The opera "Turandot" features an Asian princess who many men wish to marry. However, if they wish to do so, they must answer three riddles correctly. Failure to do so leads to death. No man can answer the three riddles correct until Calaf appears.
Turandot is so beautiful that many men long to be with her. Though the penalty for failure is death, many men risk their lives to marry her. Calaf's father begs his son not to accept Turandot's challenge, but he does so.
The first riddle is "What is born each night and dies at dawn?" When I first heard this riddle, I thought of the moon. It appears at night and disappears during the day. But this is not the answer Turandot seeks. It is "hope."
The answer to this riddle does not seem obvious. Perhaps hope appears at night when one goes to bed and then dreams but it could just as easily appear during the day and die at night. In addition, one could argue that hope never dies but is always present.
The second riddle is "What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not fire?" The answer is "blood." Blood is red and warm like a flame but it does not flicker. The definition seems inaccurate. A big difference between fire and blood is that fire is a gas and blood is a liquid. Had Turandot asked "What is like fire and water?," the riddle would have been more accurate. Blood is red and warm like fire and it is a liquid that flows like water.
The third riddle is "What is like ice yet burns?" The answer is "Turandot." The riddle implies that Turandot is cold. She is a cruel ruler who rejects love. At the same time, she burns because she is a woman filled with anger and has warm blood flowing through her veins. The problem with this riddle is that many answers are possible. Besides Turandot, many others could satisfy the definition. However, the key is to give the answer that Turandot wants and that is written on her ministers' scrolls.
The answers to the rules of Turandot are not wholly satisfactory. Nevertheless, Turandot does not care because it is her intention to make them so difficult that no man can solve them and thus claim the right to marry her. Prince Calaf's ability to solve the three riddles astounds not only the princess but all the citizens of her kingdom.
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