Four Unsolved Riddles
By: Justin Zablocki (author, Zablocki Bros. LLC) on October 3rd, 2013 12:00 AM.
Every time we are asked a question we naturally give an answer. But what if we give an answer and there is no voice answering back telling us whether we have answered correctly or incorrectly. We are exposed to many riddles on a regular basis and usually look to the answer before we solve them ourselves, but there are riddles in existence that were written that have no definite answer that we can point to when we want to solve it. Here are four such riddles that cannot be solved indefinitely:
The Exeter Riddles:
I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation, a service for neighbors. I harm none of the citizens except my slayer alone. My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy somewhere down below. A very comely peasant's daughter, dares sometimes, proud maiden, that she grips at me, attacks me in my redness, plunders my head, confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly, woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye.
This is just one example of one of the riddles from the Exeter Book, riddle number 25. The answer is either an onion or a penis. The book contained 95 riddles and none of them had any answers supplied so we are just left to speculate to the answers to these riddles. For all of the riddles and more information about the Exeter riddles visit the Wikipedia page.
Which came first?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Aristotle came to the conclusion that both must have existed forever. But nowadays, looking at this riddle in the light of science a more complicated answer is found. Through evolution, the egg that contained the chicken and the bird itself evolved into what we now know as a chicken gradually. Since no single genetic change can be attributed to the first chicken, it's not a black and white answer. Read more about this problem at its Wikipedia page.
The riddle of St. Ives:
As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?
Although this riddle is known by many people and generally a single answer is thought of as correct, there are many answers that work as a logical solution. This variety of solutions is formed through ambiguity. The answers: 0, 1, 2, 7, 9, 2753, 2800 and 2802 are all possibilities because of the ambiguity of the lines 'As I was going to St. Ives', 'Kits, cats, sacks, and wives', and 'How many were there going to St. Ives?'. Usually 1 is thought of as the answer because only the narrator is definitely going to St. Ives. But is he included in the count? Who is included in the count? Is the man and his wives going to St. Ives? Should only people be included? Only living things? For more information about the various solutions visit the Wikipedia page.
The riddle of the sphinx:
What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?
Asking almost anybody this question will produce the answer 'man'; but one man, Michael Maier, thought the answer was actually the 'Philosopher's Stone'. Looking at this solution it actually makes sense for the riddle. For more information about this solution visit the Wikipedia page.
The thing that is common between all of these unanswerable or unanswered riddles is that they are all ambiguous. The more ambiguous a riddle is, the more solutions there are and the harder it is to solve them. But don't let this discourage you; improve your brain and solve riddles.
For some of the best riddles visit our Best Riddles Section.