I have a love-hate relationship with riddles. As a writer, I love the ones that make sense. You know, the ones that have a logical outcome or are an unusual description for something mundane. Like in The Hobbit. For example:
“What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees
Up, up it goes
And yet never grows?”
“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.”
These I get. Even if I don’t guess the answer right away, when the answer is revealed to me, it makes sense.
What I don’t understand are the riddles that involve a play on words for the solution, thus making the answer physically or logically impossible in the real world. Which is odd—you’d think, as a writer, I would enjoy the play on words. Especially as a fantasy writer. But, I also love science, and presumably these riddles don’t take place in a fantasy world. They take place in my world.
Here’s the specific riddle I’m talking about:
There is a man in a room with no windows, doors, or holes. The only thing in the room is a table and mirror. The room was built around him. How does he get out?
Answer: Look in the mirror to see what you saw. Use the saw to cut the table in half. Realize two halves make a whole. He gets out of the room through the hole.
What in the actual fuck, man. I was watching NCIS with a friend the other day and this riddle was on the show. I paused the DVD and went off about this stupid riddle.
Me: “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Friend: “Yes, it does.”
Me: “No, it doesn’t. You know what my answer would be? He climbed over the walls. No one ever said anything about a ceiling.”
Friend: “Well, if there is a room, you assume there is a ceiling.”
Me: “Nope! You have to quantify everything in a riddle. If they didn’t say ceiling, there is no ceiling. The room was built around him, not over him. He stood on the table and climbed out.”
Friend: (she laughs)
Me: “I mean, seriously, what is this shit about halves and holes. That’s not physically possible, he couldn’t get out of the room that way. The answer might as well have been ‘Ooh, magic!’” (jazz hands!)
Am I right, my loves? Who’s with me on this one?
Seriously. What the shit, people. Two halves make a “hole.” A hole. You know what else they make? A-holes, which is what you are if you tell me a riddle like this and expect me not to hit you.
(Hobbit riddle answers: 1) Mountains, 2) Darkness)