Motifs for "Riddle": 216

X Code Original Cultures
 C229.3 Tabu: eating griddle cakes (in Garden of Eden) India
 C822 Tabu: solving sphinx‘s riddle: sphinx perishes Greek
 D1031.2.1 Cake made by rubbing flour on griddle Ireland
 F451.5.15 Dwarfs give riddles and questions to mortals
 F451.5.15.2 Dwarf makes return of child dependent upon guessing of riddle German
 G241.4.3 Witch travels over water in a sieve or a riddle Carolina, England, North Carolina, Scotland
 G303.12.5.5 Girl married to devil escapes with answers to his riddles U.S.
 G681 Ogre gives riddle on pain of death India, Slavic
 H383.1.2 Bride test: cooking griddle cakes India
 H509.4.2 Riddles proposed as tests of poetic ability Ireland
 H530 Riddles Jewish
 H540 Propounding of riddles Ireland
 H540.1 Supernatural creatures propound riddles Iceland, India
 H540.2 Queen propounds riddles
 H540.2.1 Queen of Sheba propounds riddles to Solomon Jewish
 H540.3 King propounds riddles
 H540.3.1 Riddles sent to Solomon by King Hiram Jewish
 H540.4 Saint as propounder of riddles Ireland
 H540.5 Bridegroom propounds riddles at wedding feast Jewish
 H541 Riddle propounded with penalty for failure India
 H541.1 Riddle propounded on pain of death England, Italian
 H541.1.1 Sphinx propounds riddle on pain of death Gascon, Greek, Hindu, Persian
 H541.2 Riddle propounded on pain of loss of property England
 H541.2.1 Fine for failure to solve riddle Jewish
 H541.3 Riddle propounded on pain of loss of official position
 H542 Death sentence escaped by propounding riddle king (judge) cannot solve *Type 927; *De Vries FFC LXXIII 314f Iceland, Spanish
 H542.1 Riddle assigned defendant in action India
 H543 Escape from devil by answering his riddles Jamaica, Lithuanian
 H543.1 Devil held off from person by answering his riddles
 H543.2 Child in cradle guesses devil’s riddle: all are saved Lithuanian
 H544 Answers found in other world to riddles propounded on way India
 H548 Riddle contests Hawaii, Iceland, Ireland
 H548.1 King and rabbi exchange riddles Jewish
 H551 Princess offered to man who can out-riddle her African, Filipino, India, Lithuanian
 H551.1 Man wins wife by instructing her how to answer her mother‘s riddles
 H551.2 Woman gives self to solver of riddles India
 H552 Man marries girl who guesses his riddles Ireland
 H561 Solvers of riddles
 H561.1 Clever peasant girl asked riddles by king India, Japanese
 H561.1.0.1 Clever peasant wife asks king riddles India
 H561.1.1 Conflict between peasant and nobleman decided so that each must answer riddles: peasant’s daughter solves them India
 H561.3.1 King Solomon as master riddle-solver Jewish
 H561.7 Druid as solver of riddles Ireland
 H561.8 Cleric as solver of riddles Ireland
 H561.10 Saint as solver of riddles Ireland
 H562 Inscription on home of riddle-solver “I have no care
 H565 Riddle propounded from chance experience
 H565.1 Happenings before feast give Samson clue for riddles Jewish
 H570 Means of solving riddles
 H572 Reductio ad absurdum of riddle: stallions of Babylon
 H573 Answer to riddle found by trickery
 H573.1 Riddle solved with aid of hidden informant Ireland
 H573.3 Riddle solved by listening to propounder talk in his sleep German
 H574 Riddles solved with aid of propounder’s wife Jewish
 H575 Accidental discovery of answer to riddle India
 H583 Clever youth (maiden) answers king’s inquiry in riddles India
 H630 Riddles of the superlative
 H631 Riddle: what is the strongest? *Types 461, 875, 922; *BP II 357; *De Vries FFC LXXIII 84, Aarne FFC XXIII 129; Japanese: Ikeda Japanese
 H632 Riddle: what is the swiftest? *Type 875; *De Vries FFC LXXIII 69ff
