Riddling Tales from around the World
Selected by Marjorie Dundas
9781578063734 Paper $22.00S
Unjacketed cloth, $50.00
Eighty-five tales that show how the riddle motif pervades storytelling cultures worldwide
In almost every land riddling tales are a staple genre of folk storytellers. This collection selects representative tales from Afghanistan, Arabia, China, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Mongolia, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Turkestan, Turkey, the United States, Vietnam, and other locales. This is the only anthology of folk tales focused on the element of riddle, puzzle, or dilemma.
With numerous examples that represent this fascinating form of folk literature Marjorie Dundas fits her selections into twelve categories of riddles and other enigmatic statements. A final section of "stories that break the mold a little" gives the reader a chance to check out all the categories and perhaps go beyond them.
The book opens with "Clever Manka," a tale in which a social inferior outwits a supposed superior. In another type of story, a scholar debates in sign language to show his superiority to his colleagues, only to be bested by a passionate young peasant. In Hawaii, riddles take on an extra dimension as the king greedily makes young men bring him new riddles, only to defeat them and bring them to a horrible death when they cannot find the answer to his own insoluble riddle.
In these tales occasionally a character seems able to answer any riddle and, in the process, makes his answer more clever than the riddle itself. From Africa and India come dilemma tales which, although riddle-like, have no specifically correct answers.
Among the many riddling tales included are "The Cunning Gypsy," "The Devil and His Grandmother," "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury," and "Crocodile's Relatives."
Marjorie Dundas is a retired teacher of English and an independent scholar whose work has been published in the English Journal. She lives in Vermont.