Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That

Utah Opera Turandot

Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That

Posted by Opera Gal in Community, Online Learning, Turandot 20 Mar 2014

Riddles have been around for centuries and are used for entertainment, intrigue, and even flirting. A riddle is meant to stretch a person’s mind and tap into their creative side.


Probably the most famous riddler of history is the sphinx. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, the sphinx guarded the city of Thebes and let no one through unless they could answer a riddle. Those who did not answer correctly were killed. The exact riddle is debated, but there are two that are the most famous:

Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed? Man

There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters? Day and night.


A more modern trickster can easily be found in the Batman comic books. He first appeared in 1948, and he teased Batman and law enforcement about what his devious plans were with outrageous clues.

A couple of examples:

When is the top of a mountain like a savings account?  When it peaks one’s interest

When does a painter use a trigger instead of a brush?  When he’s a stickup artist


Another famous riddle is from Alice in Wonderland. The Mad Hatter asks, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Though author Lewis Carroll meant for there to be no answer, he provided the following answer later: Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front. (nevar is raven backwards).


Also in the genre of riddles, on March 28-29, as part of the USUO Silk and Spices Cultural Festival, The Children’s Dance Theatre will perform the play The Three Questions. Set in China, the story follows the life of a young boy as he is struck by tragedy and loss. In order to become the emperor, he must find the answers to the three questions:

Who is the most important?

What is the right thing to do?

When is the best time to do things?


On March 15, the Utah Opera opened Turandot, a story of a vain princess who will only marry someone if they answer her three riddles; all who cannot will lose their heads.


The Princess’ three riddles:

What is born each night and dies each dawn? Hope

What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire? Blood

What is ice which gives you fire and which your fire freezes still more?  Turandot


An unknown prince answers all three riddles, and when Turandot begs her father to call off the wedding, he proposes his own riddle to her: If she can find out his name before the next day, he will not marry her.

The remaining performances of this breathtaking production are on Friday, March 21 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, March 23 at 2 PM. Click here for more information.

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