 H633 Riddle: what is sweetest? Type 875; *De Vries FFC LXXIII 79ff
 H634 Riddle: what is the sweetest song? *Type 922; *Anderson FFC XLII 233; Irish myth: Cross Ireland
 H635 Riddle: what is the sweetest sound? Anderson FFC XLII 233; De Vries FFC LXXIII 90; Italian Novella: Rotunda
 H636 Riddle: what is the richest? Types 461, 875; BP III 357; Aarne FFC XXIII 129
 H637 Riddle: what is the hardest? BP III 16
 H638 Riddle: what is costliest? BP III 233
 H641 Riddle: what is most beautiful? *BP II 357; Köhler-Bolte I 457f
 H642 Riddle: what is highest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 93
 H643 Riddle: what is deepest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 92
 H644 Riddle: what is longest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 93
 H645 Riddle: what is the heaviest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 94
 H646 Riddle: what is greenest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 94
 H647 Riddle: what is the most beloved? De Vries FFC LXXIII 94
 H648 Riddle: what is best? De Vries FFC LXXIII 95; *Krappe Revue Celtique XLVII 401ff
 H651 Riddle: what is brightest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 88
 H652 Riddle: what is softest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 87; BP II 358
 H653 Riddle: what is the fattest? De Vries FFC LXXIII 75ff
 H659 Riddles of the superlative--miscellaneous
 H659.1 Riddle: what is oldest?
 H659.2 Riddle: what four things are hardest to hold? Anderson FFC XLII 228
 H659.3 Riddle: what are best and worst stones?
 H659.4 Riddle: what is the best fowl?
 H659.5 Riddle: what is best religion--Christian or Mohammedan?
 H659.6 Riddle: what kind of work occupies most men?
 H659.7 Riddle: what is greatest?
 H659.9 Riddle: what is wisest?
 H659.10 Riddle: what is most general?
 H659.11 Riddle: what is most useful?
 H659.12 Riddle: what is most shameful?
 H659.13 Riddle: what is most pleasant?
 H659.14 Riddle: what is easiest?
 H659.15 Riddle: what is the hardest to skin?
 H659.17 Riddle: what is the best time to eat? For the rich man, when he wishes; for the poor man, when he has something to eat Spanish
 H660 Riddles of comparison Ireland
 H661 Riddle: what is swifter than a bird, the wind or lightning? The eye Gascon
 H662 Riddle: what is dearer than gold? Mother love Swiss
 H663 Riddle: what is whiter than a swan? An angel
 H671 Riddle: what is sweeter than honey? (Cf
 H672 Riddle: what is softer than swan down? (Cf
 H673 Riddle: what is harder than stone? (Cf
 H680 Riddles of distance
 H681 Riddles of terrestrial distance
 H681.1 Riddle: how far is it from one end of the earth to the other (east to west)? *Type 922; *Anderson FFC XLII 146ff
 H681.2 Riddle: how deep is the earth (or how far to lower world)? Anderson FFC XLII 140
 H681.3 Riddle: what is the center of the earth? *Type 922; Anderson FFC XLII 157
 H681.4 Riddle: how deep is the sea? *Type 922; *Anderson FFC XLII 130
 H682 Riddles of heavenly distance
 H682.1 Riddle: how far is it from earth to heaven? *Type 922; BP III 231; Anderson FFC XLII 113; Jewish: *Neuman Jewish
 H682.2 Riddle: how wide is heaven? Anderson FFC XLII 227
 H685 Riddle: how far is it from happiness to misfortune? Anderson FFC XLII 215
 H690 Riddles of weight and measure
 H691 Riddles of weight
 H691.1 Riddle: how much does the moon weigh? Anderson FFC XLII 172
 H691.2 Riddle: how heavy is the earth? Anderson FFC XLII 143
 H696 Riddles of measure
 H696.1 Riddle: how much water is in the sea? Anderson FFC XLII 134
 H700 Riddles of numbers
 H701 Riddle: how many seconds in eternity? Anderson FFC XLII 232
