Nursery rhymes in the form of a riddle are an engaging way to challenge children’s thinking while also entertaining them with clever wordplay and this has been true for centuries.

While nursery rhymes have been studied extensively, the origins of riddles are often ambiguous. Most of the time, we do not know when these oral traditions started but in some cases, the more popular riddles like “As I Was Going to St. Ives” can be dated back to 1730.

Riddles in rhyme often appear in very similar forms in many different languages.

History of Riddles

One of the earliest known collections of riddles comes from the ancient Sumerian civilization, dating back to around 1800 BC. These riddles were inscribed on cuneiform tablets and often involved metaphorical language. The answers to many of these riddles have not been preserved.

Similarly, ancient Egyptian literature contains examples of riddles, particularly within the context of mythological texts and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

In ancient Greece, the poet Homer included riddles in his epic poems “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.

In English, the first book that collected riddles was the Exeter Book in the 11th century, where 96 riddles written in Old English were preserved for posteriority.

Collection of Children’s Riddles

Below, we compiled a collection of riddles in rhyme meant for children and whenever possible, we studied their origins and variations. If you know about any other riddle’s origin in a nursery rhyme book, please let us know by contacting us.

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