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Reply To: Riddle Me This,” with mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D.”


I am enjoying the themes of riddles and wordplay, these past two weeks!
What fun! I visited forward other words and now return to these words!

Riddles are something, which I remember as a young child.

When I was little, my Dad a high school math teacher and retired certified VW mechanic,  would present riddles to my Mother and me.

These were the infamous riddles from The Hobbit, between Bilbo and Gollum.

Both my parents had read the book. But the riddles somehow were always fresh.

Dad was fascinated by them.
And it was fun to guess.
In fact, I have taken to heart that both my parents had the perfect balance, at least to me of the practical (as educators) but also the wonder (and the imaginal.)

Dad promised if one of his high school math class did their work during the week and were well behaved on Friday, he would read the Hobbit to them. And so he did!
And those grown students with children of their own never forgot that!

I love your response quote, John about “bringing back the mystery.” At times it feels vital and necessary. It evokes that numinous place of wonder, that seems to be a hidden soul in so many myths!

There was another quote from your essay, which resonated in my mind. But alas will have to copy and paste…lest I loose this train of thought!

Sometimes, I think that sense of mystery is what balances out the intellect…along with intuition, gut instinct, inner nature and common sense or grounding.
I’m not sure the mythic journeys completely do away with the intellect, but rather that the intellect is integrated into something more than itself alone? (Collected Unconscious? Universal Consciousness?)

That overall awareness or that something, which is unafraid to point to mystery or say “I don’t know?”

Or as you and others have  said “what one thought they knew, they did not know.” Sort of that humble  effect of the journey or perhaps the riddle too on the traveler.
And of course I’m not surprised that Campbell would leave Finnegans wake open without a complete solving…!

That leaves a “point beyond itself,” awareness…

Even, if as you said the riddles of old had higher stakes…and even the riddles of Gollum’s cave…the stake of not being eaten!

And it’s funny too, because Bilbo presents an ‘unfair’ question as well…something Gollum at first cannot possibly know until: Dot dot dot

Bilbo manages to override the riddle game…sort of. The trickster element?

But he’s at his wits end.

And I had another tangent since you mention Star Wars (yes may the Force be with All!)

But Capt Kirk and the simulated game, which never can be won…

So yes Star Trek (switching gears.)
But Kirk in the new Star Trek (with nods to Wrath of Khan etc) again overrides a game (speaking of games and riddles) but this game was never intended to be solved because it was a test of human psyche set up by Spock.

But wow how Kirk becomes the trickster! (As well as infamous prime directive breaker.) So he overrides the game. Very curious to quote Spock. Though Spock was not pleased.

It is all fascinating!

Okay, so there is a trick with Bilbo’s egg riddle. Yes, that’s the answer an egg.

“A box without hinges or lid inside a golden treasure is hid.”

If approached with wonder and imagination, this is understood.

If approached with intellect alone, the “fallacies” or “details” become more important than the rest: 1. An egg is not a box…it’s round an oval to be precise.
2.not everyone likes eggs (but that’s subjective as far as “golden treasure.)

3. The yolk is really yellow or orange.

But alas! That becomes the realm of “concrete,” perception.

So the mystery of the riddle and the play of the game is set aside for the details.

A box in this case simply means “container,” or that “which is contained.” Besides, who is to say there are not round boxes or “egg boxes”?

The Russian dolls? And Chinese eggs within eggs?

So this is why it seems the intellect needs a little balance from the imagination before it becomes so sure of itself, it misses the experience and mystery entirely! Or even the resolution if there is one needed.

The wonder to me and the challenge of the riddle leaves another door open to the possible.

And maybe another re-connection with the transcendent.

Thanks John for this wonderful muse upon riddles or this riddling muse upon wonder!