Riddle-Poems, and How to Make Them


Riddle-poems are a lot of fun. They're an amusing game for children and adults, a connection to history, and a way to approach poetry that avoids the conceit and self-indulgence that lays waste to so much of it.

Anyone can appreciate riddle-poems, and almost anyone can learn to make them. By doing so, you can enjoy yourself, sharpen your wits, learn a new way to look at the world, and perhaps tap resources of creativity you never suspected yourself to have.

With the riddle-poem comes the riddle-game. To play the riddle-game, two or more people take turns making up riddles on the spot. You win points, or jellybeans, or whatever, by answering riddles correctly (we'll present some rules for a modern version of the riddle-game later). If you're feeling uninspired, you can use a riddle you've heard somewhere else, but doing that a lot is considered poor form. The riddle-game should be about creativity, not rote memory.

At this point, a lot of you are probably thinking Improvise poetry? I couldn't possibly! This isn't for me! But you can do it. One of the charms of the riddle-game is that it proves that poetry need not be an elite art. I'll show you how to make beautiful riddle-poems with simple methods that are play to use, not hard specialized work.

We know of many cultures that have riddle-poem traditions. The best-documented, and the one we'll be taking our model from, is the riddle-poem tradition of the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, and the Teutons. These peoples of the Dark Ages played the riddle-game around their hearth-fires for more than five hundred years. Some of their riddles have come down to us.

Here is a modern English translation of a simple riddle poem, over a thousand years old. It's from a very old manuscript called the Book of Exeter, which contains a treasury of Anglo-Saxon riddles. It's one of my favorites.

  Riddle: A wonder on the wave / water became bone.

  Answer: Ice on a lake or seashore.

This simple one-line poem is an excellent example of the riddle-poem style. Good riddle-poems are terse, pithy, visual, rhythmic. Like haiku, they take their power from a compelling image.

To appreciate this poem fully, speak it to yourself out loud (the slash represents a caesura or pause). In the Dark Ages, poetry was a spoken art. Poems were written to be chanted or sung. Anglo-Saxon (the parent language of English) was a rolling, sonorous, thunderous language well-suited to poetry and oration. Some of this quality comes through even in translation.

Basic Riddle-Poem Construction

Here's an example of a riddle-poem in modern English in very traditional style and subject:

  Riddle: A hoard of rings am I,
          but no fit gift for a bride;
          I await a sword's kiss.

  Answer: A suit of chain-mail.

Note that it doesn't rhyme. Rhyme is nice in a riddle-poem, but strong rhythm (what poets call good scansion) is better. Actually, traditional riddle-poems hardly employed rhyme for structure at all; they used an elaborate set of stress rules and a technique called alliteration which we'll describe later on.

Rhythm — speech rhythm — is all-important. In composing riddle-poems that sound good, a bit of role-playing helps. When you're working on one, try to imagine yourself chanting it to a hall-full of drunken Vikings. Do they pound the tables and roar? Do they laugh? Or do they just plain not get it?

Often you can get the right effect by sticking to muscular one-and two-syllable words in your poem — avoid anything Latin-sounding or elaborate. Sticking to concrete objects that anyone in a medieval setting might have seen is also a good idea.

That said, it's certainly possible to make riddles in the traditional style about modern subjects. Consider these two examples:

  Riddle: I am the black cloak of the road.

  Answer: Asphalt

Supposing your Viking had ever seen an asphalt road, he'd like this one. Though he'd probably think it rather simple, a children's riddle. Here's another good children's riddle, contributed by Isobel Hooper:

  Riddle: Hard iron on horse / cow's hide on man.

  Answer: Shoe

Here's one with more meat:

  Riddle: I drink the blood of the Earth,
          and the trees fear my roar,
          yet a man may hold me in his hands.

  Answer: A chainsaw

The blood of the Earth, of course, is petroleum. This phrase is a good example of what Viking poets called a kenning, a poetic and indirect description of some simple thing or event — a riddle within the riddle-poem.

Some Viking kennings were used so conventionally that they became poetic cliches; for example, the ocean was called the whale-road, the sun as world-candle, battle referred to as a feast of eagles, warriors as spear-trees and generous chieftains as ring-givers (it was considered a mark of special favor for a Viking warrior to receive a ring or bracelet from the chieftain's own arm, and such a gift also confirmed and raised the status of the chieftain).

