Date of this Version
The Journal of American Folklore
Among the many genres of folklore, the riddle is the most amenable to semiotic inquiry. In short dialogue sequences, riddling includes verbal metaphors, interpretations, and their rejections or validations. The immediate succession of a message, a decoding, and a feedback condenses a process that extends over a longer span of time in the communication process of many other genres. Moreover, inherent in the riddle is a deliberate ambiguity which is designed to reveal and conceal its subject at one and the same time. Success in untangling the true meaning of the riddle-sentence from the knots of verbal deceit depends upon the confirmation of the solution by the riddle poser. However, his acceptance of the answers is often whimsical and manipulative; he can reject certain solutions on one occasion and acknowledge them the next time, as long as he is able to maintain his socially advantageous position.1
Published as Ben-Amos, D. Solutions to Riddles. The Journal of American Folklore 89(352), 249-254. © 1976 by the American Folklore Society.
Ben-Amos, D. (1976). Solutions to Riddles. The Journal of American Folklore, 89 (352), 249-254. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/539691
Date Posted: 22 September 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.