilly: Who is Rondel's father?
  • Final Crisis: Who was the mysterious apelike man who helped Nix Uotan regain his Monitor powers? This is the one question this Mind Screw of a story leaves totally unanswered, and the most popular guesses at the time were Detective Chimp, the New God Himon placed into an ape body by Darkseid's forces, and the typewriter-using monkey from writer Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man. In The Multiversity, Nix has a chimp sidekick named Mr Stubbs, adding another possibility.
  • In Gaston Lagaffe, what are those contracts about that M. De Mesmaeker is always trying to sign?
  • "Wolf Bait" from The Haunt of Fear. We will never know which passenger of the sleigh was chosen by the others to throw to the wolves.
  • Hellblazer: In the final arc of Garth Ennis' run, the Hell-lord First of the Fallen gives John Constantine a lengthy Character Filibuster about his supposed backstory, in which he states that (as his name implies) he, not Lucifer, was the very first Fallen Angel and the original ruler of Hell before the Morningstar defeated him, and what's more that he was unjustly damned after accidentally discovering that God was completely insane and totally unfit to rule the cosmos. We never get a straight answer as to how much, if any, of this is true; after John banishes the First, his ally Ellie the Succubus asks if John believes him, and John's reply is that he has no idea, but decided to play to the demon's ego to get him to lower his guard, and it worked.
  • In The Invisibles, where exactly did the second time machine, which John-a-Dreams found and which he claims made him realize his true calling as a Double Reverse Quadruple Agent, come from?
  • Judge Dredd: What does Judge Dredd look like? It's an enduring tradition of the comic not to reveal the face behind the helmet. Fans never forgave Sylvester Stallone for taking the helmet off in Judge Dredd, and Karl Urban made a point of never removing it when Dredd came about.
  • New Gods: What is the Anti-Life Equation, the MacGuffin whose acquisition is Darkseid's goal in most of his appearances? It's allegedly some sort of irrefutable mathematical proof that free will does not truly exist and Darkseid is the rightful ruler of the cosmos, but even Final Crisis, which shows the supposed written formula of the Equation, never explains how it actually works, and the fact that Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth was able to cancel its effects leaves it questionable at best if that formula was even the right one to begin with, since presumably a Lasso of Truth could not nullify a genuine mathematical proof.
  • From Our Worlds at War and Keith Giffen's Suicide Squad that spun out of it, virtually everything about General Rock. How did he survive his Taking You with Me attack on Imperiex? Is he really an older Sergeant Rock or an imposter? If the latter, who is he really? A likely guess for the latter is the Unknown Soldier, given his penchant for Latex Perfection disguises, the fact that he was seen talking to the real Rock in a flashback, and his experience with amoral Black Ops groups like the Suicide Squad, but it's never stated for sure either way.
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • Who killed the first Despair and why? All we know is that it will take the rest of the life of the universe for him to finish dying and that he was entirely justified in killing her. Also, where did the second Despair come from?
    • What caused Delight to become Delirium? Even Destiny doesn't know the answer.
  • The Sculptor: We never find out what the secret David shares with Meg is because they both promise that when they die, the secret dies with them. Guess what, they're both dead.
  • Spider-Man: Who is F.A.C.A.D.E.? In 1994's Web of Spider-Man, this was intended to be a proper mystery along the lines of Green Goblin or the Hobgoblin, but reader apathy meant it never got revisited. Due to the poor reception of the storyline, every subsequent appearance of the character has presented it as a comedic unreveal: in 2009's Dark Reign Files, in which an e-mail revealing the answer is torn in half and we only see the top half, and in Amazing Spider-Man #678 in 2012, when F.A.C.A.D.E. announces that now he's defeated he will reveal his true identity, and Spidey replies that he's in a hurry and doesn't care much.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Who was Mandalore the Ultimate? What really happened when he confronted Revan above Malachor V? Throughout Star Wars Legends materials, there are a number of hints implying that he was some kind of sleeper agent for the True Sith Empire that was installed in place of the true leader of the Mandalorians to wage war on the Republic. Because there's a dead zone between these books and the game Knights of the Old Republic that is unaccounted except by questionable dialogue there's no canon content that really shows us the truth.
  • Terminal City: Who was the mysterious amnesiac who initiates the plot, and what was in the briefcase he was handcuffed to? It was initially thought to contain a MacGuffin called the Jewels of Alcazar, a supposedly magical necklace stolen by Terminal City's resident Phantom Thief, but these are later almost offhandedly discovered in a hotel room, and shortly after that the case is mysteriously removed from the man's arm, and he runs off. The possibility that the case contains the Jewels initiates a mob war (the city's gangsters not knowing they'd already been found somewhere else), and in the chaos the case itself is ironically forgotten about. It's last seen on the final page, being picked out of a rubbish heap by a random garbageman. When he sees what's in it, his eyes begin to glow green.
  • Seen in Tintin's adventure Tintin: Land of Black Gold: Captain Haddock shows up to rescue Tintin even though he was half a world away, and never gets around to explaining how that was possible. He's interrupted right after "It's both very simple and very complicated.", or "Well, you see, it's like this..." in the English translation.

