Published in November 2019 by L’Asiathéque – Maison des Langues du Monde (World Languages Publishing), “108 devinettes du Tibet”, is a French language publication, a collection of 108 Tibetan riddles from Françoise Robin and Véronique Gossot with illustrations by Sènga la Rouge.
From the L’Asiathéque website:
Here is how Sangmo Kyi remembers playing riddles in Tibet:
I was born in the early eighties in the Mangra district, which is part of Chabcha. At that time, even though we didn’t have the fascinating toys that children have nowadays, we had all sorts of games suited to our country and our time, which meant my childhood was very rich with laughter and joy. Here is the memory that I still have from it, an unforgettable motif engraved in my mind.
My brothers and sisters and I were educated in the county town where our whole family lived most of the time, but during the summer and winter holidays, we would all go out to the rural area where my mother and father were from. We would spend our holidays there with the family, mainly with our grandparents. My strongest memory from that time is when, in the evenings after dinner, the children from the neighbouring tents came at one family’s home to spend the night together; by the light of the moon and under the stars, we welcomed the night by telling stories and giving each other riddles. For example, after all the eldest members of the family had gone to bed, the children would split into two teams and, taking it in turns, they delighted in giving each other riddles; the whole group split equally into two parts and started to play:
“So, ‘A dog backed up against a wall, his tail along the wall’, what do you guess? If you guess it, a riddle. If you don’t guess, a family.”
“Umm… It’s an oven. Ok… ‘A white plain. Black sheep. The shepherd sings.’ What’s your guess? If you guess it, a riddle, if you don’t guess, a family.
“Umm… I can’t guess. I give you the family of Uncle Nyima.”
(When a family was given, we had the custom of starting by giving a family from the community who was disreputable, or else whom no one thought much of).
“I don’t want Uncle Nyima’s family, I don’t want it…”
“You won’t get another one… No, no… ha ha ha!”
“Ok then, ‘A sheep with four legs who doesn’t know how to walk.’ What’s your guess? If you guess it, a riddle. If you don’t guess, a family.”
“Umm… I can’t guess. I give you back the family of Uncle Nyima. Ha ha ha!”
In this way we won and gave out families. When one of the teams had run out of its first lot, one of its members, representing the team, sang a song as a forfeit, and if he didn’t know how to sing, he had to imitate a cockerel or a donkey.
Then, if we still hadn’t gone to sleep, an older person or even one of the teenagers told us a story, and everyone fell asleep.
When we returned to the county town, the holidays over, we would get a bit bored. The neighbours there weren’t as friendly with each other as they were in the countryside or in the pastureland, and even if lots of children had wanted to spend the night all together at one family’s house, the smallness of the rooms and the scarcity of people who knew how to tell stories would have made it difficult.
(Translation by Bridget Ochocka)
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