Guide to Literary Terms

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What is a riddle?

A riddle is a puzzling statement or question that can be solved through metaphorical thinking.

Riddle

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Last Updated on December 8, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 140

Riddle - a puzzling problem or question, or an enigmatic saying or speech. The term also applies to a statement or query so phrased as to require ingenuity in discovering its meaning.

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The term is from the Anglo-Saxon roedels derived from roedan, meaning “to read.”

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This literary form existed during Greek and Roman times and the Middle Ages.

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Latest answer posted July 27, 2020, 11:33 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

In Sophocles’s The Oedipus Trilogy (line 1524), King Oedipus of Thebes solved the most famous riddle—that of the Sphinx:

What goes on four feet, on two feet, and three

But the more feet it goes on, the weaker is he?

The answer is a man, who as an infant crawls upon all fours, as an adult walks erect on his own two feet, and in old age supports his tottering legs with a staff (the third leg).

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