    The lack of explanation for Haddock's appearance is actually a meta joke: The original version of Land of Black Gold was initially serialized in a newspaper in 1939 and 1940, but after Germany occupied Belgium in 1940, Hergé thought that the comic would not pass the German censors because of its political nature, so the publication of Land of Black Gold was stopped mid-story. At this point Captain Haddock hadn't yet been introduced in Tintin, so naturally he didn't appear in Land of Black Gold either. Several other Tintin stories were published before Hergé decided to redraw Land of Black Gold in 1948, and in these intervening stories Haddock had become the most significant character in the series besides Tintin himself. Thus it would've been odd if Haddock had been left out of the new version of Land of Black Gold, but on the other hand he didn't really belong to a story that had been scripted before he even existed. This is the reason why Haddock is virtually absent from the story until the very end, and why there's no explanation for his sudden appearance. The lack of explanation is Hergé's comment on Haddock "invading" a story he wasn't originally a part of. So there is a solution to the mystery on a meta level, but not in the text.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Ultra Magnus is established to be a Legacy Character, created by Chief Justice Tyrest as a symbol for law and order. Many have donned the power armor to become him, with the reveal that for most of his appearances he was Minimus Ambus. Exactly what happened to the original Magnus that lead to his death is left up in the air.
  • The Ultimates: Jan asks Pym if Banner was, as rumors say, involved in secret superhuman trials on civilians. He does not know, and the issue is never mentioned again.
  • V for Vendetta: Who is the eponymous protagonist, the masked anarchist known only as V? The only solid details on his past we're given is that he's old enough to remember England before the Norsefire coup, that afterwards he did time in the Larkhill Resettlement Centre, and that he was resigned to his fate until he learned that the inmate in the cell adjacent to his, sentenced to death for being gay, was actually his favorite film actress, proving to him that the regime really will eliminate anyone even slightly inconvenient to them and inspiring him to escape and begin his crusade. What exactly he was arrested for, and where and how he picked his nigh-supernatural skills at everything from combat to thespianism to computer hacking are all complete unknowns. Even after he dies, his protege Evey decides she'd rather not know his true identity, feeling that would reduce his value as a symbol.
  • In The Walking Dead, it's never revealed what started the zombie outbreak, because the interaction between the characters is more important.note 
  • Watchmen:
    • The book famously ends on a whopper of a riddle — will Ozymandias's crimes be exposed? And if they are, will it, as the man himself predicts, result in the Cold War turning hot? Various Spin Offs have attempted to answer this question, but as these were made over the very strong objections of much-respected series creator Alan Moore, many fans do not consider them canon.
    • Who was Hooded Justice, and what happened to him? Again, while spinoffs give (wildly different) answers, the original series does not.
  • In Y: The Last Man, no one knows what caused the Gendercide. While several theories are made in the story, and Word of God confirms that one of those theories is true, he refuses to say which one. Yorick even invokes Fan-Disliked Explanation in-universe after an encounter with a Mad Scientist who claimed credit for it.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Boondocks: Where are Huey and Riley's parents?
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin describes a particular "Noodle Incident". It happened at school, Calvin is terrified of his parents finding out, and Hobbes thinks Calvin deserves a Pulitzer prize for his explanation. Other than that? No one will ever know, because it's funnier that way.
  • Dilbert:
    • When a story arc involved the title character getting a girlfriend, the issue arose amongst the readers of whether Dilbert might actually "score" with her. Since sex wasn't something that could be openly discussed in a newspaper comic, Scott Adams told his readers that should Dilbert get lucky, his perpetually upturned tie would be drawn hanging flat. The flat tie strip did eventually come, but Adams still wrote the comic in such a way that it wasn't clear if Dilbert had had sex or not.
    • In another strip that introduced Antina, the antithesis to Dilbert's coworker Tina, Dilbert's tie is flat in the last panel. Even Adams doesn't know why.
  • Garfield:
    • This is parodied in one early strip where Garfield is looking at Odie: "One of the great mysteries of the universe," he ponders. "When Odie closes his mouth, where does his tongue go?"
    • When Jon's gotten stuck in a wall and asks for Garfield's help, he tells Garfield not to ask how it happened.
  • Peanuts:
    • Did Charlie Brown manage to kick the football this one time?
    • What does the little red-haired girl look like?note 
    • What do the parents and teachers look like? There were in fact some cartoons that depicted adults but even then, the parents and teachers were never specifically shown.
    • What does the cat next door look like? Word of God said this is because he's not good at drawing cats. Not even the cartoons show this.
    • What does the inside of Snoopy's doghouse look like? note 
    • Why does Charlie Brown succeed only rarely, regardless of his plans? He might give Yuuko a run for her money in the Butt-Monkey department, with mishaps that plague him ranging from a fussbudget who targets him every day, a baseball team that blames him for losing (even if the failure was not on him), and his kite ending up not flying properly despite the preparations (or suffering worse fates like inexplicably getting rigged with a bomb unseen despite being on-screen and in-view the whole time or getting magnetised towards a "Kite-Eating Tree" that pulls kites to itself somehow).
  • Sally Forth: What exactly does Sally Forth's husband do for a living? Even they aren't sure.

  • T Rex Autopsy: How did the T. Rex that's the documentary's subject wind up in the present? There's no attempt to explain it beyond the fact that it was the government that found it.
  • Walking with…: How do Nigel Marvin in Chased by Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters and Robert Winston in Walking with Cavemen travel back in time? In Nigel's case, it's hinted that if the spinoff Prehistoric Park is anything to go by, he might be capable of creating or controlling time travel, but the jury's out on Winston's case.

