Long story riddles


In classic mythology, there is the story of the Sphinx, a monster with the body of a lion and the upper part of a woman. The Sphinx lay crouched on the top of a rock along the highroad to the city of Thebes, and stopped all travellers passing by, proposing to them a riddle. Those who failed to answer the riddle correctly were killed. This is the riddle the Sphinx asked the travellers: "What animal walks on four legs in the morning, two legs during the day, and three legs in the evening?"
This is part of the story of Oedipus, who replied to the Sphinx, "Man, who in childhood creeps on hands and knees, in manhood walks erect, and in old age with the aid of a staff." Morning, day and night are representative of the stages of life. The Sphinx was so mortified at the solving of her riddle that she cast herself down from the rock and perished.
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662 votes

Emily was sitting at her study table, home alone, on a cold and stormy night. Her parents had taken a flight earlier in the morning to Australia as her grandmother had passed away. She had wanted to follow her parents but she had an important English examination the next day which she could not miss. The storm was getting heavier by the minute and the wind was howling outside. All this noise made it very hard for her to concentrate. She was on the verge of dozing off when she was shaken alert by a sudden "THUD!" She dismissed it as a window which had been slammed shut by the wind. She tried to concentrate on her books when she heard faint footsteps. Emily got out of her room and looked around when suddenly, without warning, she was grabbed by the neck. She tried to scream but it came out as a mere whimper as the intruder was pressing hard against her throat with his arm. She tried to free herself from his grip but to no avail. "Give me all your money!" growled the man who had grabbed her from behind. "Th-there is none h-here! Please ll-let me go!" cried Emily. "Don't LIE TO ME!" screamed the increasingly agitated man. She felt the man strengthen his grip around her neck. She said nothing and a few seconds passed by in silence. Suddenly the phone rang which alerted both of them. "People will get suspicious if I don't answer the phone," said Emily, with a controlled voice. The intruder let her go. "Alright, but NO funny business, or ELSE!" said the nervous intruder. Emily walked toward the phone. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. She picked up the phone. "Hey Em! How's the revision going?" said the caller. "Hey Anna. Thanks for the call. Hey you know those Science notes I lent you last week? Well I really need them back. It would be a great help to me. It's an emergency, so if you could give me them tomorrow it would be great. Please hurry in finding the notes. I need to get back to my books now. Bye," Emily said. She hung up the phone. "It was wise of you not to say anything," said the intruder, although he was more than a bit confused by her conversation. "Now TELL ME WHERE THE MONEY IS KEPT!" screamed the thief. "It...it's...in my dad's room. The first room on the right. Third drawer," said Emily. "SHOW me!" said the man, and removed his grip around her neck. She took a big gulp of air and nearly fell. She swallowed hard and said a silent prayer. She walked slowly, in silence, toward her father's room. All of a sudden, they heard police sirens. The intruder froze in his footsteps. He ran to the nearest window and jumped out of it. Emily ran outside in time to see the intruder being escorted into the car. She saw Anna and she ran toward her and hugged her. "Smart kids," said the policeman. What had happened?
Emily had used the mute button during her conversation with Anna so that all Anna heard was: "call...help...emergency...please hurry". Anna, sensing something was wrong, called the police and told them Emily's address. The police were able to come to Emily's house in time to catch the perpetrator.
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102 votes

Once upon a time, in the West Lake village, a servant lived with his master. After service of about 30 years, his master became ill and was going to die. One day, the master called his servant and asked him for a wish. It could be any wish but just one. The master gave him one day to think about it. The servant became very happy and went to his mother for discussion about the wish. His mother was blind and she asked her son for making a wish for her eye-sight to come back. Then the servant went to his wife. She became very excited and asked for a son as they were childless for many years. After that, the servant went to his father who wanted to be rich and so he asked his son to wish for a lot of money. The next day he went to his master and made one wish through which all the three (mother, father, wife) got what they wanted. You have to tell what the servant asked the master.
The servant said, "My mother wants to see her grandson swinging on a swing of gold."
81.57 %
66 votes

A poor miller living with his daughter comes onto hard times and is not able to pay his rent. His evil landlord threatens to evict them unless the daughter marries him. The daughter, not wanting to marry the landlord but fearing that her father won't be able to take being evicted, suggests the following proposition to the landlord. He will put two stones, one white and one black, into a bag in front of the rest of the townspeople. She will pick one stone out of the bag. If she picks the white stone, the landlord will forgive their debt and let them stay, but if she picks the black stone, she will marry the landlord, and her father will be evicted anyway. The landlord agrees to the proposal. Everybody meets in the center of the town. The landlord picks up two stones to put in the bag, but the daughter notices that he secretly picked two black stones. She is about to reveal his deception but realizes that this would embarrass him in front of the townspeople, and he would evict them. She quickly comes up with another plan. What can she do that will allow the landlord save face, while also ensuring that she and her father can stay and that she won't have to marry the landlord?
The daughter picks a stone out, keeps it in her closed hand, and proclaims "this is my stone." She then throws it to the ground, and says "look at the other stone in the bag, and if it's black, that means I picked the white stone." The landlord will reveal the other stone, which is obviously black, and the daughter will have succeeded. The landlord was never revealed as a cheater and thus was able to save face.
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85 votes