Other kennings were riddles in themselves, or ways of suggesting that a thing could be viewed in two or more ways. The riddle-poem above gets its power by suggesting some fearsome creature vast enough to feed on the Earth itself, and then paradoxically stating that the beast is small enough to be held in two hands.

Here is another, simpler riddle-poem with a similar hook:

  Riddle: Three eyes have I, all in a row;
          when the red one opens, all freeze.

  Answer: A traffic light.

Giving the subject of the riddle the qualities of a person, and then having it describe itself poetically, is a very common style of riddle. The stoplight riddle isn't a particularly inspired one, though the first line makes neat use of the internal rhyme between eyes and I.

Here are a few more of this kind to think about:

  Riddle: I am the hall-upholder,
          once crowned in green.

  Answer: Pillar carved from a tree-trunk.

  Riddle: I am the yellow hem
          of the sea's blue skirt.

  Answer: Sand on a beach.

  Riddle: I am the red tongue of the Earth,
          that buries cities.

  Answer: Lava from a volcano.

  Riddle: The Moon is my father,
          the Sea is my mother;
          I have a million brothers,
          I die when I reach land.

  Answer: A wave on the ocean.

Another common form is to make poetic assertions about the subject that lead to an obvious image, which you then flatly deny, creating an air of paradox. (We saw this above in the chain-mail poem; but no fit gift...)

  Riddle: Thousands lay up gold within this house,
          but no man made it.
          Spears past counting guard this house,
          but no man wards it.

  Answer: A beehive.  The spears are bee stings.

More Ancient Examples

Here are some more riddles from the Book of Exeter. The translations are based on Michael Alexander's The Earliest English Poems (Penguin 1977; ISBN 0-14-044-172-7); I have tinkered with the first one a bit to improve its scansion.

  Riddle: I am fire-fretted / and I flirt with Wind;
          my limbs are light-freighted / I am lapped in flame.
          I am storm-stacked / and I strain to fly;
          I'm a grove leaf-bearing / and a glowing coal.

Answer: A beam of wood.

Alexander gives a second verse for this one which I believe was originally a separate riddle; the style is quite different.

  Riddle: From hand to hand / about the hall I go,
          Much do lords and ladies / love to kiss me;
          When I hold myself high / and the whole throng
          bows before me / their blessedness
          shall flourish skyward / beneath my fostering shade.

  Answer: A wooden god-image or crucifix.

Note that in the Book of Exeter no answers for the riddles are given, and they are crowded onto the manuscript page without line breaks. In some cases, the boundaries between riddles are not clear.

  Riddle: Swings by his thigh / a thing most magical!
          Below the belt / beneath the folds
          Of his clothes it hangs / a hole in its front end,
          stiff-set and stout / it swivels about.

          Levelling the head / of this hanging tool, 
          its wielder hoists his hem / above his knee;
          it is his will to fill / a well-known hole
          that it fits fully / when at full length

          He's oft filled it before. / Now he fills it again.

  Answer: A key.

This sly little riddle distracts one with a sexual analogy, but the key phrase "it swivels about" is a clue that the obvious answer is not the right one.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Riddle-Poems

In The Hobbit, there is an important scene in which Bilbo Baggins plays the riddle-game with Gollum in the orc passages of the Misty Mountains. Tolkien was an expert on the language and poetry of Anglo-Saxon; his riddles were clearly modeled on the riddle-poems in the Book of Exeter. Here they are:

  Riddle: What has roots as nobody sees,
          Is taller than trees,
            Up, up it goes
            And yet never grows?

  Answer: A mountain.

  Riddle: Thirty white horses on a red hill,
            First they champ,
            Then they stamp,
          Then they stand still.

  Answer: Teeth in your mouth.

  Riddle: Voiceless it cries,
          Wingless flutters,
          Toothless bites,
          Mouthless mutters.

  Answer: The wind.

  Riddle: An eye in a blue face
          Saw an eye in a green face,
          "That eye is like to this eye"
          Said the first eye,
          "But in low place,
          Not in high place."

  Answer: Sun on a field of daisies.

  Riddle: It cannot be seen, cannot be felt
          Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
          It lies behind stars and under hills,
            And empty holes it fills.
          It comes first and follows after,
            Ends life, kills laughter.

  Answer: Darkness.

  Riddle: A box without hinges, key, or lid,
          Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

  Answer: An egg.

  Riddle: Alive without breath,
          As cold as death;
          Never thirsty, ever drinking,
          All in mail, never clinking.

