Riddles composed by prisoners who went free because no one could solve their riddles.
Duncan Williamson heard Bessie tell these riddles. He explains that in the olden days if a prisoner could make up a riddle that no one could solve he could go free.
As I went out and in again,
Out of the dead life did come,
Six there are and seven there'll be.
That riddle will get me free.
Answer: a blue tit had made a nest on a deer's head mounted on a wall, and there were six young birds and one egg in the nest.
A man had a prize mare which was in foal. The mare took sick, and could not be saved, but the man cut the foal out. It grew into a fine filly. The man was put in prison for some wrongdoing. He got his daughter to bring him some oak leaves, some earth, and his whip. He then told this riddle to free himself: "Upon oak leaves I stand, under the earth I am, I could ride on a filly that never was foaled, and I carry the dead in my hand." No one could guess the riddle and the man went free. He had put the oak leaves in his boots and the earth under his bonnet, and his whip was made from the skin of the dead mare.
A prisoner was too weak to compose a riddle to save himself because he had not been allowed any food. His daughter composed a riddle: "Last night I was a maid, tonight I am a mother, / I give suck to the babe that was a father to my brother." No one could guess the answer, which was that the daughter, who had just had a baby, gave her father her breast to suck to save him from starving to death.