    Fan Works 
  • Collated Accounts of the Infinity Train: A summary: The crux of the fic. It's been documented throughout human history for centuries, but no one has thus far been able to figure out how it works or where it came from.
  • Purple Days: In this A Song of Ice and Fire fanfiction, it's unknown where the Purple and the Red Comet originally came from and why they exist and carry out the functions that they do. The Deep Ones can only speculate on whether the Purple was created by Recursive Precursors or by straight-up higher beings.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents fanfic Discovery, fairies are able to wield what's called combat magic, which is divided into five elements; Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, and Lightning. Each element has an opposite (Fire/Water and Wind/Earth), which a fairy's respective anti-fairy wields. Juandissimo is the only fairy we see use Lightning and since we never directly see his anti-fairy, what is Lightning's opposite element? Does it even have one?
  • Harry Is A Dragon And Thats Okay: Despite it being the premise, we never find out how or why Harry became a dragon in the first place, and none of the characters seem to be interested in solving this mystery even by the story's end. To a lesser extent, we never figure out why Empress the basilisk was teaching dragons Parseltongue to begin with.
  • Infinity Train: Voyage of Wisteria, sequel of Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail has One-One question what happened to Simon Laurent when he died. One-One replies that he has no idea and the author tells the readers to make up their own interpretation.
  • Old Man Henderson:
    • No one, not even Waffle House Millionaire himself, knows how he created Henderson's backstory. Hell, according to him, he didn't create it, it felt more like a living entity that merely needed him to give it a physical form. Not only is the entire thing 320 pages long, it shifts to being written in the form of a script at one point, and in grammatically flawless German at another. WHM doesn't know a lick of German.
    • Whether or not Henderson is the character's first or last name. Not even he knows.
  • Ruby and Nora: At the end of Weiss and Pyrrha, exactly what did Pyrrha do to Abigail Lemon, as it ends with Pyrrha about to punch Abigail in the face for her crimes.
  • Things Involving Shipgirls That Are No Longer Allowed:
    • In Chapter 387 (Rule 1354), it's revealed that Yamato is pregnant despite only dating Enterprise and when the latter is confronted by Musashi, says "I didn't think it was possible!". Yamato ends up giving birth to a daughter named Yoshino. In the sequel, in Chapter 124 (Rule 1214), it's revealed Enterprise is pregnant (which Yamato had suspected due to Enterprise being snippier and eating enough to catch up to Yamato) and she ends up giving birth to a daughter named Hope. In both cases, it is not told how they became pregnant.
  • The Ghostbusters/A Nightmare on Elm Street crossover "Nightmare" pits the Ghostbusters against Freddy Krueger when it is revealed that Egon Spengler and Ray Stanz were nearly his victims when they were children and he was alive; Freddy killed Egon's cousin and stalked Ray before he was caught. When the Ghostbusters defeat Freddy by dragging him into the real world and sticking him in a ghost trap, his glove is left behind. Peter openly wonders how Freddy was able to create the glove in the first place, since it isn't D.I.Y. for the average man, but Winston advises that "The less you know about what's going on in the twisted mind of a vengeful child serial killer, the better."
  • The Kim Possible fic "Other Side of the Mirror" not only features evil versions of Kim and Ron coming to this reality, but they are pursued by their enemy, Doctor Andrew Lipsky. When he and Drakken come face-to-face, Andrew asks how Drakken got his scar, but while Drakken is content to tell the story Shego interrupts to get back to the fight.
  • "Different Shades of Death" invokes this when Dean and Sam Winchester (Supernatural) follow up on an old tale about "the living dead in Beverly Hills" (Death Becomes Her) as a solution to Dean's Deal with the Devil. After Dean establishes that the process would leave him as a living corpse if he suffered fatal injuries, he asks Lisle what would happen to someone if they were shot in the head or suffered serious injuries such as being caught in a fire that could have destroyed his body, and Lisle admits that she can't answer that because for obvious reasons none of her clients have been willing to test such a thing.
  • The South Park fic "Lightning" sees Stan learn about Kenny's immortality and regain his memory of Kenny's various past deaths. When talking about the time Kenny spent a year dead, Kenny affirms that he doesn't know why that particular death lasted for so long, only speculating that it was because he died of an illness rather than being killed in a more violent fashion, and wonders if it was intended as a kind of "gift" to give him a period of peace rather than regularly dying violent deaths.
  • In Time Anomaly, after the Avengers learn about UNIT, Scott Lang finds himself wondering why the U.N. didn’t send Kate Stewart or a member of UNIT to approach the Avengers about the Sokovia Accords. Scott explicitly reflects that the team might have reacted better to the Accords from a relatively neutral party, such as Kate Stewart, rather than someone like General Ross, who had an extremely negative history with at least one of the team.
  • Invoked in Told That Devil to Take You Back, when Charlie Bradbury observes to the Earps that nobody seems to know what happened to the Winchesters' paternal grandmother beyond that she wasn't there by the time Dean was born.
  • Worlds Apart has the author raises a point about a small but significant detail in the original series; when Angel returned from Hell he was originally naked, but he was wearing trousers when Buffy found him… and while it makes sense for Wesley to give the vampire trousers after he’s captured by the Watcher's Council in this timeline, it raises the question of how and why a feral Angel acquired clothing in canon.
  • The Next Frontier: A minor but crucial detail only mentioned briefly in the first act is a very strong radio signal picked up by Kerbin's equivalent of SETI, which at least appears to be artificial in nature. This ends up being the tiebreaker when deciding which nearby solar system to send their first FTL starship to explore because it's tenuous but compelling evidence that there might be intelligent life there. There is. But what with one thing and another they never do find out whether the signal was an intentional broadcast or not.
  • With Pearl and Ruby Glowing: The female human incarnations of Ruby and Sapphire produced Garnet as their biological child. They explain that one of the pair is transgender, but it's nobody else's business which one, so they're not telling.
  • Missing Soulmate: Despite the fact that Chloe caused a girl to become Soul-Matchmaker with the power to bind two people that are soul-matesnote  and said akuma targeting her as payback, the identity of Chloe's Soulmate is never revealed as the story gets sidetrack by Lila revealed not to have a Soulmate and that she's a centuries-old sentimonster. In the epilogue, the former students of Ms. Bustier's class still debate who Chloe's Soulmate was, usually thinking she'll end up with a horrible partner like sleezy politician or a gambling addict.

    Films — Animation 
  • Angry Birds: When introducing the other members of the anger management class, the teacher, Matilda, skips over Terrence (Sean Penn). (This doubles as a Noodle Incident as we never know what Terrence did prior to his appearance in her class.)
    Matilda: Terrence had an, um, "incident". [quickly puts down Terrence's file]
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Just who, or what, were the Atlanteans fighting that the King felt it necessary to try and weaponize the Heart of Atlantis to begin with?
  • Barnyard: What animal is Wild Mike exactly?
  • Big Hero 6: What caused the fire at the school?
  • Cats Don't Dance: What is Max supposed to be? How and why does he have superpowers? How did he meet Darla and was hired by her?
  • In The Cat Returns, it's never explained why Haru can talk to cats (although her later transformation implies it may have something to do with her wanting to be a cat).
  • Despicable Me: Why do the Minions always wear goggles, and what do they look like without them? Minions shows that even in ancient times, they wore primitive versions of goggles.
  • The Emperor's New Groove:
  • Encanto: Why didn't Mirabel get a gift while the rest of her family did?
  • Fire & Ice: Practically everything regarding Darkwolf is a mystery. Is he the same person as the one depicted in the statue of the abandoned city found by Larn? Is he said civilization's fallen king or chief god? Was Juliana his concubine, and if so, is Necron their son?
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: What was up with that fourth gargoyle? It looked nothing like the others, said nothing to Frollo but a hateful growl and had burning orange eyes. The fact that it appeared to Frollo at all is significant because prior to the climax, the statues interacted with no one but Quasimodo. Was it just another statue? An angel or demon come to strike the Judge down?
  • Meet the Robinsons:
    • Who was Lewis's mother, and why did she give him up? Despite being the Driving Question of the film, it is sadly never answered.
    • How are Uncle Spike and Uncle Demitri related to the rest of the Robinson clan? Even they don't know. And why do they live inside flowerpots?
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: What is Gallaxhar's backstory?
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: The Dark Forest is divided up into three trials that change depending on who’s holding the map. Since the map ends up in the hands of multiple people throughout the film, we don’t get to see what everyone’s trials look like. What are the three trials that Puss, Kitty, Perrito, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Big Jack Horner would have been assigned had they held the map for the entire adventure, and what would each of their trials represent? We can safely say Death doesn't qualify for this, since he's too supernatural and didn’t even care about the map- he just wanted to kill Puss.
  • Rango:
    • Who really killed the seven Jenkins brothers?
    • What creature did that giant eye belong to?
  • Ratatouille: What exactly did Horst serve prison time for? Among the versions of the story he tells is that he "killed a man with this thumb..." flashing said thumb to Skinner for good measure.
  • In Shrek, Princess Fiona explains to Donkey that she was cursed by a witch to turn into an ogress at sunset and back into a human at sunrise until she receives the kiss of true love. The witch is never mentioned again after that, nor does she make an appearance in the sequels, so the audience never finds out who she is and why she cursed Fiona in the first place. (Although given the curse's outcome, it's quite possible that she might have been trying to do Fiona a favor.) Shrek 2 reveals that Fiona's curse was part of a scheme by the Fairy Godmother to engineer a Rescue Romance between Fiona and her son, Prince Charming, allowing the two of them to control The Kingdom of Far Far Away once Fiona ascends the throne, and as such a common theory is that the witch was either the Godmother herself in disguise or someone working for her, but it's still never confirmed outright.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: What was in Patrick's pants if that wasn't the bag of winds?
  • In Toy Story, Woody mentions that he and some other toys will have to break some of the rules (that is, show humans that toys are sentient). Who exactly came up with these rules and why do toys have to obey them? Also, what really qualifies as a toy and how do they come alive? If nothing else, Toy Story 4 makes the situation even more confusing by revealing that a makeshift item can become a living toy.
  • The Transformers: The Movie: Which Decepticon turned into Cyclonus? Skywalk or Bombshell? When Unicron is transforming Megatron and the others Decepticons, we see both Skywalk and Bombshell turning into two seperate Cyclonus, but for the rest of the movie and the series, there's only one of them.
  • In Turning Red, Mei's father mentions that her mother's giant red panda form was big when he saw it last and that she nearly took out half the temple. When Mei sees that it is kaiju-sized in the climax she asks him if it was that big when he saw it but she never gets an answer. Mei's giant red panda form is consistently the same size which would suggest her mother's is as well but if it was always kaiju-sized it would have easily leveled the temple. The DVD Commentary acknowledges this mystery but does not answer it.
  • UglyDolls: Why did Lou turn evil? In the flashbacks he's shown to be a genuinely caring person who befriended Ox after everyone ostracized him and helped him escape to Uglyville, but we're never told what made him change.

