Today we celebrate the birthday of Lewis Carroll. He was born on this day in 1832, and some thirty years later he penned that absurd, nonsensical classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and followed it up with it’s sequel: Through the Looking-Glass. Now, I know over the years many readers have tried to read certain meanings or symbols into these texts, and indeed, there is much food for thought. But upon reading the books for myself as part of my one new book a week resolution, I decided that for my part, it really is just silly laughs for the delight of children and the puzzlement of adults.
For example, the now famous riddle put forth by the Mad Hatter, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” is never answered. And yet, many an adult (smart ones too I imagine) have tried to solve this. And in agreement with Alice’s complaint that it is a waste of time to ask “riddles that have no answers,” many wrote to Carroll demanding an explanation. So, in his preface to the 1896 edition, Carroll wrote:
“Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer: “Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle as originally invented had no answer at all.”
As you can see, he didn’t intend for there to be a logical answer. And even, in his answer there is another puzzle. If you look at how he spells “never” as “nevar,” it is really the word “raven” with “the wrong end in front.” ** How maddening to be always confronted with such absurdity and trickery. Really, as I read this book, I found myself in much sympathy with Alice’s frustrations.
I realize that more logical and mathematical minds than mine have discovered much logic and mathematical truths hidden in the text, but for my part, like Alice, I am more interested in a book’s “pictures and conversation.” And, I am pleased to say, that both you will find in abundance in Wonderland.
**Thanks to Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland Site for the trivia info!