A duke was hunting in the forest with his men-at-arms and servants when he came across a tree. Upon it, archery targets were painted and smack in the middle of each was an arrow. "Who is this incredibly fine archer?" cried the duke. "I must find him!" After continuing through the forest for a few miles he came across a small boy carrying a bow and arrow. Eventually the boy admitted that it was he who shot the arrows plumb in the center of all the targets. "You didn't just walk up to the targets and hammer the arrows into the middle, did you?" asked the duke worriedly. "No my lord. I shot them from a hundred paces. I swear it by all that I hold holy." "That is truly astonishing," said the duke. "I hereby admit you into my service." The boy thanked him profusely. "But I must ask one favor in return," the duke continued. "You must tell me how you came to be such an outstanding shot." How'd he get to be such a good shot?
The boy shot the arrow, then painted the circle around it.
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58 votes

A swan sits at the center of a perfectly circular lake. At an edge of the lake stands a ravenous monster waiting to devour the swan. The monster can not enter the water, but it will run around the circumference of the lake to try to catch the swan as soon as it reaches the shore. The monster moves at 4 times the speed of the swan, and it will always move in the direction along the shore that brings it closer to the swan the quickest. Both the swan and the the monster can change directions in an instant. The swan knows that if it can reach the lake's shore without the monster right on top of it, it can instantly escape into the surrounding forest. How can the swan succesfully escape?
Assume the radius of the lake is R feet. So the circumference of the lake is (2*pi*R). If the swan swims R/4 feet, (or, put another way, 0.25R feet) straight away from the center of the lake, and then begins swimming in a circle around the center, then it will be able to swim around this circle in the exact same amount of time as the monster will be able to run around the lake's shore (since this inner circle's circumference is 2*pi*(R/4), which is exactly 4 times shorter than the shore's circumference). From this point, the swan can move a millimeter inward toward the lake's center, and begin swimming around the center in a circle from this distance. It is now going around a very slightly smaller circle than it was a moment ago, and thus will be able to swim around this circle FASTER than the monster can run around the shore. The swan can keep swimming around this way, pulling further away each second, until finally it is on the opposite side of its inner circle from where the monster is on the shore. At this point, the swan aims directly toward the closest shore and begins swimming that way. At this point, the swan has to swim [0.75R feet + 1 millimeter] to get to shore. Meanwhile, the monster will have to run R*pi feet (half the circumference of the lake) to get to where the swan is headed. The monster runs four times as fast as the swan, but you can see that it has more than four times as far to run: [0.75R feet + 1 millimeter] * 4 < R*pi [This math could actually be incorrect if R were very very small, but in that case we could just say the swan swam inward even less than a millimeter, and make the math work out correctly.] Because the swan has less than a fourth of the distance to travel as the monster, it will reach the shore before the monster reaches where it is and successfully escape.
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51 votes

You are somewhere on Earth. You walk due south 1 mile, then due east 1 mile, then due north 1 mile. When you finish this 3-mile walk, you are back exactly where you started. It turns out there are an infinite number of different points on earth where you might be. Can you describe them all? It's important to note that this set of points should contain both an infinite number of different latitudes, and an infinite number of different longitudes (though the same latitudes and longitudes can be repeated multiple times); if it doesn't, you haven't thought of all the points.
One of the points is the North Pole. If you go south one mile, and then east one mile, you're still exactly one mile south of the North Pole, so you'll be back where you started when you go north one mile. To think of the next set of points, imagine the latitude slighty north of the South Pole, where the length of the longitudinal line around the Earth is exactly one mile (put another way, imagine the latitude slightly north of the South Pole where if you were to walk due east one mile, you would end up exactly where you started). Any point exactly one mile north of this latitude is another one of the points you could be at, because you would walk south one mile, then walk east a mile around and end up where you started the eastward walk, and then walk back north one mile to your starting point. So this adds an infinite number of other points we could be at. However, we have not yet met the requirement that our set of points has an infinite number of different latitudes. To meet this requirement and see the rest of the points you might be at, we just generalize the previous set of points. Imagine the latitude slightly north of the South Pole that is 1/2 mile in distance. Also imagine the latitudes in this area that are 1/3 miles in distance, 1/4 miles in distance, 1/5 miles, 1/6 miles, and so on. If you are at any of these latitudes and you walk exactly one mile east, you will end up exactly where you started. Thus, any point that is one mile north of ANY of these latitudes is another one of the points you might have started at, since you'll walk one mile south, then one mile east and end up where you started your eastward walk, and finally, one mile north back to where you started.
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64 votes

