Riddles of the Sphinx

The Sphinx is an iconic image of Ancient Egypt; half-lion and half human, it waits in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza, a guardian of their secrets throughout the centuries. While that particular specimen bears the head of a Pharaoh (a human headed sphinx known as an Androsphinx), the Egyptian Sphinx can take other forms as well; Criosphinxes have the head of a ram, and  Hieracosphinxes have the head of a falcon.

Sphinxes

The figure of the Sphinx was inspiring, so much so that Greeks borrowed its image for their own mythological lore. The Greek Sphinx had some minor adaptions; they gave it female form and added the wings of an eagle to its back, but they acknowledged and retained its foreign origins in many of the stories. According to legends the creature came from Aethopia and was brought over by Hera (or Ares, Hades, or Dionysus depending on the version) to Thebes as a punishment to the local people. The Sphinx terrorized the people of Thebes; she asked all those that passed by her a riddle; those that were unable to solve it would be strangled and devoured (the word Sphinx is actually a Greek word, and is believed to come from the root sphingo – to squeeze). Eventually Oedipus came along and famously solved the Sphinx’s riddle; having been outwitted, she hurled herself to her death.

So what was the Sphinx’s riddle? We have compiled the original riddle from Oedipus Rex, as well as a lesser know second riddle and a few modern adaptations of the riddling Sphinx for you to try. Answers can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the page. Good luck!

The Sphinx’s Riddle from Oedipus Rex:

‘What is it that has one voice, and is four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”

and the lesser know second riddle from some later versions:

“There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?” 

The Sphinx’s Riddle from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

‘First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what’s always the last thing to mend,
The middle of middle and end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard
During the search for a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?’

The Sphinx’s Riddle from the 2016 film Gods of Egypt

“I never was, am always to be. No one ever saw me, nor ever will, and yet, I am the confidence of all who live and breathe. What am I?”

********Scroll down for Answers********
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‘What is it that has one voice, and is four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?”  Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then uses a walking stick in old age

“There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?” Day and Night – both could be seen as the embodied feminine.

‘First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what’s always the last thing to mend,
The middle of middle and end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard
During the search for a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?’ 
A Spider – (Spy-d-er) Spy is person who lives in disguise, D is in the middle of middle and at the end of end, Er is the sound you utter when searching for a word

“I never was, am always to be. No one ever saw me, nor ever will, and yet, I am the confidence of all who live and breathe. What am I?” Tomorrow – tomorrow is always in the future.
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