“How is a raven like a writing desk?” It sounds familiar, it’s a riddle you have heard before, but you can’t remember the answer. It won’t help you when i tell you it was written by Lewis Carroll.
It is not a complicated dream, but i have not been able to manifest it. I want to build a riddle garden.
Many of the places i live are wooded. Forests are the right venue for this type of chaotic, temporary micro gallery. And the plan is to pepper trees with posted riddles and then you can lift up the riddle to reveal the answer (or possibly an explanation or history in place of an answer).
When i lived at Cambia, one of the gentle challenges was for members to build sustainability exhibitions. And while i did not have a conventional sustainability exhibit, it made me think what i was actually excited about was creating a display of different riddles and types of riddles.
What makes this year different from all the times i have failed at this in the past? Well, this time there are conference and festival interns. Ogtar, Orion, Dash (formerly Bee) have all been helping make different events happening in Louisa this summer and fall possible. And they are excited about making the riddle garden happen.
We are looking at four classes of riddles: historic, logical, nonsense and literary. It is unclear if they will be separated by zone in the garden and we are still gathering materials. If you want to help, you can email me or drop your riddles into the comment section below.
But why is a raven like a writing desk? It turns out that when Carroll crafted this riddle, the plan was for it to be a riddle without an answer. But Carroll’s fans were quite dissatisfied with this non answer.
Lewis Carroll himself got bugged about this so much that he was moved to write the following in the preface to the 1896 edition of his book:
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, viz: ‘Because it can produce a few notes, tho 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.
Here Carroll is intentional misspelling of “never” as “nevar” which is raven spelled backwards.