chapter  12
5 Pages

The Implicit Target of the Riddle

In the 19th century, folklorists occasionally noted riddles which combined obscene implications with innocent solutions. Wolfgang Schultz, in his large study of the riddle's mythological and ritualistic roots within the Hellenistic cultural realm, preserved mainly in literary form, also dedicated a chapter to the German folk riddle. In it, he deciphered one prolific type of a Mecklenburg riddle, presented in many versions and related forms in the Wossidlo's collection, to show that it has a hidden sexual content accounting for the invariant behind apparent variations. Viktor Shklovsky, a founder of the Russian Formalist school of poetics, offered a fresh look at literature and folklore, including the riddle. Rather than activating habitual recognition reaction, automated and shorn of any freshness, defamiliarized image compels us to wonder and discover its meaning anew. Moreover, the folk riddle plays out its symbolism by placing it in an unusual, paradoxical or oxymoronic context.