Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Riddle-me-Ree No. 1

Roses 1The Handel Rose (yellow), Paul’s Scarlet (red) and Mary Rose (pink) are all positively flourishing in our garden right now, only slightly battered by this week’s heavy showers. They made me think about  roses as my theme for this week’s blog. Or how about eyes?  I’ve seen several lively pairs of eyes in recent comings and goings that started me trying to identify what was so appealing about them.

Yesterday, I got my answer: when walking down the back of Whitehall, two stories popped into my mind. One was about roses, the other about eyes. And several links between them became immediately clear. Both I first heard from other storytellers. Both are great for telling to older children or adults. Both have a riddling aspect. Suddenly it was obvious what I should do. This week, I’ll give you roses. Next week, eyes.


Roses 2An elderly gardener and his wife live in contentment in a cottage at the back of the gardens where the old man works. One day, his wife disappears. The old man is beside himself with worry. He can’t find her anywhere and she doesn’t return – not until nightfall some days later.

The wife tells her husband she cannot stay.  She’ll have to leave at dawn in the morning. For a wicked spell has been cast upon her. Under it, she’s been turned into a rose and if it’s discovered that she’s escaped even briefly, she’ll never succeed in escaping again. There’s just one way, the wife continues, in which her husband can save her.

In the morning, after she’s gone, he must go out into the gardens. When he gets to the rose-bed, he must look carefully at all the roses until he can pick out the one that is her. Only if he can identify the rose that is her will she be able to come back permanently.

Well, the next morning early, the gardener goes out. He studies the roses. And of course he succeeds in picking her out. 

Roses 3The question

But how does he do it? You may know the answer already. If not, I’ll tell it to you next week.

Meantime, do share your own suggested answer by writing it into the Comment box at the end of this posting and don’t forget to press Send. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. It would just be fun to know what you think.

So riddle-me-rose! And see you next week when, as well as the answer to Riddle-me-Rose, I’ll tell you a riddling tale about eyes.

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14 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Riddle-me-Ree No. 1”

  1. Liz Richards Says:

    Hi Mary.
    Very interesting blog about the roses, one of my favourite flowers,
    I would say that the husband knew which rose was his wife by looking right into the eye of the rose as this is where you see the soul of that person

  2. admin Says:

    Hi Liz, what a beautiful answer to Riddle-me-Rose. Next week, as promised, I’ll declare the answer as I heard it when I first heard the story. But in truth I think all answers such as yours are right.xxMary

  3. Jean Says:

    i always look forward to your blog Mary – ah now maybe it’s the perfume of the rose that tells him – only this one so sweet bringing back a lifetime of happy memories – this one is his wife.
    Thank you Mary xx Jean

  4. admin Says:

    Jean – and I always love writing my blog knowing that there are regular readers like yourself. Somehow it feels like an essential part of storytelling, live or written, that there’s someone listening. Perfume is evocative and perfume lingers – thanks so much for the thought about the lifetime of happy memories.

  5. Annalee Curran Says:

    What a delightful story to echo the beauty we are seeing in gardens right now! I don’t know the answer to the riddle. But I am just wondering if the gardener recognized his wife because she was wearing a name tag??

    Annalee xxx

  6. admin Says:

    Annalee, I love your idea about the name tag. And of course – for that’s the way it goes with stories – your idea has reminded me of another story which I’ve now going to have to put into my next blog this coming Saturday. Thanks for your lovely reply.

  7. Karen Tovell Says:

    Well. dear Mary, at first I thought it was that he knew how exceptionally modest and virtuous his wife was, and how very many petticoats she wore under her frock – so he counted which rose still retained ALL its petals when the other roses had already begun to drop theirs. However, I now think that the clue is in the final sentence where you write ‘the next morning early’. The husband has gone out early and observed the fresh dewdrops on all the roses, however he sees one rose that has many more drops of dew on its petals than the others, and as he peers more closely he identifies that they are in fact not fresh morning dew, but rather the glistening teardrops of a loving wife parted from her loyal husband. Let’s hope now that the two of them get get back together again!

  8. admin Says:

    Karen, I just love your idea of the many petticoats worn under the frock. It makes me think of various varieties of rose in a new light while also reminding me of those lacy-edged undergarments our female forebears used to wear. And then of course, there’s your brilliant idea about the dewdrops. I have enjoyed thinking about this, that in fact they are glistening teardrops. How wonderfully ideas emerge and transform. Thank you.

  9. claire orme Says:

    I like this tale, Mary. My answer is prosaic and does not do justice to the story. The gardener’ s wife is turned into a new rose, so the eagle eye of the gardener spies this enchanting specimen instantly. It is, of course, the most beautiful and sweet smelling in the garden.

  10. admin Says:

    Claire, Your answer makes me realise that gardeners do have, must have, eagle eyes. They see the plants in need of care and attention, the friendly robin hopping about almost under their feet and the new and wonderful growth. So of course this gardener notices the enchanting new rose. Thanks so much for replying.

  11. sal Says:

    Lovely posting, Mary. And as often happens with riddles, they inspire such creative thinking,I enjoyed the answers…. I agree with Jean, it’s her fragrance that he recognises. Keep on blogging, Mary.
    Sal x x x

  12. admin Says:

    Sal, great to hear from you. Love of creative thinking is what we share. Thanks.

  13. Lorenzo Says:

    Well, Mary, I’ll go with Jean. Juliet’s quip in Shakespeare’s inspired writing about a rose by any other name smelling as sweet can be turned around. We don’t know the wife’s name, perhaps its Rose, but by any name the husband can identify his wife because to him her fragrance is unique in its sweetness. And those roses in the photos (which I know only too well) add another layer of beauty to your story. Thanks for making my morning memorable.


  14. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Lorenzo, I like the very apt Shakespeare reference and I’m so glad you remember the roses in our garden. We’re not very constant gardeners as you know but we get by! An abundance of perfume emanates from the veritable rose-bed of Comments this week, to which you have added so kindly. My thanks.

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