  Answer: A fish.

  Riddle: No-legs lay on one-leg,
          Two-legs sat near on three-legs,
          four legs got some.

  Answer: Fish on a little table, man at table sitting on a stool,
          the cat ate the bones.

  Riddle: This thing all things devours:
          Birds, trees, beasts, flowers;
          Gnaws iron, bites steel;
          Grinds hard stones to meal;
          Slays king, ruins town,
          And beats high mountain down.

  Answer: Time.

Notice an interesting thing about these. Tolkien, the poet and expert on Anglo-Saxon poetry, did not try to cast them in the Anglo-Saxon meter! Instead, he uses the simple end-rhymed verse of modern English folk poetry.

There are good reasons for this which we'll discuss further below.

A folk riddle from the Norse islands

This is an old folk riddle from the Shetland and Faroe islands:

  Riddle: Four hang, four walk,
          Four stand skyward,
          Two show the way to the field
          And one comes shaking behind 

  Answer: A cow. Four teats hang, four legs walk, two horns and two 
          ears stand skyward, two eyes show the way to the field and 
          one tail comes shaking (dangling) behind.

Prosody, or How Not to Trip Over Your Feet

The modern riddle-poem examples we give elsewhere in this discussion generally have the feel of Anglo-Saxon and Viking verse, but not its exact metrical style. Here you can learn a bit more about the technical characteristics of both modern and Dark Ages verse. This may help you fix riddle-poems that don't quite feel right.

Prosody in Modern English

People who study prosody (the technical construction of poems) have a whole set of terms for describing the meter of a poem — that is, its rules of rhyme and rhythm.

The first important thing to know is that modern English meters usually break up naturally into units called feet.

A foot is a two or three-beat combination of stressed and unstressed syllables. There are four common kinds. In roughly decreasing order of frequency, they are:

iambic (noun: iamb)
Unstressed syllable followed by stressed. Sample word: "relax".
trochaic (noun: trochee)
Stressed followed by unstressed. Sample word: "nuthouse".
spondaic (noun: spondee)
Two stressed syllables. Sample word: "shortstop"
dactylic (noun: dactyl)
Stressed followed by two unstressed. Sample word: "catalog"
anapestic (noun: anapest)
Two unstressed followed by a stressed.

Usually, a line of poetry in modern English is composed of a minimum of two to a maximum of six repetitions of one kind of foot. The number of feet per line is fixed and is an important feature of the meter; this makes it a counting meter.

The most common meter in English is "iambic pentameter", five iambic feet per line. This is what Shakespeare wrote; it dominated poetry in English from the mid-fourteenth to early twentieth centuries. Here's a sample line:

  _   /     _    /     _    /     _   /     _    /
  So all | day long | the noise | of bat | tle roared

The vertical bars divide feet; / marks stressed syllables, _ unstressed ones (actually, prosodists use a crescent mark like a breve rather than the underline).

Aside from the foot type and count, the most important structural device in most modern English meters is end-rhyme — pairs of sound-alike words at the end of rhymes.

In a counting meter like iambic pentameter, breaks and changes in the rhythm draw the hearer's or reader's attention. Short or truncated lines create tension. A skilled poet will use these devices to pace the poem and emphasize key phrases and ideas.

Dark Ages Prosody

The riddle poems that come down to us are written in the oldest, classic form of Germanic verse; "long-meter". This meter doesn't have a fixed number or style of feet; instead, it consists of half-lines, separated by a caesura or strong pause, each containing two stressed syllables. The first three stresses should share the same initial sound (this is called alliteration).

The translation of the beam-of-wood riddle given above is a particularly fine example of long-meter in modern English. Like the oldest and strictest Viking verse, it holds the number of unstressed syllables per line to a minimum. The last line is technically imperfect, having only two alliterations and those weak ones (gr- with gl-), but the Dark Ages bards themselves not infrequently dropped a stitch in the same way. Nevertheless, the rhythm and feel of the piece are true to the Dark Ages form.

Getting pure long-meter this thoroughly right in modern English is hard, though; the sound-pattern of English has changed, becoming more like that of the Latin, French and Greek languages for which end-rhymed counting verse works well. And the results tend to sound awkward to modern ears, used as they are to end-rhyme and counting meters.

