Monday, January 19, 2009

The Assassin Riddle

A few years ago, I read Paul Zindel's The Pigman, an older YA novel that is commonly taught in middle schools, and they had this riddle in it which I found extremely interesting. This riddle is a great conversation starter or puzzle to bring up when in the car on long car rides.

This riddle is supposed to see what you value based on a story. The Pigman notes that it tells "what kind of person you are." Let's see how you do.

Note: You can either draw this out or just speak it to a crowd.

Here is the riddle verbatim from the book:

"I'm going to tell you a murder story, and your job is just to listen.

There is a river with a bridge over it, and a WIFE and her HUSBAND live in a house on one side. The WIFE has a LOVER who lives on the other side of the river, and the only way to get from one side of the river to the other is to walk across the bridge or to ask the BOATMAN to take you.

One day the HUSBAND tells his WIFE that he has to be gone all night to handle some business in a faraway town. The WIFE pleads with him to take her with him because she knows if she doesn't, she will be unfaithful to him. The HUSBAND absolutely refuses to take her because she will only be in the way of his important business.

So the HUSBAND goes alone. When he is gone, the WIFE goes over to the bridge and stays with her LOVER. The night passes, and dawn is almost up when the WIFE leaves because she must get back to her own home before her HUSBAND returns. She starts to cross the bridge but sees an ASSASSIN waiting for her on the other side, and she knows if she tries to cross, he will murder her. In terror, she runs up the side of the river and asks the BOATMAN to take her across the river, but he wants fifty cents. She has no money, so he refuses to take her.

The WIFE runs back to the LOVER's house and explains to him what the predicament is and asks him for fifty cents to pay the BOATMAN. The LOVER refuses, telling her it's her own fault for getting into the situation. As dawn comes up, the WIFE is nearly out of her mind and dashes across the bridge. When she comes face to face with the ASSASSIN, he takes a large knife and stabs her until she is dead.

Now, on a piece of paper (or in your head), list the names of the characters in the order in which you think they were most responsible for the WIFE's death. Just list WIFE, HUSBAND, LOVER, BOATMAN, and ASSASSIN in the order you think they are the most guilty."

Don't read below if you're doing this or it will give it away.

Here is what each person represents. If you selected each one on the top, you value this thing the most. The ones are the bottom are least important to you compared with the others.

Wife = Fun
Husband = Love
Lover = Sex
Assassin = Money
Boatman = Magic

Make of it what you will, but it's a good conversation to have with friends. You can argue over who IS resposible or look at holes in the story.

So what do you think of the riddle?


Anonymous said...

I remember reading at least part of this book in High School and we had a good time debating the responsiblity of the story. Reading in between the lines that the husband hired the assassin and etc. One girl, I recall, blamed the boatman most of all. She was definately a unique person, but that's all I remember about her. I can't say this really has any baring on reality. The only thing accurate about it in my case is that I value magic least of all.

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Anonymous said...

I had to read this book for sixth grade. I found it pretty interesting. I'm pretty sure that the test is accurate but even if it's not, I know it has to be at least somewhat accurate because the assassin was last on my list and I value money least. I wonder where Paul Zindel got that riddle from, because it would be fun to try more riddles like this one.

Anonymous said...

How is the assassin last when he is literally the one who killed her?

Anonymous said...

1. Assasin - The ONLY reason she is dead - if he hadn't been there, she would have survived.
2. Wife - She knew, that if she had crossed that bridge, assasin would have killed her. And she did it anyway... It's almost like she commited suicide. AND she didn't have to go to Lover in the first place.
3. Lover - The reason Wife came to the other side, therefore assasin could kill her. But betraying Husband is still Wife's fault.
4. Husband - If he had taken Wife with him, assasin wouldn't have killed Wife. But still if Wife had told him the truth, he would have taken her for sure. BUT if he was the One to hire Assasin he should be in the first place, followed by assasin and the rest.
5. Boatman - He just did his job and wasn't aware of anything. How could he be guilty?