The Riddle


Faith of Our Fairy Tales #12 (Original story / photo)

Story Scripture: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. – Galatians 6:7

Story Saying: Life is like a boomerang. Our thoughts, deeds, and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy. – Grant M. Bright

Behind the Story: First, the synopsis (via Wikipedia) – There once was a prince who decided to go on a journey with his servant. In a dark forest, they came to a small house, where a maiden warned them that her stepmother was a witch who disliked strangers, but unfortunately, there was nowhere else for shelter. The prince and his servant reluctantly entered the witch’s house, but before they went to bed, the maiden warned the prince and his servant not to eat or drink anything the witch gave them because it might be poisonous. The next morning, the witch gave the prince’s servant a poisonous drink, telling him to give it to his master, but the servant ended up spilling it on the prince’s horse, killing it. When he told the prince what had happened and they came to the dead horse, a raven was already eating the corpse. Deciding they may not find better food that day, the servant killed the bird and took it with him. Next, they reached an inn and the servant gave the innkeeper the raven to make food of it. Unknown to the prince and his servant, the inn was really a robbers’ den. The robbers returned, and, before killing the travelers, sat down to eat. Immediately after eating a few bites of the raven soup the innkeeper had prepared, the robbers fell down dead from the poison that the raven had in its body. The innkeeper’s daughter then showed the prince and his servant the robbers’ hidden treasure, but the prince insisted that the daughter keep it.

Continuing on, the prince and his servant next came to a town where a princess would marry any man who asked her a riddle that she could not solve. The prince asked the princess, “What slew none, and yet slew twelve?” The princess could not solve the riddle, so she sent her maid to see if the prince revealed the riddle while talking in his sleep. The prince was prepared, however, because that night he had his servant sleep in his bed. When the maid came in, the servant ripped off her robe and chased her out. Next, the princess sent her chambermaid to spy on the prince while he was asleep, but the prince’s servant also ripped off her robe and chased her out. On the third night, the prince slept in his own bed, and the princess herself came in. The prince pretended to be asleep and the princess asked him the answer to the riddle. After the prince revealed the answer, the princess departed but left her robe behind.

The next morning, the princess announced the answer to the riddle: “A raven ate from a dead, poisoned horse, and died from it. Then, twelve robbers ate the raven and died from that.” The prince declared that the princess had not solved the riddle herself, but rather questioned him in his sleep. The town judges asked for proof, and the prince showed them the three robes. The judges ordered the princess’s robe to be embroidered with gold and silver, for it was to be her wedding robe.

* * *

There are several things happening in this fairy tale, but first the spotlight should be focused on the innkeeper’s daughter. The story describes her as being honest and taking no part in the godless deeds of the innkeeper, the witch, or the twelve murderers. This good girl was surrounded by bad guys, but she didn’t let them influence her. She stayed out of their evil doings, and though her goodness went unnoticed, she did not become discouraged. Philippians 2:15 tells us to “shine as lights in the world.” We are not to blend into the darkness that surrounds. We are to be a light, reflecting the Light of lights – Jesus the Christ, Who is the true light, which gives light to everyone.

Unlike the innkeeper’s daughter, the princess was not honest. Instead of telling the truth and admitting she did not know the answer to the riddle, the princess used deception to obtain the answer. And once she obtained the answer, she pretended she had done so on her own volition. Thank goodness the prince and his servant were smart enough to hang on to those mantles to give as proof to the judges, or else they would have been doomed.

It’s interesting to note that this fairy tale doesn’t end with “happily ever after.” I mean, it’s pretty obvious that the proud princess (who was already responsible for cutting off the heads of nine suitors) didn’t want to marry anyone; and the prince was only in love because he was blinded by her great beauty. Yes, all things are possible, but it would be pretty tough to live happily ever after in a relationship like that.

Finally, the main point of this fairy tale is that you reap what you sow. The innkeeper, the witch, and the twelve murderers were all killed by the poison that the witch herself had brewed. They sowed death, they reaped death. Psalm 7 has this to say about the wicked:

He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.

The innkeeper’s daughter, however, sowed honesty and goodness and she reaped a store of treasures.

On another note, the riddle game in this fairy tale reminds me of Samson’s riddling in Judges 14, and the mantle grabbing reminds me of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39.


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