Getting the Right Sound

It works better to blend some features of long-meter into modern forms. Rudyard Kipling's Harp-Song of the Dane Women shows what a really able poet can do along these lines:

   /   /   _    / _      _      /   _       /   _
  Ah, What is | woman || that | you for- | sake her?
   _   _      /   /       _   _   /    / _
  And the hearth-fire || and the home-acre?
   _  /  _    _   /   _    / _   / _
  To go with the old gray Widow-Maker?

(In this notation, || indicates the half-line pause.) None of these lines is perfect long-meter; the first has only two alliterations, the two spondees in the second line don't fit any of the historical half-line stress patterns (see Appendix C of the Alexander book for details), and the third line lacks a caesura. Finally, the lines are end rhymed, a practice rare in long-meter.

Nevertheless, it works. It has the kind of somber power one can sense in translations of Dark Ages poetry. Your best riddles can sound like this, and that's a worthy goal.

Here's another example that's an actual riddle:

Riddle: Screaming, soaring / seeking sky
        Flowers of fire / flying high
        Eastern art / from ancient time
        Name me now / and solve this rhyme

Answer: Fireworks.

Observe that this uses both alliterations and end rhyme. The third line illustrates how in long-meter all initial vowels were considered equivalent for alliterative purposes. The first line is technically imperfect, as the last stressed syllable should not alliterate.

Here's another one for you to analyze yourself:

Riddle: My step is slow / the snow's my breath
        I give the ground / a grinding death
        My marching / makes an end of me
        Slain by sun / or drowned in sea.

Answer: A glacier.

How to Make a Riddle-Poem

Work backwards. First, pick your answer. Then, imagine it speaking to you; describing itself, telling you what it does. Then make that into a little poem.

As I was thinking about the last paragraph, my eyes lit on the telephone beside my keyboard. I decided to make a riddle-poem for which telephone is the answer.

So I imagine the phone speaking to me. It says I carry the voices of people over many miles. That's a good start, but it's not specific enough; it could apply to a radio as well.

What distinguishes a phone from a radio? Wires. But if I mention wires directly, the riddle will be too obvious. So I think instead about what a phone looks like, analogizing it to a body. And I have it:

  Riddle: One ear, one mouth, no legs,
          But I will carry your voice a thousand miles.

This is pretty nice. But the scansion in the second line is not quite right.

    _  /  _    /  _   _    /   _   /  _    /
   But I will carry your voice a thousand miles.

This is close to iambic pentameter. It could be improved by a one-syllable verb replacement for carry. There are lots of possibilities; take, waft, send, bear. I like bear for its archaic sound. And so we have it:

    /   /       /    /        /   /
   One ear, || one mouth, || no legs,
    _  /     _    /        _    /      _   /        _    /
   But I || will bear || your voice || a thou- || sand miles.

This is an easy riddle, but the construction worked well. In general, these are the steps you'll usually go through:

  1. Pick a subject.
  2. Imagine the subject speaking to you.
  3. If that doesn't work, analogize the subject to a body or creature.
  4. Adjust the description to the level of difficulty you want.
  5. For best poetic effect, fix the scansion in the result.

Rules for the Riddle-Game

The riddle-game, played between two or more people, is a simple contest of poetry and wit. In the two-person version, players take turns posing each other riddles; each time, the answerer guesses and the riddler either agrees that the answer is correct or reveals the correct answer.

Each time a player fails to guess a riddle correctly, the riddler scores a point. In multi-player games, permit each player other than the riddler to guess; riddler gets one point for each wrong answer, but no points if no-one guesses correctly.

To prevent the tactic of simply posing vague or nonsensical riddles (especially in the two-player game), it is helpful to have a vocal audience. The audience gets to disallow a score, and dock the riddler a point, if they judge his/her riddle is badly made.

Also, players may award "style points" to each other, or the audience to either. A style point is due if the answerer thinks of an answer which is not what the riddler intended, but works just as well or better; or, from the audience, for any unusually poetic, tricky, or beautiful riddle.

The riddle-game works best if the players think of it not as cut-throat competition but as a performance art, like a jam session with words.

A Challenge

I love to compose riddles (I wrote all the examples above that aren't explicitly attributed). I also love to solve them. If you've been inspired by this discussion, play the riddle game with me! Mail me a riddle-poem and I'll compose one for you to solve.

Really good riddles will be added (with attribution) to this page. Distasteful but necessary lawyer food: by submitting a riddle, you grant me a non-exclusive right to electronic and paper redistribution.

