chapter  3
7 Pages

What is the Folk Riddle from Oral Tradition?

The folk riddle, one of the most ancient verbal genres, is also one of the elementary types of traditional oral culture, a minor genre perhaps of archetypal quality. The folk riddle as a genre of its own is recognizable by a set of more or less distinctive if oblique features: it speaks in muddled images, it obtains not in isolated samples but in a body of similar facts in oral traditions, it does not depend on any context, it is distinguished stylistically as succinct and formulaic texts whose full function is today not quite obvious. The enigma of the folk riddle begins with the difficulty of its delineation and definition. Even more remarkable are the affinities that have been displayed by folk riddles recorded in various cultures on different continents, notwithstanding significant differences. Any working ethnologic notion of the genre of folk riddle must first of all deal with the delineation of its range within the field of enigmatics.