I have a riddle but no answer

I asked where to put this thread and it was recommended that I place it here in Thread Games. Mods,
if it’s the wrong place please move it.

I came across this riddle a long time ago, wracked my brain for a while and forgot about it. It recently came to mind again and I’m still stumped. Can anyone here on SDMB figure it out?

A king sentenced a man to death. The king ordered the guards to arrest the man and place him in an empty room with no windows and give a pigeon to him. The king ordered the guards to kill the man in the same way the man killed the bird. If the bird starves to death, the man will be starved to death. Days later the man killed the pigeon in a way that the guards could not kill the man. How did the man kill the bird and save himself?

With all apologies to animal lovers, how did he kill the bird?

  1. He broke the bird’s wings.
  2. He forced the bird to fly and wouldn’t let it land, causing it to die of exhaustion in mid-air.

I have heard both of these answers, but I prefer the latter to the former.

Maybe he fed it something that is poisonous to birds. There are plenty of things that are generally fine for humans to eat that are poisonous to birds.

As an added bonus, he gets food.

I was thinking swallowed live, but that could be a tad difficult with a pigeon.

I’m sure the originator of the above solutions would reject them all. The room was empty. No food to poison the bird. Breaking wings would be analogous to breaking arms and flying till exhaustion would be the same as running till death a la marathon.
What I expect is one of those solutions that make you slap your head and say Oh yeah! It’s so obvious! Why didn’t I think of that! I’m just hoping there is someone here on the SDMB who has heard this one before and knows the definitive answer. :crossed_fingers:

Depending on how literally the instructions are taken: bit its head off? I mean, he can’t very well bite his own head off, right? For that matter, neither could one of the guards…

He rolled over on top of it in his sleep and crushed it, killing it by accident.

Sure – the guards could then crush the prisoner beneath stones or something, but in that case it would be a planned event and not an accident, so he would technically not be dying in the same way.


Well damn. I’ve actually done this and still didn’t get it.

He freed it by letting it fly out of the chimney and live out its life.

The riddle says there are no windows - it doesn’t say anything about there not being any other outlets. He “killed” it in that all things must eventually die but the means of its death are now up to chance rather than being in his own hands, thus the way it will die is unknowable and the guards cannot kill him.

Too bad he can’t take the pigeon out to the park, and set it down next to Tom Lehrer.

Ask for an Alka-Seltzer and feed it to the pigeon. The pigeon explodes, while the prisoner gets cured of his tummy ache.

The pigeon/gull thing about alka-seltzer is a myth.

Hannibal Lecter style, he spoke to the pigeon and convinced it to commit suicide.

Give the bird 14 k of g in a f p d.

Ask to be injected with Avian Paramyxovirus. It kills pigeons, but only causes mild flu-like symptoms in humans.

That was also my first thought, and while it would be difficult with a pigeon, it would be much more difficult with a human.

The man looked at the pigeon to see what he saw. The man took the saw and cut the pigeon in half. Two halves make a whole. The man took the hole and escaped through the wall.*

*OK. Doesn’t work in print quite so well.

Everybody here is approaching this riddle using logic. You don’t solve riddles using logic. Solving riddles involves reinterpreting the question, decoding a pun, or ignoring a red herring, among other strategies.

For example:
Q: Why does a fire fighter for a red suspenders?
A: To keep their pants up.

Q: Where does a king keep his armies?
A: In his sleevies.

Q: How do you recognize a dogwood tree?
A: By it’s bark.

Q: Railroad crossing be aware of the cars. Can you spell that without any r’s?
A: T-H-A-T

Two prominent solutions offered here are letting it escape to die of old age or feeding it something which is fatal to pigeons but safe for humans. However, both approaches violate the condition of a sealed room.

Here is a solution that, while also not a valid answer, demonstrates the kind of “outside the box thinking” that I’m suggesting.
The prisoner puts the pigeon on a stool so it becomes a stool pigeon. Then it will get a reduced sentence.

There is only one response which demonstrates the lateral thinking I’m talking about.

It’s clever, but doesn’t fulfill the requirement that the prisoner kills the bird in a way that the guards cannot do to him. IMHO, close but no cigar.

PS: There was a thread on Reddit on the same riddle about two years ago with the same logical-but-unsatisfying answers.

Ah, but did I mention that at the end he yelled himself hoarse and rode away on the horse?

But that’s not really lateral thinking puzzles. Lateral thinking puzzles aren’t supposed to involve changing the meanings of the situation. The whole point is that they the situations are actually possible. It’s not possible to change a pigeon into a stool, or to create a saw out of thin air.

If this riddle involves creating a pun, we’ve gotten outside the realm of lateral thinking into “What was the author thinking?”.

(Also, I’m guessing the response with the saw was a joke, because it’s a modification of the answer to an old riddle involving a room with no exits and only a mirror and a table. (It never really explains how you got into a room with no exits in the first place, though. Probably because it’s not a lateral thinking puzzle and doesn’t have to involve a plausible situation.))