Riddles from the Net

To see the answer to each riddle, drag your mouse over the text to the right of where it says "Answer".

#1 from Guy Steele <gls@east.sun.com>, 26 Jun 1995:

Riddle: A slow, solemn square-dance
        Of warriors feinting.
        One by one they fall,
        Warriors fainting,
        Thirty-two on sixty-four.

Answer: A chess game.

#2 from Guy Steele <gls@east.sun.com>, 26 Jun 1995:

Riddle: I am always at your side.
        To a slab my tail is tied
        And my eyes are both inside my belly.
        Tickle my back, one/two/three!
        Wisdom and folly are yours to see.

Answer: A computer mouse.

#3 from Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>, 27 Jun 1995:

Riddle: Twigs but no roots / leaves but no shoots;
        Faring forever / over the sand.
        Filmmakers love me / but ranchers, they hate me.
        I came here from Russia / isn't life grand?

Answer: Tumbleweed, aka Russian thistle.

#4 from Guy Steele <gls@east.sun.com>, 27 Jun 1995:

Riddle: Gold in a leather bag, swinging on a tree,
        Money after honey in its time.
        Ills of a scurvy crew cured by the sea,
        Reason in its season but no rhyme.

Answer: Orange — which has no rhyme in English.

#5 from Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>, 27 Jun 1995:

Riddle: I march before armies / a thousand salute me
        My fall can bring victory / but no one would shoot me;
        The wind is my lover / one-legged am I
        Name me and see me / at home in the sky.

Answer: A flag or banner.

#6 from Guy Steele <gls@east.sun.com>, 27 Jun 1995:

Riddle: A singular pun: in the plural, impotent,
        Yet it breathes life into the dead.
        Fifty thousand wizards are liege to it,
        Yet it is yours to command.
        It is storming the gates of the empire!
        Gates is storming back.

Answer: Unix (pun for `Eunuchs').

#7 from Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>, 20 Sep 1995:

Riddle: Wings on the water / wonder in motion,
        A beak of brass / apt for brawling.
        But fear and foulness / fill my belly,
        Pity all / who ache inside me;
        Whip-stung, woeful / weak and weary.

Answer: A war galley (classical poets often analogized the
        oars to wings).

#8 from Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>, 23 Sep 1995:

Riddle: Billions of my brothers / bathe all things you see; 
        You live in time and space / but time is naught to me.
        My nature has two faces / two syllables my name;
        To find the law that binds me / forget your reference frame.

Answer: Photon (both wave and particle).

#9 from David J. Austin <dj@locke.ccil.org>, 30 Dec 1995:

Riddle: It roars like thunder,        
        And rises higher,        
        While breathing fire,    
        This wingless wonder.    

        If it leaves its cave,
        Drags us in its tail,
        Over hill and dale,
        Then you must be brave.

        Early morning flight,
        Silently it flies,
        Slowly in the skies.
        Hides before the night.

        My kingdom at least,
        To the brave young knight,
        If you name it right.
        What is this huge beast?

Answer: A hot-air balloon.

#10 from Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>, 1 May 1996:

Riddle: A hundred brothers lie next to each other;
        Each white and fine — they've only one spine.
        I am the tongue that lies between two.
        Remove me to gather their wisdom to you.
Answer: Bookmark between the pages of a book.

#11 from Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com> 21 Oct 1996

Riddle: I am a promise on the night wind,
            and a warning under red skies.
        You can make me with electrodes,
            but my nature is wild.
        And yet — I am your shield against the sun
        Who am I?

Answer: Ozone.

#12 from Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora@bga.com> 11 Sep 1998

Riddle: I have split the one into five.
        I am the circle that few will spy.
        I am the path that breaks and gives.
        I am the bow no man may bend.

Answer: The rainbow (the "five" are the spectral colors).

#13 from Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com> 12 Dec 1999

Riddle: I'm that which is seen only in darkness,
        Swiftest of all, and near as old as time;
        Day's distant brother; fire and faintness,
        I light without shadow — can you solve this rhyme?

Answer: Starlight.

#14 from Andrew Durdin <andy@tavultesoft.com> 11 Oct 2000

Riddle: I'm a twisting path,
        An endless track;
        Walk straight on my face
        You come to my back.

Answer: A mobius strip.

#15 from Deric Ruhl <latham@yossman.net> 4 May 2001

Riddle: Aged, at ninety, yet healthy and hale,
        praise be to Moses, my most honored father
        Seldom I'm called, but more seldom I fail -
        Silent, I am, till I speak for my master.