 H702 Riddle: how many stars in the heavens? *Type 922; BP III 231; Anderson FFC XLII 162ff Spanish
 H703 Riddle: how many hairs are in the head? *Types 922, 926**; BP III 231; Anderson FFC XLII 230
 H704 Riddle: how many drops in the sea
 H705 Riddle: how many leaves are on the tree? Anderson FFC XLII 175; West Indies: Flowers 459 West Indies
 H706 Riddle: how many days have passed since the time of Adam? Anderson FFC XLII 227
 H707 Riddle of dates
 H710 Riddles of value
 H711 Riddle: how much am I (the king) worth? Anderson FFC XLII 194; cf
 H712 Riddle: how much is my beard (king‘s) worth? *Type 875; De Vries FFC LXXIII 160; BP II 359
 H713 Riddle: how much is a golden plow (throne, crown, palace) worth? *De Vries FFC LXXIII 160ff
 H715 Riddle: how much does the sun earn for his daily work? Anderson FFC XLII 226
 H716 Riddle: how much is a certain crucifix worth? Twenty-nine pieces of silver Italian
 H720 Metaphorical riddles Jewish
 H721 Riddle of the year
 H721.1 Riddle: tree with twelve branches, each with thirty leaves, black and white
 H721.2 Riddle: tree with leaves white on one side and black on other
 H721.3 Riddle: twelve cypresses with thirty boughs each Persian
 H721.4 Riddle: palace consisting of 8760 stones; twelve trees, thirty branches, each with black and white cluster of grapes
 H722 Riddle of the day and night
 H722.1 Riddle: white brother, black sister: every morning brother kills sister; every evening sister kills brother; they never die Gascon
 H722.2 Riddle: black and white horses chasing each other Persian
 H725 Riddle of the course of the sun
 H725.1 Riddle: bird nests on top of one cypress in morning, on top of another in evening Persian
 H726 Riddle: who are the real travellers? The son and the moon India
 H731 Riddle of king and courtiers
 H731.1 Riddle: king in red; courtiers in white
 H731.2 Riddle: king in white; courtiers in white
 H731.3 Riddle: king in red; courtiers in different colors
 H734 Riddle: what is the mother who devours her children when they grow up? (Ocean and rivers
 H741 Riddle white field, black seed
 H742 Riddle: two legs, three legs, four legs
 H743 Riddle: four hang, four walk, two show the road, one wags behind
 H744 Riddle: six legs, four ears, two faces, etc
 H746 Riddle: bill white, horns on feet, knob on head (cock)
 H751 Riddle: who of fourfold beard is he, of azure foot and neck so ruddy? Arrow India
 H761 Riddle of the Sphinx: what is it that goes on four legs in the morning, on two at midday, and on three in the evening Gascon, Greek
 H761.1 Riddle: two are better than three (two legs better than man with staff in old age) Jewish
 H762 Riddle: what is the creature that is of all countries, that is loved by all the world, and that has no equal? (The sun
 H763 Riddle: the father not yet born, the son already at the top of the house
 H764 Riddle: bird without feathers flies on tree without leaves
 H767 Allegorical riddles Ireland
 H767.1 Riddle: what is that thou passest over with haste? (The field of youth; the mountains of youth, etc Ireland
 H770 Riddles of explanation Jewish
 H771 Riddle: why is the hair gray before the beard? (It is twenty years older
 H772 Riddle: why are there more days than nights? (The moon turns some nights into days
 H773 Riddle: why are there more living than dead? (There are some of the dead of whom we still speak
 H774 Riddle: why are there more women than men? (Some women make women [i
 H790 Riddles based on unusual circumstances India
 H791 Riddle: a fish was my father; a man was my mother Norse
 H792 Riddle of the unborn Spanish, Swahili
 H793 Riddle: seven tongues in a head
 H795 Relationship riddles arising from unusual marriages of relatives Jewish