    Multiple Media 
  • BIONICLE ran on mysteries, most of which were solved, others left ambiguous. It's possible these too would have been answered, if the writers had the chance to do so.
    • How can Kapura, a powerless Matoran, go fast by moving slow? He doesn't teleport because he needs physical access to his destination. Only writer Bob Thompson knew the answer but never revealed it. The other writers avoided the matter.
    • What is Takanuva's true destiny? Writer Greg Farshtey stated it was to play an important role in a war, but the franchise ended before that development.
    • What is The Shadowed One's true name? Farshtey planned to reveal it but decided not to, then forgot what the name was going to be.
    • Why did The Shadowed One's Eye Beams malfunction when he tried to disintegrate Zaktan, turning him into a sentient mass of bugs? Even TSO is surprised.
    • What is the island fortress that Krakua will defend in the future, and from whom?

  • In the comedy song "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun", we'll never know who Johnny was, because only Debbie knew and, like, she's dead.
  • Just what is the thing in the box that everyone finds so offensive in the '50s novelty song "The Thing"?
  • The Eagles: Where exactly is the Hotel California and why can't anyone ever leave?
  • The 5 Seconds of Summer song "End Up Here" centers around the protagonist (and his friends) wondering why a particular girl is interested in him. He's too insecure to ask her, though, and never does find out.
  • The opening chord of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night". It was determined to be a simultaneous combination of guitar and bass chords played by Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney, as well as a piano chord by producer George Martin. Debate continues over the exact notes contained within the chord.
  • Why exactly did Major Tom's communication cut out at the end of "Space Oddity" by David Bowie?
  • The identity of rapper Captain Murphy. Theories range from another persona of Tyler the Creator to obscure cult act Zeroh to singer Thundercat to experimental beatsmith Flying Lotus. The answer eventually turned out in real life to be FlyLo. In-universe it's still an open question.
  • Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" never outright states whether the narrator fathered Billie Jean's son, and by extension whether the narrator is a deadbeat dad or an innocent man being harassed by a crazy woman trying to extort him.
  • The Baha Men's song "Who Let the Dogs Out" never answers the titular question.
  • In Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt", just who is the narrator's "sweetest friend" whom the song is addressed to? Given that the narrator is a depressed heroin addict, one theory is that it's not even a person and that he's talking to his drugs. The Johnny Cash version implies his "sweetest friend" to be his wife, June Carter Nash... who passed away shortly after the song's recording, giving it a chilling poignancy.
  • The Argentine band "No Te Va Gustar" (You Won't Like It) came up with the name when the members Emiliano and Mateo were going to explain to drummer Pablo a name they had planned that wasn't very good. Reportedly they said "We have a name.... you won't like it." Pablo loved it thinking it WAS the name they had planned, and it became the band's name. To this day, they haven't said what was the actual planned name.
  • The music video for Radiohead's "Just" features a man who lies down in the street, and throughout the video, bystanders ask why he's lying down, a reason he refuses to convey throughout most of the video. Once he reveals why, everyone lies down with him. While most of the video is subtitled, they cut off around the point when he reveals his reason.
  • Carly Simon's famous "You're So Vain". Exactly whom the song is about is still unknown, though Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, won the right to know the secret at an auction. Various, largely conflicting clues have been released over the years. In November of 2015 she revealed the second verse is about Warren Beatty, but we still don't know whom the other two verses are about.
  • Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" has the Noodle Incident that Mama saw. Simon gave this one a Shrug of God in a later interview: "I have no idea what it is. [...] Something sexual is what I imagine, but when I say 'something', I never bothered to figure out what it was. Didn't make any difference to me."
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic does this In-Universe with "The Biggest Ball of Twine In Minnesota", when he wonders why the twine ball's creator would bother to do it in the first place:
    What was he trying to prove? Who was he trying to impress?
    Why did he built it? How did he do it? It’s anybody’s guess!
    Where did he get the Twine? What was going through his mind?
  • Ylvis's song "The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)" poses but never answers the question, "What does the fox say?" This is a reference to how other animals have well-known onomatopoeic sounds ("Dog goes woof, cat goes meow, bird goes tweet, and mouse goes squeak...") but foxes don't. In Real Life, foxes make a variety of sounds, and words do exist for certain fox sounds, including "gekker" (for chattering) and "yiff" (for barks that foxes allegedly make while mating). Of course, the term "yiff" has a bad connotation after the Furry Fandom adopted it to mean furry porn.
  • Black Sabbath: In "The Devil Cried", why did the Devil cry at the words "I love you"?

