A quarterly specialized journal
The Message Of Folklore from Bahrain To The World

Traditional riddles

Issue 19
Traditional riddles

Aziz Al Arabawi (Morocco)

Riddles, proverbs, customs, traditions, clothes, cuisine and architecture are all components of folk culture that connect the past to the present, and that help to form the identity of individuals and groups.



Folk culture can take the form of poetry, theatre, cinema, songs, fine arts and writing; folk culture is also expressed in terms of lifestyle.

Components of folk culture can be used to create effective discourse. The educated elite still considers folk culture inferior; academic institutions do not pay it enough attention, and the concerned show only occasional interest. As a result, significant features of Moroccan cultural identity are ignored.  

Folk culture represents two classes of Islamic society: the Bedouin and the urban lower classes; and the elite, who include scientists, politicians and educated people.

There is a saying, “Not all that is common is folklore, but all folklore is common.” The most important characteristics of folklore are its specificity to a particular group and its local flavour. Reviving our heritage is a means of recapturing Islamic values and beliefs.

Riddles are manifestations of folk literature, and they represent distinct aspects of culture. Scholars study riddles as a form of literary expression by members of a society, because riddles reflect their environment and people’s intellectual dexterity.

Although riddles are paradoxical, they always have simple, surprise answers.  Folk riddles vary in style and syntax according to the environment in which they exist; they deal with topics that reflect the thinking in the area in which they originated. Like proverbs, riddles are among the oldest forms of literary heritage.

Riddles are expressed in colloquial language and directed at both the common man and the educated. Due to the spread of riddles and their power in the collective consciousness, they play a role of unquestionable wisdom. 

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