Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Mad Hatter's Conundrum

The age old riddle, an enigma, arguably modern literature's most confounding puzzle. A mere sentence orchestrated by Lewis Carroll, that sets everyone who reads or hears it on a race in their mind to try and solve the perplexity. Sometimes it's nice to digress from modern complications and stipulations, and just divulge into a fantasy world of fictional characters who pose just as fantastical conundrums.

But why is a raven like a writing desk?

There are a lot of answers to the question, a lot of them conjured up by avid readers. And all of them outshine Carroll's justification, the solution isn't as nearly as mystifying as the riddle, which is a great disappointment. Due to the sheer amount of fan-mail that Carroll received concerning the enigma, he came up with an answer in a hope that this would satiate the wants of his readers;

"Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat, and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!" 

When I first heard the riddle my answer was that 'Both can carry letters,' as a writing desk is where letters are written and composed, and ravens were used to transport letters. There are a great more far superior solutions that have been thought up by fans, (here are some of my favourites);

- "Poe wrote on both" - Sam Lloyd
- "Because there is a 'b' in both and an 'n' in neither" - Aldous Huxley
- "My personal view is that it was a joke at the expense of the Establishment and red tape. There is a saying that if the ravens leave the Tower of London, the monarchy will fall. What would happen if the government were unable to write and keep records?" - Andrew Small
- "Because they are both used to carri-on de-composition." - David Cottis
- "Having recently visited the Ravensworth Arms pub in Gateshead, where is it said that Lewis Carroll wrote much of Alice in Wonderland, I was left wondering if the Raven he refers to is the pub itself." - Nathan Dobby
- "Because a writing desk is a rest for pens and a raven is a pest for wrens." - Unknown
- "The answer lies in the quill; both may be penned, but they can never be truly captive." - Noel Bird
- "Because in French all the letters in bureau are contained in corbeau." Gillian Shenfield
- "Because the raven has a secret aerie and the writing desk has a secretary." - Israel Cohen

Other riddles from literature;

- The golden casket reads, "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire." The silver: "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves." The leaden: "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." - The Merchant of Venice

- "The cock crew, the sky was blue: the bells in heaven were striking eleven. 'Tis time for this poor soul to go to heaven." - Ulysses

- "What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?" Oedipus Rex - perhaps one of the most famous riddles known globally

- "First think of the person who lives in disguise, Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies, Next tell me what's always the last thing to mend, The middle of the middle and the end of the end? And finally give me the sound often heard, During the search for a hard-to-find word, Now strong them , and answer me this, Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?" Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

- "In a riddle whose answer is chess, what is the only prohibited word?" - The Garden Of Forking Paths

- "Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind, Two of us will help you, whichever you would find, One among us seven will let you move ahead, Another will transport the drinker back instead, Two among our number hold only nettle wine, Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line. Chose, unless you wish to stay here for evermore, To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four; First, however slyly the poison tries to hide, You will always find some on nettle wine's left side; Second, different are those who stand at either end, But if you would move onwards, neither is your friend; Third, as you see clearly, all are different size, Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides; Four, the second left and the second on the right Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight." - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

This isn't the type of post I'd usually do, but it's one that intrigues me dearly, so I'll leave you with this;

"This thing all things devours; birds, beasts, trees, flowers; gnaws irons, bites steel; grinds hard stones to meal; slays king, ruins town, and beats mountain down,"

...Use yours wisely.

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