Bit of a strange one this week.

Imagine that you have been captured and suspended in a tree. The rope is anchored on the ground and a candle is slowly burning through the rope. Worse still, there is a hungry lion waiting for you to drop to the ground so that he can eat you. You don’t have the energy to flip up and untie the rope, reach up to the branch or even swing over to the trunk. Help is on the way, but it is going to take an hour to get to you, and the candle will have burnt through the rope by then. What can you do to prevent yourself being eaten by the lion?

I warn you now, it is a strange puzzle. I have used it a few times in public and the answer has an interesting effect on people. Half of them seem to love it and the other half are furious.


The answer to this puzzle, and 100 others,Ā  can be found in a new kindle ebook called PUZZLED, and is available in the UK here and USA here.


  1. I can think of a couple potential answers to the problem, some more satisfying than others.

    It would be nice to talk about some of them though, especially on puzzles like this which are admittedly strange. That leads me to think the answer requires some lateral thinking, which is best done with a discussion.

    Perhaps on some future puzzles the warning could read “feel free to discuss your solutions in the comments, but beware of spoilers!”

  2. Can we assume that the diagram accurately represents the situation? For example, I am not suspended in a cage affixed to the tree, above a big branch, or able to blow out the candle/make it rain?

  3. I can think of at least two fairly realistic but rather boring solutions, but they do rely somewhat upon unspecified details of the situation: the angle of the rope, the distance to the candle, your clothing, your level of hydration, etc.

  4. First update Twitter on your situation. Then call your friends and family to say farewell, in case you die. Finally put Planet Caravan on repeat and hope the lion drowses off.

  5. I’ve heard this puzzle before and the actual solution is not a real answer. If you were really in that scenario, the solution wouldn’t save your life. It is a silly joke type of answer where you have to extinguish the candle’s flame.

  6. I’ve seen this one before. Whether you end up in the “Love it” or “furious” category is directly related to how long you spend trying to work it out.

    My several hours of sheer and ultimately fruitless effort, put me firmly in the latter category.

  7. Sage,
    I like that line of thinking, but I don’t think you’re that accurate, especially upsidedown.

    I got an answer straight away, but I probably don’t have enough energy to do that either.

    By the way, is the aim to not be eaten at all by the lion ? Or just not to be eaten to death ?

  8. how far is the candle from my penis?
    maybe I can piss on it…
    or on a lion… he doesn’t know scent of my piss…
    I don’t speak english so sorry…croat šŸ™‚
    or U can sving to reach the rope that goes to the candle…make a knot…and when candle burns the rope U don’t care…you are tied to the tree with a knot

  9. I once got a Christmas card from a friend that read “I will not be sending cards this year; but if I did, they would look like this”. In a similar vein, the following solutions would hardly infuriate half the people, so they cannot be correct, and so I can publish them:

    – The poor shlubb has a can of lion poison in his pocket.
    – He has a friend with a lion gun hiding behind the tree.
    – A poisonous snake has bitten the lion, who is about to keel over.

    Can one assume anything that has not been precluded? Parallel Universes? Escherian Self Reference? Hallucinogens? Obviously, I have not grasped the complete rules for thinking outside the box. I can stay rational and end up too narrow-minded, or I can go over the top and look stupid. Or both.

  10. I heard a joke about this situation.

    A catholic priest was about to be eaten by a lion when he asked God to save him by bringing the Christianity to the lion.
    Suddenly, a bean of light stroked the lion. Then, the lion stopped, put his paws together and said:
    – Thank you Lord for the meal I’m about to eat.

  11. I’m a male in the category that hate the answer. I suspect women may love the answer. As expected, the harder you think about the solution, the more annoyed you will be once you are told the answer.

    How about the candle being in a cat litter tray so the lion can pee on it?

  12. Wait for the candle to burn through the rope, hit the ground, grab the slack, strangle the lion.

    I eagerly await the non-Rambo solution.

  13. I came up with an answer and then challenged by Hubbie who also came up with one. Then I googled it and found the real answer (yeah, yeah impatient, but at least I played first). Since neither are right, I think I’m okay to post. Mine was to grab the slack of the rope and use it like a whip to play “Lion Tamer” and scare the Lion away. Hubbie’s was to land and play dead figuring the Lion would ignore you. The real answer just made us both groan of course . . . šŸ˜‰

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