How did riddles save people from an existential crisis?


Riddles have long become an integral and almost the most striking and memorable part of Russian folklore. But few people know where the tradition of riddles actually originates from. Today we will tell you who and why invented the first riddles.

We are used to thinking that riddles are childish, frivolous, invented for entertainment and do not carry any special benefit or deep meaning. But the riddle is not just a simulator for thinking or a logical puzzle, this phenomenon is much more ancient and complex.

The first riddles arose in ancient times, when a person only began to learn about the world around him, learned to connect events and their causes, and also searched for the meaning of being. It was riddles that helped him curb chaos and find an island of that naive primitive logic that allowed him to put his knowledge and ideas about the world in order.

The connection between natural elements and riddles

Not only counting rhymes lead their history from ancient times. The first riddles also had a ritual meaning. They were born precisely at the time when man, feeling his helplessness before the forces of nature, tried to find a connection between phenomena in order to “subjugate” to himself everything uncontrollable and spontaneous that surrounded him.

Storms, crop failures, droughts and other natural disasters people in ancient times attributed a mysterious meaning. They gave a special mystical meaning to any inexplicable phenomenon: they animated the elements, endowing them with consciousness and character, created images for them and then began to communicate with them.

This communication took place in the form of the transmission of hidden messages, which used to be all sorts of allegories. So, in order to confuse the spirits and deities that inhabited the world, people came up with special images for everything that mattered to them and on which their life depended most. More often riddles were created about astronomical bodies, natural elements, wild and domestic animals, the house and life of a person.

Riddles and Abitur

Gradually, having arranged his life, having acquired a shelter, family and household, a person felt control over the situation and the need for allegory disappeared. But the riddles and the concepts and images that entered the language thanks to them did not disappear. Now riddles began to play the role of a measure of knowledge and maturity. From the very moment of their creation, they were considered the most important component of the ancient way of life.

The significance of this element of folklore can be judged by how often in the works of folk art in a difficult situation, when it is necessary to solve a riddle, the life of the hero or his fate is at stake. People have always appreciated the ability to find answers to the most difficult questions. Therefore, riddles were often used in everyday life as a measure of wisdom and ingenuity. The young men, passing the rite of initiation, showed the strength of their minds. They competed to be the first to quickly and correctly guess the riddles of their ancestors.

Now, when people no longer need to confuse spirits with figures of speech, and there are fewer gaps in scientific works about the world around us, riddles and other similar works of folk art really serve a different purpose. Now they help children think in an original way and know their roots better.

Book «Russian Folk Riddles» revives folklore traditions. Traditional stories come to life on the pages of this edition, striking readers with modern design and original reading. This original collection was designed by a popular illustrator, author and designer Zina Surova. Under the bright cover, you will find selected folk riddles from the collection of the famous folklorist D.N. Sadovnikov, funny modern illustrations, as well as drawings-guesses under the valves on each page.


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