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Where was Jesus and what was he doing between the ages of twelve and thirty-ish? The Gospel writers were not the least bit interested in even hinting at it (save for a glib, hasty note about him "growing in wisdom and spirit", which tells us nothing specific), although a general consensus is that it was left out simply because it wasn't important. According to non-Biblical "gnostic gospels", he stared down a cave full of dragons, among other things.
    • The pronunciation of the God of Israel's true name, YHWHnote , is unknown, as the Hebrew alphabet of the time did not include vowels. The most commonly used pronunciations are Yahweh and Jehovah (the latter of which Hebrew linguists universally agree was not the original pronunciation). Jewish tradition forbids uttering the name of God, and the word Adonai is used instead. In English translations of the Christian Bible, YHWH is mostly replaced with LORD, one of several translations for Adonai.
    • In John's gospel, what does Jesus write on the ground when he stops the stoning of the adulterous woman? The sins of the woman's accusers is a popular theory, although like with Jesus's childhood above, many argue that it would've been elaborated on if it were of actual importance.
    • In 2 Corinthians 12:7, the Apostle Paul mentions that he was given "a thorn in the flesh". While this is generally agreed by scholars to refer to some sort of ongoing difficulty in his life, the jury is out on what specific thing it actually is. Theories range from physical disabilities like poor eyesight or epilepsy to circumstantial factors like constantly dealing with persecution to spiritual difficulties such as struggling with a particular sin. Whatever it is, he never explicitly describes it.
    • So who was Darius the Mede, anyway? He's mentioned in the Book of Daniel as a ruler of Babylon between Belshazzar and Cyrus the Great — only problem is, he doesn't appear in any other record of Babylonian rulers. Guesses for his identity range from Cyrus's son-in-law Darius I, projected two generations backward by the author of Daniel (the book was written much later than when it was set) whether accidentally or deliberately, to Cyrus's governor of the city to a completely mythical figure.
    • What exactly were the Nephilim? They're mentioned exactly twice, once in Genesis and again in Exodus, in a way that suggests the author(s) assumed the reader would already be familiar with them. All that's known is they lived just before the Great Flood, and were very strong. Apocryphal books describe them as angel-human hybrids, and while those books are not considered canonical, there are mentions in both Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter to fallen angels who got chained up in hell, which may be the parents of the hybrids. (Or they may be tied up for a different reason.)
    • Where did Cain get his wife? Biblical scholars have argued about this for a long time, whether she was another child of Adam and Eve, or possibly made by God like Adam and Eve.
    • In Genesis, Cain builds the first city of Enoch, except there are only five humans alive at the time (Adam, Eve, Cain, Cain's (unnamed) wife, and Cain's son Enoch.) How could just five people build an entire city (even if they have centuries to do so?)
  • In the Roman canon of Classical Mythology, what exactly was the big deal with Janus? His domain was doorways, gates, transitions, and beginnings and endings, yet he had a month named after him, was considered "Divum Deus", "God of Gods", and closing the gates of his temple meant that Rome was at peace. Notably, this was true for the Romans themselves, as Janus' cult was so ancient that by the time they started writing down their myth they had long forgot most of him beyond his importance.
    • Why Orpheus turned around when about to rescue Eurydice has been debated since the myth's inception, with reasons ranging from doubting Hades' promise, to turning in joy at the sunlight, to hearing Eurydice stumble and turning back to help her.
    • What did Ocnus do to earn his punishment in Tartarus of eternally weaving a rope only for a donkey to eat it? Scholars suspect it maybe related to how he symbolises hesitation and wasted opportunities, but whatever source that specifies it is lost to time.
  • In Egyptian Mythology, just what was the real-life inspiration for Set's animal form, if there indeed was one at all?
  • Norse Mythology:
    • What did Odin whisper to his late son Baldr's (the first Aesir ever to be Killed Off for Real) ear at his funeral?
    • Odin's two brothers, Vile/Honer and Ve, who helped him create the world and the creatures in it, simply disappear one day. Odin goes to great lengths to find the answer to their disappearance, finally sacrificing his one eye in the Well of Wisdom (as the eye can then see the past, present and future). Yet, he never tells a living soul the answer except his wife. He reasons that "What three know, the whole world knows."
    • When Baldr has been slain Odin rides to the death realm, overcoming many perils for twelve days in order to find him. Finally he meets an old witch. Having spoken with her, Odin abandons his search and goes back to spend his days preparing for Ragnarok. He never reveals to anyone what the witch said.
    • The Icelandic poem Voluspa, one of the most important primary sources for Norse myth, has an extremely Ambiguous Ending that has been debated for hundreds of years in real life. The narrator, a priestess in a hypnotic trance, sees the world bounce back better than ever after Ragnarok, with the gods returning under a new leader even more powerful and glorious than Odin himself, when suddenly the evil dragon Niddhogg appears and the vision abruptly ends. The new divine leader's identity and Niddhogg's exact role are never elaborated on in this or any other source, and scholars disagree on whether (given the parallels with Jesus and Satan) this epilogue was a later Christian addition or whether it is authentic to the original story, and clarifying information has been either lost to time or never existed.
  • Exactly what is The Sampo? In the The Kalevala, it was interpreted as a mill that produced unlimited quantities of salt, flour, and gold, but this is just an addition of the 19th century compiler; the original tales do not actually say what Sampo is.