100 men are in a room, each wearing either a white or black hat. Nobody knows the color of his own hat, although everyone can see everyone else's hat. The men are not allowed to communicate with each other at all (and thus nobody will ever be able to figure out the color of his own hat). The men need to line up against the wall such that all the men with black hats are next to each other, and all the men with white hats are next to each other. How can they do this without communicating? You can assume they came up with a shared strategy before coming into the room.
The men go to stand agains the wall one at a time. If a man goes to stand against the wall and all of the men already against the wall have the same color hat, then he just goes and stands at either end of the line. However, if a man goes to stand against the wall and there are men with both black and white hats already against the wall, he goes and stands between the two men with different colored hats. This will maintain the state that the line contains men with one colored hats on one side, and men with the other colored hats on the other side, and when the last man goes and stands against the wall, we'll still have the desired outcome.
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64 votes

You have just purchased a small company called Company X. Company X has N employees, and everyone is either an engineer or a manager. You know for sure that there are more engineers than managers at the company. Everyone at Company X knows everyone else's position, and you are able to ask any employee about the position of any other employee. For example, you could approach employee A and ask "Is employee B an engineer or a manager?" You can only direct your question to one employee at a time, and can only ask about one other employee at a time. You're allowed to ask the same employee multiple questions if you want. Your goal is to find at least one engineer to solve a huge problem that has just hit the company's factory. The problem is so urgent that you only have time to ask N-1 total questions. The major problem with questioning the employees, however, is that while the engineers will always tell you the truth about other employees' roles, the managers may lie to you if they like. You can assume that the managers will do their best to confuse you. How can you find at least one engineer by asking at most N-1 questions?
You can find at least one engineer using the following process: Put all of the employees in a conference room. If there happen to be an even number of employees, pick one at random and send him home for the day so that we start with an odd number of employees. Note that there will still be more engineers than managers after we send this employee home. Then call them out one at a time in any order. You will be forming them into a line as follows: If there is nobody currently in the line, put the employee you just called out in the line. Otherwise, if there is anybody in the line, then we do the following. Let's call the employee currently at the front of the line Employee_Front, and call the employee who we just called out of the conference room Employee_Next. So ask Employee_Front if Employee_Next is a manager or an engineer. If Employee_Front says "manager", then send both Employee_Front and Employee_Next home for the day. However, if Employee_Front says "engineer", then put Employee_Next at the front of the line. Keep doing this until you've called everyone out of the conference room. Notice that at this point, you'll have asked N-1 or less questions (you asked at most one question each time you called an employee out except for the first employee, when you didn't ask a question, so that's at most N-1 questions). When you're done calling everyone out of the conference room, the person at the front of the line is an engineer. So you've found your engineer! But the real question: how does this work? We can prove this works by showing a few things. First, let's show that if there are any engineers in the line, then they must be in front of any managers. We'll show this with a proof by contradiction. Assume that there is a manager in front of an engineer somewhere in the line. Then it must have been the case that at some point, that engineer was Employee_Front and that manager was Employee_Next. But then Employee_Front would have said "manager" (since he is an engineer and always tells the truth), and we would have sent them both home. This contradicts their being in the line at all, and thus we know that there can never be a manager in front of an engineer in the line. So now we know that after the process is done, if there are any engineers in the line, then they will be at the front of the line. That means that all we have to prove now is that there will be at least one engineer in the line at the end of the process, and we'll know that there will be an engineer at the front. So let's show that there will be at least one engineer in the line. To see why, consider what happens when we ask Employee_Front about Employee_Next, and Employee_Front says "manager". We know for sure that in this case, Employee_Front and Employee_Next are not both engineers, because if this were the case, then Employee_Front would have definitely says "engineer". Put another way, at least one of Employee_Front and Employee_Next is a manager. So by sending them both home, we know we are sending home at least one manager, and thus, we are keeping the balance in the remaining employees that there are more engineers than managers. Thus, once the process is over, there will be more engineers than managers in the line (this is also sufficient to show that there will be at least one person in the line once the process is over). And so, there must be at least one engineer in the line. Put altogether, we proved that at the end of the process, there will be at least one engineer in the line and that any engineers in the line must be in front of any managers, and so we know that the person at the front of the line will be an engineer.
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57 votes

A new student met the Zen Master after traveling hundreds of miles by yak cart. He was understandably pleased with himself for being selected to learn at the great master's feet . The first time they formally met, the Zen Master asked, "May I ask you a simple question?" "It would be an honor!" replied the student. "Which is greater, that which has no beginning or that which has no end?" queried the Zen Master. "Come back when you have the answer and can explain why." After the student made many frustrated trips back with answers which the master quickly cast off with a disapproving negative nod, the Zen Master finally said, "Perhaps I should ask you another question?" "Oh, please do!" pleaded the exasperated student. The Zen Master then asked, "Since you do not know that, answer this much simpler riddle. When can a pebble hold back the sea?" Again the student was rebuffed time and again. Several more questions followed with the same result. Each time, the student could not find the correct answer. Finally, completely exasperated, the student began to weep, "Master, I am a complete idiot. I can not solve even the simplest riddle from you!" Suddenly, the student stopped, sat down, and said, "I am ready for my second lesson." What was the Zen Master's first lesson?
The student's first lesson was that in order to learn from the Zen Master, the student should be asking the questions and not the Zen Master.
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56 votes
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