Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for the Sphinx's Riddle

The Sphinx's Riddle was one of my favorite parts of the third task in the Triwizard Tournament. Harry describes the sphinx as an extraordinary creature that he had only seen in books, which is ironic since the sphinx is omitted from the movie version of The Goblet of Fire, making our only exposure to the beautiful creature in the book as well.
It had the body of an over-large lion: great clawed paws and a long yellowish tail ending in a brown tuft.  Its head, however, was that of a woman.  She turned her long, almond-shaped eyes upon Harry as he approached.  He raised his wand, hesitating.  She was not crouching as if to spring, but pacing from side to side of the path, blocking his progress. (628)
Then, the sphinx presents her riddle.  It's the third and final riddle of the Harry Potter series: the first being the potion riddle that Hermione solves at the end of The Sorcerer's Stone, and the second being the riddle of the merpeople, the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. The riddle is elegantly phrased and easily solvable:

"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 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?" (629)

I'll give you a second to ponder the puzzle if you haven't read the books, or don't recall the answer.

I say it's easily solvable because looking at it afterwords, I assume I could've gotten as far as "spy" "d", though "er" isn't really used in the U.S. for a hard-to-find word...I think of that as more of an "uh" or "um".  Unfortunately, my first read through I was too quick to keep reading and didn't take the time to see if I could figure it out.

The answer is: A spider!

"The sphinx smiled broadly. She got up, stretched her front legs, and then moved aside for him to pass" (630).

Join me tomorrow in my A to Z Challenge: T is for Time Turner


  1. There was so much left out of the fourth movie, it was kind of crazy. Instead, they wasted a ton of screen time having Harry chased all over the grounds by a dragon--something that wasn't even IN the book (why the screenwriter went so far afield from the themes and premise of the book is a total mystery to me. Of all the adaptations, Goblet is the worst). It is a shame the sphinx was eliminated. She would have been cool to see.

    1. Yeah I agree - I don't know why they would make something new up when there was so much already there that they left out...

  2. I love that all your posts for the A to Z challenge are about Harry Potter! This "S" post is excellent! It is a pity they omitted this from the film--I am now thinking a re-reading of the books are in order for me sometime in the near future...I'm looking forward to following your blog!

    1. I really enjoyed it in the book and would've loved to see it on-screen! Definitely worth a re-read :)

  3. I had forgotten about the Sphinx, but I did figure out the "spider." There were a lot of things in the movies that were different from the book. I wish they had made more two-part movies to allow more of the stories to be told, rather than paring the stories down and/or changing parts completely to fit into a shorter time frame.

    1. I was most upset about them cutting Dudley and Harry's conversation at the beginning of The Deathly Hallows. It was a great character development moment for Dudley (admittedly right before he leaves the series), but I still thought it was a pretty important part.

  4. I had forgotten about this Sphinx part completely. Loved you post.

    - Kripali
    (AJ's wHooligans)

    1. Thank you! I'm trying to do a mix of well known pieces that readers might want to learn more about and not-so-well-known parts, like the Sphinx! :)

  5. Hi there - Nice post and really nice blog. Good luck with the rest of the A - Z Challenge! :)