  • From The Adventure Zone: Apparently there is a canon reason why Garfield the Deals Warlock was growing a new body for Magnus; however, Griffin has stated that it's funnier and/or creepier to imagine your own answer, and that he will take the canon answer to his grave.
  • Disc Only Podcast: Nobody knows about "Murder Gym", not even the cast members. Eventually it was revealed to be a random gag from Stephen in passing, but he has since forgotten about it.
  • Many of the mysteries surrounding Howl are left unsolved by In Strange Woods' end, particularly whether or not he let Jacob die and whether Howl himself died or not during the Final.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • What was in the lockbox that Shane McMahon used as a bargaining chip against The Authority? This one will likely never get answered, as the writers outright admitted they had no intention of using the lockbox as anything more than a plot device.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Eberron has a number of these, added intentionally so that DMs have leeway to make stuff up while still sticking to the setting. Examples include: What actually triggered the Mourning, do the Sovereigns and Dark Six actually exist, and what are the long-term plans of enigmatic factions like the Lords of Dust, Inspired, and Chamber.
    • Nentir Vale: The evil god Asmodeus (who is basically Satan) was originally the servant of a good god, and the Nine Hells of Baator were originally a paradise, until Asmodeus killed his master and was cursed (along with his minions) to become a devil who can't leave Baator unless summoned. Who exactly the original god he served was is a mystery; even his name is lost to time (people just call him "He Who Was"). All that's known is he was a good god whom Asmodeus betrayed. The reason for his betrayal was also retconned; originally his god considered him too extreme and ruthless in his methods and revoked his station, and thus Asmodeus sought revenge, whereas it was later said that the Demon Lord Pazuzu tempted him into evil.
    • Planescape: What is the Lady of Pain? She's not a god, since Gods Need Prayer Badly does not apply. She never talks. If you worship her, she will kill you, and actual gods are afraid of her. So what is she?
    • Ravenloft: What are the Dark Powers, and what are they up to? Word of God from TSR's writers and canon statements from Arthaus proclaim that this will never be revealed, and a novel that dared to try it was declared non-canon for doing so. Also, what actually happened when Strahd and Azalin found themselves in Mordentshire during their botched attempt to break out of the Land of Mists?
  • GURPS IOU runs on this. IOU is Illuminati University... so what does the "O" stand for? Just who (or, for that matter, what) is the ArchDean anyway? Who is the Unseen Dean, and how many have they gone through? And what's the janitor's deal, anyhow? The answer to all these, and more, is frequently "You're not cleared for that." It even says so on the back cover.
  • In Nomine:
    • The nature of the Upper Heavens and of the beings who live there. All that anybody knows is that there is some number of levels above the one that angels inhabit, that greater beings than the Archangels exist there, that all blessed souls feel a pull to go there, and that nobody who ascends to these levels ever returns.
    • A lot of information concerning Armageddon and its aftermath is deliberately obtuse. In particular, nobody knows what the fate of damned souls will be — they may remain in Hell for eternity, be sent into oblivion, or given a second chance at salvation — and, until the last trumpet sounds, nobody will.
    • The Dozen, a rumored cabal of undying mortal sorcerers who wield impossible powers. What's established is that sorcerers think that they exist, and that demons made up almost everything about them but have their own rumors about the Dozen actually being real. Everything else — their powers, their identities, their goals, whether they even exist at all — is left thoroughly obscure.
    • Why dragons cannot exist anymore. For some reason, after Uriel and his servants eradicated the ancient dragons, something changed so as to prevent any new dragons from arising among the Ethereal spirits — whenever one comes to resemble or embody the Image of a dragon, it quickly fades from existence. Nobody has any idea why this is, and while a number of theories are floating around in-universe — dragons were divine or infernal beings punished for rebellion against God, one or more dragon deities or greater spirits are hiding in the Marches and remotely annihilate all competitors, Heaven decided that dragons were too dangerous and somehow altered the Symphony to make them impossible — the answer to this riddle is left to the GM's discretion.
  • Pathfinder: The death of Aroden, a Lawful Neutral god of humanity and knowledge who died about 100 years before Pathfinder 1st edition. The writers themselves have said they will never give a canon answer and it's all up to the DM what happened.
  • Starfinder has The Gap, a period of time where Golarion (the main planet from Pathfinder) disappeared. What happened, or the planet's current state, are total mysteries. This is also an in-universe example, as whatever happened apparently caused a multiverse-wide Laser-Guided Amnesia since even the gods themselves (as well as mortal creatures who were born before the gap) don't remember what happened. A common fan theory is that whatever it was was so devastating it damaged the Akashic Records (which supposedly record every event that ever happened in the Multiverse), and that's why no one can remember.
  • Warhammer: The origin, nature and fate of the Old Ones. It's not known where they came from, beyond that it was from somewhere beyond the world. It's not known why they came to it, or why they chose to shape and alter it into its current form. It's not known what happened to them when the polar gates fell and Chaos came, if they lived or died, or where they went — all is known is that they vanished and aren't coming back.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is chock full of these. Some of the biggest are:
    • What happened to the missing Primarchs? Is the Emperor truly alive or deadnote ? What was the Pale Wasting?
    • Practically everything about the Alpha Legion. Is Alpharius really dead, and if so, who killed him? Was it Roboute Guilliman? Was it Rogal Dorn? Is Omegon still alive? Did Alpharius even die at all? Maybe "Alpharius" confessed he was a Fake Defector for the Imperium during the fight and Guilliman agreed to fake his death, or maybe Alpharius actually killed Guilliman and adopted his identity. The clash may not have even happened at all. Also, are they loyal to Chaos, to the Imperium, to nobody, or to some mysterious third organisation that also seeks the destruction of Chaos?
    • Are Cypher and the Fallen Angels loyal to Chaos or not?
    • The fates of a few Loyalist Primarchs are still left up in the air. Leman Russ and Jaghatai Khan both disappeared after going on an errand and left no clue of their current status. Vulkan is vaporized in a blast, but it's unknown if that is strong enough to overwhelm his perpetuality. Rogal Dorn is said to be dead, but the information regarding his death is conflicting. Some sources state that his whole body is found, some state that his body is torn to shreds, while others state that only his severed hand is recovered. Not helping the matter is the fact that Vulkan believes Rogal is alive many years later, which can either mean that the former has some information pointing towards the latter's survival, or he is simply unaware of his brother's death.
    • Most, if not all, of the mysteries are left deliberately unanswered, as it allows players the maximum scope in interpreting the lore to customize your armies in whatever way the player feels is most interesting to them.

