The Curious History of the Riddle (Paperback)

Thousands of Years of Conundrums, from the Riddle of the Sphinx to Harry Potter (Puzzlecraft)

By Marcel Danesi, PhD

Wellfleet Press, 9781577151982, 192pp.

Publication Date: May 5, 2020

List Price: 19.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The Curious History of the Riddle investigates the fascinating origin and history of the riddle, from the very first riddle (the Riddle of the Sphinx) to the twenty-first century, with riddles found in pop culture, including movies (Us), television shows (Game of Thrones) video games, and escape rooms.

Riddles are ageless, timeless, and so common that we hardly ever reflect upon what they are and how they originated. Most importantly, their invention helped in the development of lateral thinking, the form of thinking that is the foundation of all kinds of discoveries, from mathematics to science and beyond. In The Curious History of the Riddle, puzzle expert Marcel Danesi delves deep into the riddle's origin and history and covers these fascinating topics:
1. The Riddle of the Sphinx: Origins, Legends, Patterns
What creature walks on all fours at dawn, two at midday, and three at twilight? (answer: man)

2. The Greek Anthology and the Exeter Book: Medieval Views and Uses of Riddles
This chapter looks at the spread of the riddle in recreational and educational contexts.

3. The Merry Book of Riddles: Riddles in the Renaissance
By the late Renaissance, riddles were being tailored more and more to produce humorous or whimsical effects.

4. Enigmas, Charades, and Conundrums: Riddles from the 1600s to the Twentieth Century
After the Renaissance, riddles had become virtually every literate European person’s favorite form of recreation, and were included as regular features of many newspapers and periodicals

5. The Twentieth Century: Riddles as Children’s Literature
In the twentieth century, riddles became specialized for children, spreading throughout children’s literature and educational manuals.

6. The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: Riddles Go to the Movies and Online
In this chapter, the focus is on riddles in various entertainment media, from best-selling novels such as Harry Potter, to movies, such as the Batman series.

7. Connections: Riddles and Rebuses
This chapter explores the structure of rebuses as visual riddles, connecting them historically. 

Part history book, part puzzle book, The Curious History of the Riddle is fully illustrated with over 200 riddles interspersed throughout the text for solving.