An old man and his mute niece always wanted to visit some beautiful tropical island.

"Before my sight leaves me, I want to see how a real palm looks like!", said the old man. He was lying. His sight had already left him, and he could still see silhouettes and shadows, but communication in sign language with his niece was getting more and more complicated.

Nevertheless, they decided to go.

They left on a small boat, one of those tourist trips on a sailboat. There were 10 people on the boat, including them.

They were approaching a very nice archipelago when it began.

A storm, a powerful one, overturned the boat, leaving the crew in the ocean to struggle for life. The niece, although chubby and weak, managed to rescue her grandfather and reach a deserted little island in the archipelago with other 3 people. The sea halved them, but still there was hope.

Days passed with very low food. Our two tourists were weak and hungry and only a little water supply was available. After a week one of the man said that he would begin to hunt for seagulls, of which the island had a lot. The old man only saw a big black cloud talking, the salt and sand had only worsen his sight, and, beaten by hunger, promptly said "Yes...please...".

Apparently, the hunter was a very good one. Finally they could eat something, and could also eat it cooked since a fire was lit up by one of the survivors.

A few other days passed. The seagulls were manna for them, but not enough to give them strength to move. All the day the old man sat beneath a palm thinking "This is not how I wanted to see them...".

Suddenly a great "WOO" echoed in the archipelago. A cruise ship. A cruise ship! They waved vigorously, everyone beside the old man, he was too weak. The ship arrived and collected them all.

"We are safe!" thought the old man. Then, with his heart in peace, he fell asleep, only to wake up in the medical wing of the ship.

"Come, my friend, it's time for you to eat something good!" said the captain. They went to the restaurant and the old man couldn't believe his eyes and almost cried to the signboard at the entry:


"Well, at least it will be well cooked," he thought. He cut the meat and tried it. A tear slipped on his cheek. He stood up and went to the deck of the ship. He climbed over the railing and jumped off the ship, giving to the sea another victim.

Why did the old man commit suicide?

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this riddle long on purpose. I think an interesting story behind enhances the fun.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ This is similar to another one on this site (can't find the link). Don't want to say the answer in a comment without a spoiler tag; let's just say the cruise ship is serving proper seagull meat - none of that cheap stuff. $\endgroup$ – Nigel Ellis Nov 7 '14 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think the other question has been deleted. I searched for salmon but didn't find it. $\endgroup$ – Kate Gregory Nov 7 '14 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ ...was the old man deaf or blind? If he was blind, why was his niece using sign language? $\endgroup$ – generalcrispy Nov 7 '14 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ This is a variation of the albatross soup problem. These are considered situation riddles, and had you not posted the backstory (which is supposed to be deduced through closed-ended questions), it may not have been suitable for this site. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Nov 7 '14 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ Nice story by the way. $\endgroup$ – EJC Nov 7 '14 at 20:37

13 Answers 13


Because he was eating what had been termed seagull meat on the island, when in fact he was eating the flesh of the dead. He realized he was a cannabal then, because now was the true "seagull meat".

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    $\begingroup$ There's no evidence that says he ate dead people. $\endgroup$ – warspyking Nov 7 '14 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ that's why the solution isn't easy to figure out ... $\endgroup$ – user428517 Nov 7 '14 at 23:46

The old man was supposed to be practically blind by now. However:

the old man couldn't believe his eyes and almost cried to the signboard at the entry: TODAY SPECIAL: SEAGULL MEAT!

He can suddenly read, which means that during the stay on the island his eyesight was somehow cured. Apparently, seagul meat (or human flesh, when the other answers are also right) was the remedy for his condition.

He went outside and saw the palms on the island nearby. He had now fulfilled his live goal of seeing a palm tree and was able to die in peace.

  • $\begingroup$ For the purposes of the riddle, it's immaterial. Pretend he was told what was on the menu by a fellow passenger or the cook. $\endgroup$ – PopularIsn'tRight Nov 7 '14 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Bachrach44 says who? $\endgroup$ – Philipp Nov 7 '14 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ The answer is above in a spoiler tag if you're curious. I've heard this one before (although admittedly it was a much shorter version). $\endgroup$ – PopularIsn'tRight Nov 7 '14 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Bachrach44 "For the purposes of the riddle" - that makes undue assumptions about the intended answer of this particular riddle $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 8 '14 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Bachrach44: According to the Death of the author hypothesis, it doesn't matter what the author says because his interpretation isn't more or less valid than that of anyone else. Especially when the author has an unintentional plothole. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Nov 9 '14 at 4:08

Several answers have got the basic idea, but here is (what I believe to be) the full solution.

When the old man ate the seagull meat, he discovered

it tasted different to the meat he had been eating on the island.

The first thing the old man realised:

Since there was no reason for the captain to lie, the hunter must have been lying. Why would the hunter have been lying? Because they were really eating human flesh.

The second thing the old man realised:

Days passed between landing on the island and them getting their first meal. In tropical heat, there's no way that the body of one of the five passengers that had died in the storm would have still been fresh after all that time, even if it had washed ashore. Someone had been killed and eaten.

The third thing the old man realised:

There were five survivors on the island - himself, his niece and three others. He had heard the voice of the hunter, and presumably the voices of the other two people on the island when they all cried "WOO!" On the other hand, he had had no communication with his niece since his sight had left him. He was blind and she was mute, so there was no way for her to communicate with him (apparently they weren't the hugging type). What's more, his niece was chubby, meaning there was plenty to eat, and weak, meaning she could easily be killed. She was a prime target. She had been killed and eaten.

In summary:

His niece had survived the storm and the shipwreck only to be killed and eaten once they had got to the island. His niece had been murdered and he had eaten her body.