  • Did Father Flynn of Doubt really molest an altar boy? Only the playwright and the actors that played him on Broadway and in the movie know for sure.
  • Is it really the ghost of Hamlet's father, or just an evil spirit taking advantage of Claudius's crime to cause the prince even more misery? Or is Hamlet just crazy?
  • The opera L'Orfeo has a different sort than the usual Orpheus adaptation, as why Orpheus turns around is explained, but what caused the sound that made him turn is completely unknown.
  • Othello: What, if any, is Iago's motive for ruining Othello's life? He offers several throughout the course of the play, but we have no idea which one is actually real. It doesn't help that near the end, Iago concludes he's just doing this for fun and doesn't even have a motive.
  • Romeo and Juliet: Why are the Montagues and Capulets feuding in the first place? Plenty of adaptations have added a reason, but in the original play itself, the feud's origins are less important then the effects.
  • In Waiting for Godot, who or what is Godot? Why are they waiting for him? Will he ever come? And just what on Earth was Lucky going on about?
  • In Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard, the jester Jack Point asks the riddle "Can you tell me, sir, why a cook's brain-pan is like an overwound clock?" He never gets the chance to give the answer.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • It's never explained anywhere why the twin sisters Junko Enoshima and Mukuro Ikusaba have different surnames. When asked about it at the end of the first game, the former says she's tired of always getting asked that question and that the students should think of a reason themselves.
    • During the second chapter, Monokuma threatens to reveal every student's "darkest secret" if there isn't a murder. While Makoto's (he wet the bed until fifth grade) is immediately shown as he is the PC, and Toko (has a Serial Killer split personality), Chihiro (is a boy dressing as a girl), and Mondo (accidentally got his brother killed) all have their secrets revealed during the trial, it's never revealed what everyone else's secrets were.
    • In the second game, how was Hiyoko Saionji killed in Chapter 3? This being unanswered is said to be attributed to a rumor that Hiyoko was made a victim at the last minute.
    • In the third game, would the resurrection ritual and the seance in chapter 3 have worked? Angie thinks the resurrection ritual would work, but is killed while trying to perform it, and Korekiyo tries the seance, but really intends to use it to murder the "medium", Tenko.
    • From the ending of V3, why did Tsumugi allude to herself being a copycat criminal during her last words? Who or what is she copying? Given that The Reveal involves this being the fifty-third season of an in-universe Danganronpa series, the obvious answer would be "the hosts of the previous 52 seasons", but not only does that feel like an odd way to refer to her predecessors, but the characters actually speculate on the moment in the epilogue, suggesting that's not what's intended. The closest thing we get to an answer is Shuichi suggesting that Tsumugi might actually have been lying about what was going on (implying that the events of the previous games really did happen in-universe after all), but the game ends without any clear answer, and given that Kazutaka Kodaka left Spike Chunsoft shortly afterwards (not to mention the immensely polarized fan reaction to V3 in general and its ending in particular), it's unlikely to ever be followed up on.
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • What is Misha's disability? Given her personality, bipolar disorder is a common fan guess, but Word of God has said nothing on the subject except a joking suggestion that it's a broken nail.
    • What's inside Kenji's package?
  • In Miniature Garden, the story of the death of Ayana's parents is never fully explained in any route or ending, such as who killed them and why. One piece of information given in a Bad Ending is that Yasunari and Ayana were accomplices, but nothing else is brought up beyond that.
  • Remember11: The whole ending is one big Mind Screw, especially with the nature of Keiko: Was she relapsing into her murderous state or was she just being creepy?
  • Riddle Joker: What is Kyohei's Astral ability? Is it his seemingly bottomless stomach?
  • In Sabbat of the Witch, it's discovered in one of the routes that Touko is an alp turned human. Alps tend to have animal forms that they can assume and while we know Nanao's (a cat) and Akagi's (a bird), Touko's animal form is never mentioned.
  • Snatcher: Just what does Neo Kobe Pizza look like and how is it supposed to be eaten?

    Web Animation 
  • Dusk's Dawn: Due to the sequel being cancelled, these questions will never be answered:
    • Who was that pony Dusk put to bed in his introduction scene?
    • What exactly was the significance of the scepter?
    • What happened to Dusk's Evil Twin?
    • What was that thing that ran past Donut in the hallway?
    • What was in that paper Star Whistle was holding at the end?
    • Why were the characters called in to see Celestia a few days later?
  • Emesis Blue leaves large chunks of its plot unexplained as part of its Nothing Is Scarier approach to Psychological Horror. The biggest question would probably be how many of the events of the film actually happen at all versus how many are hallucinations by the characters caused by the drugs BLU has prescribed them. However, a few more specific questions stand out:
    • Who is the Undertaker? Is he a distinct person, or simply an alternate identity unconsciously assumed by Ludwig? The shot of him outside the chapel during the climax suggests the former, but the use of Time Travel in other parts of the story muddle this. If he is a real person, who is he, and whose side is he on?
    • How did Ludwig obtain his Resurrective Immortality, seemingly independent of the Respawn Machine?
    • What happened to Dustbowl that caused it to be described as "gone"? Was Dell Conagher killed in said incident, or is he in hiding?
    • What is going on with the briefcase that the various parties are fighting over? The final shot reveals its contents to be a glowing red orb, but nothing else about it is revealed, including how the Russian got ahold of it, who he was planning to hand it off to, or why so many people are willing to die or kill for it.
    • Pretty much everything about the ending. Is the eyeless Dell Conagher who appears in the Dying Dream really his ghost, or is it something else? Who was he going to call after Ludwig went into the bathroom? Why did Ludwig have such a panicked reaction when he realized the drug he had been taking all this time was Emesis Diazepam? Is Ludwig's reunion with Jeremy at the end merely a Dying Dream, or is this actually the two of them reconnecting in the afterlife? If the latter, is it for good, or will Ludwig's Resurrective Immortality kick in again?
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • How do the Tree Friends keep coming back to life? The real answer is obviously Rule of Funny, but since it's left unexplained in-universe it still qualifies. "Blast from the Past" and "Better Off Bread" imply that the answer is Time Travel, but at least Cuddles has been shown to remember his previous deaths.
    • How does Cro-Marmot move, and how does Handy do things that require hands when offscreen? Again, the real answer obviously being Rule of Funny.
    • Who is Cub's mother? Word of God has stated on Twitter that she is permanently dead, but we know nothing beyond that.
    • How was Flaky killed in "Happy Trails Pt. 2: Jumping The Shark"?
    • How did Handy lose his hands, and why can't he regenerate them between episodes the way Tree Friends usually do after losing body parts? Similarly, how did Russell lose his arm, legs, and eye?
    • How did Flippy get PTSD? Word of God is that this is intentionally ambiguous.
    • Is Mr. Pickels real? Is he a product of Lammy's imagination? Or something else?
  • Homestar Runner:
    • How do you type with boxing gloves on?
    • Any information about the parents of any of the main characters save for Pom Pom and Homsar. Except Homsar claims to be the son of a cup of coffee and a chipwich, which may or may not be true.
    • How does Homestar (and the other armless characters) pick stuff up? Do they have invisible arms, or are they using telekinesis? The implication seems to be that they simply have invisible arms. In "In Search of the Yello Dello", Marzipan slaps Homestar, leaving a visible handprint, and in the commentary Strong Bad mentions what nice hands she has, suggesting she at least has invisible arms (or at least hands). Furthermore, on at least one occasion, Homestar is shown wearing a trench coat, and the arms of said coat move when he picks up a glass. He, Strong Bad, and Pom Pom is also capable of flipping the bird.
    • What Strong Bad's face looks like without the mask. He does take off his mask once while obscured by a huge chair, then states that he will never do that again. The Brothers Chaps have stated that they will likely never answer these questions.
    • In "Best Caper Ever", how did Homestar end up on an ice floe in the middle of the Arctic ocean after The Cheat peed in his melonade?
    • Strong Bad Email:
      • Why was Coach Z buying all the "great for baby" items in "garage sale"?
      • In "4 branches", how did Homestar end up stuck inside the water cooler? The only explanation he gives was that he was in Barbados, hanging a picture on the wall, before Strong Bad cuts him off saying "Okay, that tells me everything I need to know".
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers:

