I was reading The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin to my kids when I hit the first riddle Nutkin poses to Old Owl:
Riddle me, riddle me, rot-tot-tote!
A little wee man, in a red red coat!
A staff in his hand, and a stone in his throat;
If you’ll tell me this riddle, I’ll give you a groat.
Hmmmm…. Uhm…. What’s Nutkin talking about? I riddled my husband and father, neither of whom knew the answer. I also riddled Google who returned me copies of the text online, but no solutions. After spending a ridiculous amount of the day thinking about it I realized I was over-thinking it. So I calmed myself down a bit and re-thunked it… A cherry!
I started to write this blog post for all the other poor souls who read this book and don’t know the answers to the riddles when my husband noticed that the answers are printed somewhere on each page in italics. He realized this when I told him that I thought cherry was the answer to the first riddle. Doh! Well, I’ll write this post anyways and say what I thought the answer was and whether it was correct or not. Sort of like a 2010 interpretation of a 1903 riddle.
Feel free to comment if you have other possible solutions….
Old Mr. B! Riddle-me-ree!
Hitty Pitty within the wall,
Hitty Pitty without the wall;
If you touch Hitty Pitty,
Hitty Pitty will bite you!
I’m thinking Hitty Pitty is a mouse… According to Potter, Hitty Pitty is a nettle. Intriguing… How does a nettle get within the wall? Maybe as soup?
A house full, a hole full!
And you cannot gather a bowl-full!
My husband originally thought this was air… But the correct answer is smoke!
Old Mr. B! riddle-me-ree
Flour of England, fruit of Spain,
Met together in a shower of rain;
Put in a bag tied round with a string,
If you tell me this riddle, I’ll give you a ring!
I guessed that this was the fleur-de-lis. I interpreted “flour” of England more like “flower” and thought the bag tied round with a string might be a shield with a fleur-de-lis on it. Spain has such a coat-of-arms, which is why it’s Spain’s fruit. I admit I had to Google this to see if what I was saying is true. But it appears Potter has a much simpler answer: plum-pudding.
Hum-a-bum! buzz! buzz! Hum-a-bum buzz!
As I went over Tipple-tine
I met a flock of bonny swine;
Some yellow-nacked, some yellow backed!
They were the bonniest swine
That e’er went over Tipple-tine.
Could this be bumble bees? Yup!
Humpty Dumpty lies in the beck,
With a white counterpane round his neck,
Forty doctors and forty wrights,
Cannot put Humpty Dumpty to rights!
This is obviously an egg! Humpty Dumpty’s poem is as popular today as it was in 1903.
Arthur O’Bower has broken his band,
He comes roaring up the land!
The King of Scots with all his power,
Cannot turn Arthur of the Bower!
I guess: the tide? According to the book the answer is: the wind. Close enough! The tide comes roaring ashore as well…
Old Mr. B! Old Mr. B!
Hickamore, Hackamore, on the King’s kitchen door;
All the King’s horses, and all the King’s men,
Couldn’t drive Hickamore, Hackamore,
Off the King’s kitchen door.
Termites? Nope, apparently the answer is sunbeam. But couldn’t the King’s men block the sunlight with a towel? Termites are much harder to drive away – especially back in 1903!