Answer: The .45ACP pistol, invented by John Moses Browning in 1911.

#16 from Anna T. Castiglioni <gwaelaurien@hotmail.com> 13 Jan 2002

Riddle: Oak and hazel are my aunts,
           though I am not their kin.
        My cousin grows in pod on vine;
           I often have a twin.
        My shape is like the sands of time
           contained within a glass.
        I have no legs, instead a shell;
           I dwell beneath the grass.

Answer: A peanut.

#17 from Eric S. Raymond, <esr@thyrsus.com>, 20 Nov 2004

Riddle: I am the teeth of the mouth of the earth
        Darkness and water attended my birth
        Softly and slowly extended in time
        Name me and know me, solving this rhyme

Answer: Stalactites and stalagmites.

#18 from Eric S. Raymond, <esr@thyrsus.com>, 28 Dec 2004

Riddle: I bear the name of clansmen proud and free
        My saw-edged teeth cut better than a tear
        From me you take a binding hard to see
        I spin around a hub that isn't there

Answer: A scotch-tape dispenser.

#19 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 9 Jul 2008

Riddle: I carry keys that cannot turn
        To ever open any door
        Or hidden hoard: yet handled well,
        I'll help you hunt the whole world o'er.

Answer: Keyboard of a computer.

#20 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 9 Jul 2008

Riddle: My land is lightless, locked within
        A stand of sturdy, stony walls.
        Yet soon I sail a salty tide
        To help my host when harm befalls.

Answer: Leukocytes (white blood-cells) emerging
from the bone-marrow into the bloodstream to fight infection.

#21 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 9 Jul 2008

Riddle: The more I am clever, the more I am good,
        The more, as a rule, I am misunderstood.

Answer: A riddle.

#22 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 10 Jul 2008

Riddle: My kiss is cold. I come to you
        To seek and send a signal clear.
        A buried beatbox booming hard
        Provides reverb, the vibes I hear.

Answer: A stethoscope.

#23 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 10 Jul 2008

Riddle: I have one hand, one head, four feet,
        A tail, some teeth to tear my meat.
        Three bands I've been in: busted two.
        Now, is my name yet known to you?
Answer: The Fenris wolf. Two of the three
attempts to bind him failed.

#24 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 16 Jul 2008

Riddle: See them stand, then seated:
        Skunked and flunked, defeated —
        Hard each word, and wearing:
        Hopes like ropes are tearing --
        Shock as for a sharp stake,
        Shaft abaft from namesake.
Answer: Losers at a spelling bee

#25 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 16 Jul 2008

Riddle: Found in winding fetters,
        Four my lore's sole letters.
        Batching, matching, mending,
        Building, bending, ending.
Answer: DNA

#26 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com>, 16 Jul 2008

Riddle: We see and scent. You saunter by.
        Your eye may mark, your mind ignore
        What look like bumps on logs afloat.
        We crave a crunchy treat from shore.

Answer: Alligators waiting for a careless traveler.

#27 from Eric S. Raymond, <esr@thyrsus.com>, 21 Sep 2010

Riddle:I slip the bonds of earth and travel higher
        Fragile, bright, and vast I greet the day
        I roar like a dragon hoarding fire
        Then silent as a whisper drift away

Answer: A hot-air balloon.

#28 from Contrapuntal Platypus 

Riddle: Dipping, glinting, gliding by,
        Rainbow-fretted, wrought of breath.
        I live only while I fly -
        Earth's rough kiss my sudden death.

Answer: Soap bubbles blown into the air.

#29 from Kate Gladstone <handwritingrepair@gmail.com> & ESR, 22 Oct 2010

Riddle:Standing taller / than the stature of men.
         We feared no blade / forged of metal,
         till handled well / by our hapless brother
         who died ere dealing / deadly wounds.

Answer: Trees -- which would not be endangered by
any ax or saw without a handle to wield it by (and the first ax/saw
handles were made of wood)

This space is for you to fill!

Other Riddle-Poem Resources

Other cultures have riddle-poem traditions that are less well preserved than the Scandinavian one, or at least less translated into English. I have found one page of Lithuanian riddles, for example.

The Contrapuntal Platypus has a Treasury of Riddles page, in a style similar to that described here.

Sherri Johnson has a Riddles page with many tasty (and difficult) examples of the riddle poem from different cultures.