Now riddles, as many of you probably know, have been an essential part of stories for a long time. They had riddles back when people wore nothing but crazy sheets called "togas." Riddles are an important part of many stories about adventure, where figuring out an important clue is enough to get the hero the treasure.
Now, trolls are not supposed to be very smart or clever, and most of them are really bad at riddles, but not this troll. This troll, however, was the troll state riddle champion. (I'm not sure why trolls had a championship for riddles, or even that they had a state. I'm sure someone will come along and talk about it in some other book.) And, as the state's top troll riddler, he loved them.
"Alright," he said, "We'll go by standard rules. I'll go first."
He grinned, showing massive, crooked teeth.
"What is something you own, that other people use more than you?"
Madeline knew that one. "Easy," she said, "my name. What is something you can ask all day long and get a different answer every time?"
The troll chuckled, "What time is it? What is something that has to be broken before it can be used?"
Madeline knew this one, "An egg. If a rooster laid a brown egg and a white egg, what kind of chicks would hatch?"
The troll didn't even need to think, "Roosters don't lay eggs. There is a house, and all four sides face south. A bear walks by. What color is it?"
Madeline heard this one before, "The house is at the North Pole, so the bear is a polar bear. It's white!"
And they went on like this for some time. Each one trying to get the better of the other, and each one eventually failing. The animals nearby, who weren't used to having something so extraordinary happen on a Wednesday, started crowding around, watching to see what would happen next.
Madeline was having a great time, but the troll was getting more and more frustrated. A human wasn't supposed to be this good at riddles, let alone a child! Something had to be done. Finally, he tried something devious. He knew a question which was supposed to be impossible. He would use this one, and that would show this girl who was boss. so he asked, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
This made Madeline stop. The forest grew quiet as if all of the animals and the trees were leaning in to try to find out what Madeline would say next. Could this be the question that finally ends this contest? Was Madeline doomed to become the troll's next meal?
She thought for a minute, and then she suddenly remembered that riddle and where it came from. It was from the old book "Alice in Wonderland," and it didn't have an answer.
She stared at the troll for a long time. The nearby animals thought she had lost, Roderick was afraid on her behalf, and Handsome, well, he just sat there.
"Well," he said, "I'm waiting. Do you really not know the answer to that question."
Madeline clenched her teeth. This troll was trying to cheat her. Of all of the offensive, destructive things in the world, cheating at a riddle contest was just plain wrong. She stomped her foot and said, "That's cheating."
The troll just laughed at this. "Little girl," he said, "if you don't have an answer to the question, just say so, and I'll be sure to gobble you down in one gulp. That shouldn't be too painful."
Madeline had the look of pure anger. You could see it in her eyes, you could feel it in the air around her. She shouted at the smug troll, "That's cheating! That riddle doesn't have an answer."
The troll pretended to be hurt and said, "That is not true! It definitely has an answer!"
Madeline, more angry about being cheated than possibly being eaten, said, "Then you need to prove it."
The troll smiled. This time it was a broad smile, hideous in a way only a mother could love. "The answer is: Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!" Then he let out a long and self-satisfied chuckle. He then went to grab for Madeline, believing he had won the contest, but Madeline had other ideas.
"But, my dear troll, there is a problem with your answer. I would think it obvious, but your answer doesn't match your question. Your answer talks about how they are alike, not why they are this way."