 H797 Riddle: what does God do? Anderson FFC XLII 200
 H802 Riddle: one killed none and yet killed twelve Gold Coast, India, Jamaica
 H803 Riddle: deaths from sleepiness, anger, and greed India
 H804 Riddle: from the eater came forth meat and from the strong sweetness Jewish
 H805 Riddle of the murdered lover India
 H806 Riddle: drink this wine which a bird took to nest Spanish
 H810 Riddles based on the Bible or legend Jewish
 H811 Riddle: who first spun and when? (Eve
 H812 Riddle: what were the clothes of Adam and Eve? (Their hair
 H813 Riddle: who, having neither father nor mother, are dead? (Adam and Eve
 H814 Riddle: who, having had father and mother, is not dead? (Elias Jewish
 H815 Riddle: who, having had father and mother, is not dead like other mortals? (Lot’s wife
 H817 Riddle: who has had, here below, two names? (Jacob-Israel
 H821 Riddle: what was the walking tomb with the living tenant? (Jonah and the whale Jewish
 H822 Riddle: what is the land that has seen the sun only once? (The bottom of the Red Sea during the passage of the Israelites Jewish
 H824 Riddle: what is that which has drunk water for its sustenance and eaten after its death? (Moses’s staff, which became a serpent
 H825 Riddle: the king is surrounded by his nobles; what is this like? (The idol Bel surrounded by the priests of the god
 H826 Riddle: what did Christ do in his 30th year? Answer: entered into his thirty-first Italian
 H827 Riddle: what does the king of the world of the Devas do? Punishes the bad people India
 H831 Riddle: what house was full of dead? (Philistines in the building demolished by Samson Jewish
 H840 Other riddles
 H841 Riddle: worth of the animal
 H841.1 Riddle: what animal is good living but not dead? (Ass Ass.
 H841.2 Riddle: what animal is good dead but not living? (Hog
 H841.3 Riddle: what animal is good living and dead? (Cow Cow.
 H841.4 Riddle: what animal is not good living or dead? (Wolf
 H842 Riddle: animal qualities
 H851 Riddle: what are the two fixed, the two moving, the two joined, the two separated by jealousy, the two eternal enemies? (Heaven and earth; sun and moon; night and day; soul and body; life and death
 H861 Riddle: what are the two combatants without hands or feet or words? (The bull and the buffalo
 H862 Riddle: what is that which is neither man nor jinn nor beast nor bird? (Louse and ant
 H865 Riddle: what do crows do when they are five years old? (They start their sixth year
 H871 Riddle: what six things are not worth doing? (Sowing salt, mowing pebbles, drinking from an empty jug, making signs to a blind man, wooing at mealtime, playing a harp in a mill
 H875 Riddle: what is the difference between a poor man and a rich? (Riches
 H878 Riddle: what is it that one buys who does not want it or use it? (Coffin
 H881 Riddles with “none” as answer
 H881.1 Riddle: how many dead mice go to a feast? (None
 H882 Riddle: bottom and top of staff
 H883 Riddle: where is the root of the floor? Below India
 H885 Riddles about flax Jewish
 H886 Riddles about naphtha Jewish
 H1278 Quest to devil for answer to riddle questions German
 H1553.6 Test of patience by asking irrelevant riddles Jewish
 J1161.7 Ruler forbids blacksmith to reveal solution of riddle unless he has seen him 100 times Italian
 K418 The owner is duped by thief who gives him the task of solving a riddle about the theft just accomplished Lithuanian, Russian
 Q499.8 Humiliating penance: king to rub nose five times on red hot griddle India
 R154.2.1 Son frees father by bringing riddle the king cannot solve Spanish
 X1031.4.1 Lie: skating with bacon to grease griddle in big kitchen U.S.