He couldn't live with this knowledge and he killed himself.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This is probably the best summary of the answer, I don't see how it didn't even get a comment. $\endgroup$ – Xandawesome Jun 12 '15 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Only thing is, if they were going to kill someone, why wouldn't it have been the old man in the first place? $\endgroup$ – Philip Schiff Aug 28 '16 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ I already knew this riddle, and this is the answer $\endgroup$ – Mattia Nocerino Oct 24 '16 at 7:58

Five people saying almost the same thing? Well I like to be different, so try this for an answer:

The old man tasted the seagull and realized it was the exact same meat he'd been eating all along - it wasn't "good" food cooked properly or anything, just more seagull meat cooked by the same firepit they've been using this entire time. He realized that he was hallucinating/losing his mind and went to jump because he was still stuck on that island.

  • $\begingroup$ This one is by far my favourite! An awesome twist on an otherwise common riddle. $\endgroup$ – DaveBensonPhillips May 1 '15 at 18:27

It wasn't salty enough. .

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    $\begingroup$ Oh, if he's willing to kill himself over it, I'd say he's pretty salty! $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Nov 7 '14 at 19:07

He committed suicide because the seagull meat tasted absolutely awful.

The man was of course the first to try the seagull meat; soon the other sailors tried the meat and followed the man in one of the greatest mass-suicides known to man.

The ship was found a few weeks later on the 5th of December 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean.

The ship's name, if you haven't already guessed, was the Mary Celeste.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The only problem with this answer is that a brigantine is by no stretch of the imagination a "cruise ship", and certainly wouldn't have made the loud "WOO" of a ship's foghorn that they all heard (given that the Daboll trumpet wasn't trialed until 1874, and even then only as a land-based foghorn). $\endgroup$ – Doktor J May 1 '15 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ @DoktorJ A brigantine having a foghorn is probably still more realistic than people committing mass suicide because of foul-tasting seagull meat. $\endgroup$ – Pharap May 2 '15 at 17:08

He was blind. After he was rescued and he ate the seagull from the restaurant it didn't taste the same as the meat he had eaten on the island. Therefore, he surmised that on the island he had been eating the flesh of the human victims of the crash. He couldn't live with the thought that he ate his own niece and so killed himself.

  • $\begingroup$ The answer is pratically correct, altough, and I'm going to be unpopolar on this, I wouldn't mindlessly kill myself for eating flesh in a life-dangerous situation, there is something more... $\endgroup$ – Narmer Nov 7 '14 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Narmer, he ate his own nice, isn't that bad enough? $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Nov 7 '14 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Well, that's not specified in your answer ;) (his niece was alive btw) $\endgroup$ – Narmer Nov 7 '14 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Narmer, I've edited now :) $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Nov 7 '14 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ I see no evidence that anyone had been eaten -- nothing says that the dead washed (or were dragged) ashore, no evidence that his niece had perished (wouldn't he be asking where she was?), and no count of survivors taken aboard the ship. "They waved vigorously, everyone beside the old man, he was too weak. The ship arrived and collected them all" -- not "collected all four of them", not "the three survivors waved vigorously"... nothing like that. Also no evidence that there might not have been seagulls to suggest the hunter was returning with anything other than seagull meat. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Nov 7 '14 at 19:27

They were eating seagull on the island.

It was a cannibal cruise ship!
Poor niece.

Or ...

He'd gotten a corneal transplant from his now-dead niece. Cannibals are better!


I do not have enough reputation to comment so I will post this in an answer. The sound of "Seagull" and "Sea Girl" sound so strange that the old man might have realized that when the hunter was talking about feeding him seagull meat, he was actually talking about the niece. When he tasted seagull meat on the ship he realized his folly and hence committed suicide.

Just a trial on my part :) Also I think that the seagull and sea-girl explanation sounds so cool.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice riddley answer! When I saw your first sentence I was going to flag it for mods to convert to a comment, but I think it works as an answer. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Apr 3 '15 at 12:08

The meat in the restaurant tasted unlike anything he had eaten on the desert island, and the old man realised that he had been fed meat from those who had drowned.


The old man was actually a retired spy. The enemy found him and were pretending to care for him while they actually wanted to get information from him. Due to his rigorous training, a single bite into the seagull meat allowed him to realize that there was truth serum in the food. Not wanting to give up his nation's secrets, he commits suicide.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for interesting alternative theory (though I doubt "the enemy" would've just let him get up from his meal, walk to the railing, and jump overboard) :D $\endgroup$ – Doktor J May 1 '15 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Doktor I like my answer better than the canonical answer. :P $\endgroup$ – Aura May 4 '15 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed... too many holes in the story/assumptions in the canonical answer. Yours still has a hole, but at least it's not one you could drive a cruise ship through ;) $\endgroup$ – Doktor J May 4 '15 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the enemy had their guard down, and didn't think that the old man would realize so quickly that it was a trap all along, and unintentionally let him slip by. $\endgroup$ – Aura Sep 15 '15 at 18:54

The answer:

What the old man didn't know on the island was that the meat given to him was actually human meat, the flesh of another survivor of the storm. After tasting real seagull meat on the cruise ship, he noticed the difference in taste and realised that he had been fed human meat. After finding out he was a cannibal, the old man saw no choice but to kill himself.


i think that the man just saw the palms and died before getting completely blind, according to the first old man's sentence. There is no evidence to state he ate the dead.

  • $\begingroup$ What? The question clearly states that he lived, and that he committed suicide after eating the seagull meat. $\endgroup$ – Mithical Jul 13 '16 at 17:17

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