  • Bob and George: How did Metool-D2 end up in the Alternate Universe? The characters know, but the audience never will!
  • How do Casey and Andy keep coming back to life? It's even been asked in-universe when Andy died and came back to life mid-strip, though he seemed unaware it happened at all, suggesting the duo doesn't know. The leading fan theory is that Satan began resurrecting them after she and Andy began dating, but they were coming back before that. With no official word on why it keeps happening, the real reason is most likely Rule of Funny.
  • One that's acknowledged in-universe in Dominic Deegan is the nature of visions. While anyone who can use magic can use second sight, the random uncontrolled glimpses of the future that are visions are ultimately unexplained. Nobody in-universe or out knows why some people get them. The sequel plays with it a bit in that Dominic's former students eventually banded together and solved the mystery, but rendered it so that nobody could get visions again in the process. How and why this happened isn't explained.
  • Errant Story: We never find out what caused the Elves to be unable to reproduce with each other. Misa was the last pureblood elf born. That was over 1400 years ago, in story.
  • Go Get a Roomie!: We never do learn Roomie's real name.
  • Harry Potter Comics: We never find out the real story behind the Arabic wizard claiming to be the prophet Muhammad reborn. A question rendered moot when he's slain by stray gunfire, then raised as one of The Necromancer's minions.
  • Homestuck:
    • The comic devotes most of Arc 5 to introducing the trolls, an alien race from Alternia, and explaining how their Sburb session overlaps with that of the protagonists. However, the story makes it clear that the trolls are only deuteragonists at best, and many parts of their session are excised or heavily abridged, showing only the parts of it that are integral to Homestuck's Myth Arc. Therefore, fans are free to speculate on exactly what Alternian culture is like, and the trolls' lives before the game.
    • What was that "little moment" between Terezi and Karkat when she got close enough to learn his blood colour?
    • Where did Sburb really originate? Why does it even exist?
    • In-Universe example: The Ultimate Riddle.
  • minus.:
    • Nothing about the comic is ever explained, most importantly: Where do minus's powers come from in the first place? What, exactly, are her parents? Epileptic Trees on this one range from beings even more powerful than minus herself to completely ordinary humans who just happen to have a Reality Warper for a daughter, if they are even her biological parents at all. Of course, since all the readers ever "see" of them is minus's mother yelling from off-panel, no one will ever know. These questions go answered because they aren't necessary to enjoy the comic and there is a risk of any explanation ruining the mystique.
    • A much more light-hearted unanswered question is: Other than minus and a few minor characters, what are everybody's real names? And why is minus's name always written in all lowercase letters?
    • An example unrelated to the title character is the case of the sinister man claiming to be a chalk salesman from issue 106. He appears to be more powerful than minus, and his stuffing her into his briefcase initiates the chain of events that ultimately results in her causing the apocalypse a few issues later, but whether he intended this to happen, and precisely who or what he is, are never revealed, and he never appears again.
  • Questionable Content: Why did Faye's father commit suicide? He left behind no clues or showed any signs beforehand, so the answer died with him. Unless you believe the guest strip where he did over an addiction to Hostess Fruit Pies.
  • Shortpacked! contains a couple, the most glaring one being Galasso's resurrections of Ronald Reagan and Jesus. Resurrection tech exists in the comic's universe, but it explicitly requires nine months to work (Mike showed up after being dead for five) and the subject's DNA (all of Mike's was destroyed), and it's also under government lock and key with an extensive waiting list (although that bit eventually gets something of an explanation). There's also the matter of the Drama Tag, the pulling of which may or may not have resulted in a Cosmic Retcon of Amber's childhood if it even exists at all.
  • Sluggy Freelance: "Who murdered Sheriff Deer?"
  • Tina's Story has two such mysteries:
    • Who created the Hybrids, exactly when did they do it, and why? It's assumed there are answers in-universe; Ray is able to trace Tina's lineage back "Gen Zero", the first Hybrids, but never says how many generations away that was.
    • Who was the mystery caller who told Gray about Nina and their son?

    Web Original 
  • 17776: Why did everyone suddenly become immortal and sterile in 2026? Nobody knows, and by the time the story starts it's been long enough that nobody's interested in trying to figure it out anymore. It is suggested offhand a few times that maybe it's some kind of Mundane Afterlife, but nobody has any actual evidence for or against that claim.
  • The SCP Foundation is made of this trope. Where do SCPs come from, and how the hell do they work? What does 447 do with dead bodies? What are 055 and 579? Nobody in-universe can remember anything about the former except what it isn't, and the latter's file is entirely expunged. What, if anything, can kill 682? What is Procedure 110-Montauk, and what entity is it protecting the world from? Which of the 001 proposals is real? Is 343 God, or is he just a reality warper with a god complex? How did the Foundation originate? Is Clef Satan? Among many, many others.
  • U Realms Live: Gnomes and Keen Gnomes have no known reason for existing. They just started appearing after the Birth of Magic, first in small numbers, then in great enough numbers that they formed their own societies.

    Web Videos 
  • In Hellsing Ultimate Abridged, this riddle drives Integra up a wall in the Distant Finale: Why the hell was the Major a cyborg? Thirty years later and she has yet to find a satisfactory answer.
  • Marble Hornets:
    • It's never explained what "the ark" that totheark is looking for is or why it's so important. It doesn't help that totheark is the only one to ever talk about whatever it is and even when he begins appearing on screen pretty regularly toward the end, he's essentially stopped talking about it and seems to be working on completely unrelated matters. All the showrunners have confirmed is that it is not an acronym for "Alex R. Kralie", since Alex's middle name does not begin with R. The fact that "the ark" is referenced in ECKVA, a series which is set in the same universe but otherwise almost completely unrelated to the events of Marble Hornets, only adds fuel to the fire.
    • On the subject of totheark, who exactly was running the channel? While both Masky/Tim and Hoody/Brian are explicitly shown to have been involved in the channel, and while Brian in particular almost certainly created and uploaded some of the videos, the writers have notably refused to confirm who totheark was, which has led many to suggest that they may not have been the only ones responsible for uploading videos to the channel.
    • Another, more production-wise, riddle is "How was the Operator character physically made?" None of the producers will tell us because apparently the answer is so mundane and obvious that revealing it would ruin the fear it brings to the series. All that's confirmed is that it's not a mannequin.
  • The Spoony Experiment: Why did Dr. Insano invent a Gaydar?
  • There's some random kid playing a video game in the Time... Lab during the Christmas episode of The Time... Guys. Knowing the showrunners, this will not go unexplained.


Video Example(s):


"Where's the rest of him?"

Enid wonders where the rest of Thing's body is. Wednesday indirectly admits that no one in her family knows.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / RiddleForTheAges

Media sources: