The Riddle is not a tale I am familiar with. It does have similar elements from other tales, but it’s not exactly the same.
Once upon a time there was a king’s son who ventured forth into the world with only a servant for company. Basically, he was struck with a bad case of the wanderlust. He and his servant traveled about for a while and, one day, they were looking for a place to pass the night.
They came across a young woman and upon a house. They asked the girl if they might pass the night in the house. The girl said it was possible, but she did not recommend it because her step-mother was a witch and would do terrible things to the travelers. The king’s son and the servant decided to go anyway, what do women know? Their opinions and advice don’t matter.
They went into the house and the witch was kind to them, but she looked at them with her red eyes. The young woman had counseled them to not eat anything or drink anything that was offered to them by the witch. The men actually listened to the girl’s advice on this one. When they were departing in the morning the witch wanted to send them away with a draught for their thirst. The king’s son knew what was up so he rode away leaving his servant there. His servant hadn’t quite finished saddling his horse before the witch came back with her draught. The servant didn’t want the drink even though the witch insisted. The glass burst and the poisonous drink got all over the servant’s horse, which died immediately.
The servant ran ahead to tell the king’s son. He remembered that he had left his saddle so he went back to get it. Once back upon the scene he saw a raven was already eating the flesh of his horse. He decided to take the raven with him for dinner.
The king and the servant traveled on and they came to an inn. The servant gave the innkeeper the raven to make into dinner. At the inn was also a den of murderers, twelve to be exact. The innkeeper served the raven soup he had made to the murderers who died immediately. The girl who lived at the inn showed the king’s son the treasures that the murderers had hidden away, but he told the girl to keep it.
He went on his way again and heard of a princess who said she would marry any man who made a riddle she could not guess. She was a big fan of the riddle scene from The Hobbit. The king’s son determined to take on this challenge. This was the riddle the prince put to the princess.
“One slew none and yet slew twelve.”
The princess determined that she did not know this riddle. She was upset and was worried that she would lose her riddle competition for the first time in nine tries. The whole game was that the princess would guess a suitor’s riddle then she would pose a riddle for them to guess. If they did not figure out the riddle they would lose their lives. The princess had been responsible for nine suitors biting the dust so far. The princess thought that the prince might reveal the answer to his riddle while he was sleeping.
The princess sent her maid into the room to listen to the prince while he slept in case he revealed the answer to the riddle. Well, the prince’s trusty servant had decided to sleep in the prince’s place. When the maid snuck in the servant grabbed her mantle and she ran away. She tried this again the next night and the same thing happened, leaving the servant with another mantle. On the third night the princess herself went into the room, where she did manage to catch the prince who thought that surely the maid would not come for a third night in a row. She asked the prince what the answer to the riddle was while he slept. He answered her, but apparently had grabbed a hold of her mantle while she was standing there and would not let go. The princess left the prince with her mantle.
The next day she informed everyone that she knew the answer to the riddle which was that a man had used a raven which then poisoned twelve men. The prince called foul and the king asked whether he had any proof of foul deeds. The prince and the servant showed the king the three mantles. The king recognized the last mantle as one that the princess wore frequently and said that would be the mantle she would be married in. The prince and the princess got married.
The Grimm’s brothers certainly did not have a shortage of strange women in their tales. This princess sounds demented. What sane person thinks it is ok to play games with people’s lives like this princess is doing? Sane people don’t do that, unless you live in the world of Saw movies, then everyone is like that.
I don’t know where this idea of witches having red eyes came from. I have read about witches having red eyes in at least one other Grimms tale. I do know that folklore has given red eyes to the devil and considering that witches are often labeled as “brides of the devil,” it kind of makes sense to me that they would have red eyes.
Do these people not know how poison works? If you poison a mouse, but then your cat eats that poisoned mouse, there is a good chance that your cat will also be poisoned. You probably shouldn’t eat your cat if that is the case. The people in this tale should not have eaten the poisoned raven or even considered that it would be good to eat.
There aren’t any children involved in this tale, which is a little out of character for a Grimms story, but not unheard of.
I believe a theme of this tale is that you shouldn’t play with fire. There are times in your life when someone tells you, “Don’t do so-and-so,” but you totally do so-and-so thinking that maybe you are immune to the consequences and the danger that comes along with performing a certain task. If other people tell you something is dangerous, you have no inherent reason to disbelieve them. Fire is hot. Don’t touch it. If someone tells you not to touch the stupid fire, don’t touch the stupid fire.
Here we have these two men who, apparently, think they are too good for advice. If they would have listened to the first girl they met along the way, they would not have had their horse killed. If their horse had not been killed they would not have met a den of robbers in an inn. If they listened to all the people who counseled against trying to marry the insane princess, then they wouldn’t have had to go through all that crazy riddle business.
So this princess is beautiful right? Yeah, everyone loves a beautiful princess it doesn’t matter at all if she’s a MURDERER! What man hears about a woman like this princess and thinks, ” She sounds like a woman who I want to be the mother of my children”? No sane man does that, well, no sane man who is thinking with his actual head does that. What kind of emotional trauma are the children of this woman going to have?
Billy, there are two doors. One door has your toys on the other side and the other door has live crocodiles. I am going to give you a riddle to help you guess which door is the door with your toys. You have one hour.
If it loses, we gets to eat it whole.
I think the prince in this story is making a huge mistake by marrying this woman. Of course, we have already seen that this prince does not take advice. So far, he has ended up on the better end of the deal, but someday he will not.
Here’s a theme, sometimes you dash headlong into something against the advice of people who care for you and things turn out ok, but they aren’t always going to turn out ok. There will be a time when your luck has run out and you find yourself living under a freeway overpass eating grasshoppers for dinner with a side of fileted rat. We know people like that. We know people who do stupid things despite good advice and still seem to end up with their heads above the water. Just wait…they will crash and they will burn.
This tale isn’t terribly controversial and, yes, I do realize the princess in this tale is a maniac, but there are quite a few maniac women in fairy tales, unfortunately.
Hey, what if the princess isn’t really a princess at all, but Gollum in drag? Food for thought.