chapter  4
6 Pages

The Problem of Riddle’s Functioning

The crucial point in understanding the folk riddle concerns its mode of functioning. The folk riddle traditionally functions not in the individual but in the collective mental space. Maranda defined the function of riddles as a counterpart to Edmund Leach's theory of myth: Functionally myths seem to reinforce the established order, whereas the primary function of riddles is to question at least certain kind of established order. Where myths prove the validity of land claims, the authority of social and cultural rules, or the fitness of native conceptual classification, riddles make a point of playing with conceptual boundaries and crossing them for the intellectual pleasure of showing that things are not quite as stable as they appear. The opponent intended to correct Eli Köngös Maranda's mistake without disturbing the rest of the theory, that is, preserving the view that the riddle's function is cognitive and aimed at a classificational system.