About StorySearch

The Project

This website is a search engine of almost 50,000 patterns within stories world over called "Motifs" and several projects fueled by this search engine.

The Motif Collection

The work comes from a folklorist named Stith Thompson who spent his life reading and cataloging these stories which he published as the Motif Index of Folklore and Literature. You can read more about his work here: Wikipedia page for Stith Thompson

The Goal

While we have Mr. Thompson's motifs, we have yet to track down all of the stories he read, which is our ultimate goal. We then will provide the stories for all to read, explore and see the connections and commonalities between these stories which we hope to further understandings between cultures and deeper into ourselves.

The Stories

Of course, since there are a current total of 46,248 motifs, we've estimated there to be as many as 51,822 stories which might take some time to collect.

The Strategy

For now, we are working to build a crowdsourcing application to help us collect, organize these stories along with tagging the motifs within them.

Until then, please use the following FAQ.

Frequently Asked Questions about Story Search

What do you use this site for?

We use it to find stories, or to know there are stories worldwide with patterns in them. From there, we've found three common uses:

Writing, Films & Other Creative Story-based Projects
We might write a story with a motif as it's seed, develop more interesting aspects to a character in a story, or help develop hidden symbols within a film. We also frequently get asked for consulting help if you'd like help, please let us know.
Lectures, Professional & other Metaphor Development
Another common request is from people wanting to tell better stories in their work. This might be someone trying to communicate a tricky idea which is in need of a good metaphor. Since we know these "story seeds" have proven themselves to be quite memorable, we try to adapt motifs to fit as a solid and simple metaphor. We've helped Scientists, Lawyers, Medical Organizations, and even those in the Financials Industry to help better convey what they are doing by telling a better story.
Storytelling, Mentoring & Narrative Therapy
And last (usually the most important in the story world) but not least, we do a lot of work with how people can grow and develop parts of who they are and the connection therein through story. So, we might tell research specific stories to tell a child or youth who is working through an issue, such as dealing with anger, attention issues, or life changes by carefully choosing a motif which can help them understand what they're dealing with. (This works well for adults too.)

If you find a new usage for these, please tell us.

What exactly is a Motif?

A Motif is a trait common between two stories. They can be from nearby places, but the interesting ones (we find) are from very different parts of the world. That is to say, two ideas that simultaneously erupted most likely independently. This is because we can then develop a theory about well, pretty much anything.

Let's give you an example of two excerpts from stories so you can spot their motifs.

Sedna - Eskimo

In this mortal peril the father determined to offer Sedna to the birds and flung her overboard. She clung to the edge of the boat with a death grip. The cruel father then took a knife and cut off the first joints of her fingers. Falling into the sea they were transformed into whales, the nails turning into whalebone. Sedna holding on to the boat more tightly, the second finger joints fell under the sharp knife and swam away as seals; when the father cut off the stumps of the fingers they became ground seals.

Handless Maiden - Germany

The devil still could not approach her, he was very angry, and ordered the miller, "Chop off her hands, so I can get to her."
The miller was horrified and answered, "How could I chop off my dear child's hands? No, I will not do it."
"Then do you know what? I will take you, if you don't do it!"
That frightened the miller terribly, and driven by fear he promised to do what the devil had ordered. He went to his daughter and said, "My child, the devil will take me if I don't chop off both your hands, and I have promised him that I will do it. I beg for your forgiveness."
"Father," she said, "do with me what you will," stretched forth her hands, and let him chop them off.


What could we infer about this story? Well, we might use it to interpret a major plot point in another storyline such as Star Wars, Winter's Bone or Game of Thrones.

We might see it as a symbol for the the loss of ability, that is to say, the loss of the ability to do things.

And so, it might be a useful story to tell someone who has issues with motivation, or the lack of the ability to do things.

We'd also be very curious what the relationship between the symbolic "father" is in each of these stories is, including the three newer stories we mentioned.

Where did you get all of the info about Motifs and Stories?

This search engine is a digitized version of the life work comes of a folklorist named Stith Thompson who spent his life reading and cataloging stories which he published as the Motif Index of Folklore and Literature. This book is very hard to come by, as are many of the books Mr. Thompson referenced. We will be collecting the stories (with the help of folks on the internet) to allow everyone to enjoy and educate themselves about this work.

I have a story I'd really like to find. Can you send it to me?

If we can find it, yes, we will definitely try to so you're always welcome to ask. We don't have digital copies of all of the books referenced in the search engine yet, but we currently have more than two thirds of the 800 or so. Feel free to use the contact form, and we will let you know what we can do.

When I be able to read all of the stories online?

That is hard to tell because it is dependent on two things: our helpers and funds.

  Feedback - If you have feedback to offer as far as features you'd like, or requests for stories, this helps us polish the new systems we are putting in place in order to collect all of Stith's stories. Don't hesitate to use our contact form.

  Donate Time - If you would like to donate some of your time to help comb stories, please fill out the form below.

  Donate Funds - Or, you can use the fully tax deductible donation to our 501(c)3 non-profit hosting organization the Center for Symbolic Studies via a form at

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Give Feedback.


p.s. our contact form helps with these.


We've created a twitter feed for StorySearch, and since it is using his work, we've put the feeds under the name @StithThompson.

Every 15 minutes, a new random motif is tweeted. Below are the 20 most recent tweets:



TEDx - Lower East Side

Here is a talk by the creator of the Story Search, Richard Schwab, did on myth featuring stories about ways we use this site. October 25th 2013.


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