Jennifer St. Clair Bush
Jennifer St. Clair Bush
didn't realize how much I missed rhyming until I had to make up three riddles
for my WIP (Work In Progress) the other day. I broke out my old beat-up copy of
Clement Wood's Rhyming Dictionary and spent the better part of two hours
creating three riddles that my characters had to solve. I'm sure my husband
thought I was acting especially odd that night, since I walked around the house
muttering 'key' and 'plea' and 'see' under my breath until they were finished.
riddling the night away, I realized that riddles are a really ancient form of
poetry. Spells and charms are
usually rhymed for greater potency. One of the oldest riddles is that of the
Sphinx: "What walks on four legs in the morning, on two in the afternoon,
and on three in the evening?" This
is just one example of a form of poetry that has been around for thousands of
have been used to trick the unwary, to entice a lover, and to save a life.
Riddles have been found in the cultures of nearly every land, and some are
largely unchanged throughout history. Compilations of riddles were also among
the first printed books in the Middle Ages.
example, in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins not only riddles
with Gollum, but also with Smaug the dragon during his Quest. In the
ever-popular Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy has to solve a riddle to
find the Holy Grail. And in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry has to
solve a complicated riddle to win the day.
next time you have a hero who needs to save the day, consider forcing him (or
her) to use brain instead of brawn, and join the ranks of so many other brave
souls. Not only will your characters come out smarter, you'll have fun creating
the riddles to go with your story.
the answers are between the arrows; highlight the space between the arrows to
see them. Cute! I'll admit it took me a little while to figure it out.)
gave my love a cherry that has no stone,
gave my love a chicken that has no bone.
gave my love a ring that has no end,
gave my love a baby that's no cryin'.
can there be a cherry without a stone?
can there be a chicken without a bone?
can there be a ring that has no end?
can there be a baby with no cryin'?
cherry when it's bloomin', it has no stone
chicken when it's pippin', it has no bone.
ring when it's rollin', it has no end.
baby when it's sleepin', it's no cryin'.
Jan Harold, The Study of American Folklore, W.W. Norton & Company,
Clement C., Rhyming Dictionary, World Publishing Company, 1943