chapter  19
6 Pages

The Poetic Form of the Folk Riddle

Many riddles look like prosaic texts when they have no meter and rhyme. Yet their succinctness often signifies an intensity of inner relations between the components of an utterance, and that is the root of poetry. The poetic form is not a distinctive feature of the riddle, although many specimens of this genre in Indo-European tradition observed in relatively recent times are formed as elementary poetic texts. The riddle displays poetic qualities even without being arranged in metrically commeasurable and rhymed lines. The poetic syntagmatics of the riddle also overrides linguistic standards. Wolfgang Schultz, having perspicuously analyzed the relationships of motifs in the rich and archaic field of Mecklenburg riddles collected by Richard Wossidlo, showed that motifs that appear in mutual conjunction, such as black and white, have sexual meaning. The other aspect of riddle's poetic form, its overall versified formulation, is, in all likelihood, quite a late acquisition and not known in all oral traditions.