BOOKS

Riddledom

David Astle

RRP: £12.99

3 December 2015

Published by Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760112608

Oedipus Rex was an early riddle-cracker, unravelling the Sphinx’s enigma of man, though this ‘complex’ character was not alone. Riddles are enshrined in the Bible’s parables, the verdicts of Solomon, and the opaque koans of the Buddhist faith. Meander the archives and you’ll find equivalent head-scratchers in the wisdom contests of Valhalla, or the tangled verses of The Exeter Book (1108 AD), where many answers remain up for grabs, one millennium on. Likewise Lewis Carroll left us the raven riddle to wrestle with in Wonderland. Just as modern-day translators have to grapple with the pickle of capturing the Tom Riddle teaser lying at the heart of the Harry Potter saga.

Across centuries, across the world, kids have traded in riddles, from the tongues and eyes of shoes, to the tusks and trunks of elephants. Riddling weaves between the playground and the proving grounds, looking at our constant appetite for bewilderment. Quick on the heels of his other brainy hits – Puzzled and Cluetopia – David Astle curates the realm of riddles according to brain zone and visceral groan, readily asking the big questions:

What is the human thirst that a riddle quenches?

How do riddles vary across cultures, across time?

What distinguishes a riddle from a mind-boggling question?

And can a tree fall silently in an empty forest?

REVIEWS

Playful... Witty and discursive.
The Saturday Age

So cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.
Canberra Times