Riddle Garden

“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.

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

5 responses to “Riddle Garden”

  1. Erin Tucker says :

    An appreciation and a riddle . On the random mornings that I wake up to a “your passport to complaining “, I feel happiness/ with a mixture of excitement . I put my device down to make a hot cup of coffee, climb back in my comfy warm bed ( it’s cold in my house , ya know AC 😂 ) and I settle in to read . I know just enough about Louisa communities to enjoy whatever morsel you are feeding .

    I’m never disappointed ( with the exception of your grammar occasionally when you don’t have the patience to wait for an editor and you want to get it out quickly ) . Whether it’s an appreciation of someone who has done good work , an explanation of a new thing happening , a juicy semi controversial topic or just propaganda about the next fun event , I always learn something. This morning is no exception.
    I am imagining the land with a riddle tree . Like the Cookie Monster walking through the forest and discovering a cookie tree that belongs to a Witch who does not want to share, in my kids fav childhood book . He has to outwit the Witch and they finally agree to share the cookies … before he inevitability gobbles them up … bc he is after all, the Cookie Monster.
    I will gobble these up . Not because I’m good at riddles , I’m actually quite bad . My brain is a bit more logical , but I’m so happy to learn . I want to know the answers! Thank goodness you published Carroll’s afterthought answer otherwise I would’ve been doing a Google search. I’m excited for quink and I’m grateful to you Pax for entertainment that involves real life people doing real life things. Now I will share my favorite riddle: A man and his son were driving and had a terrible accident, they were quickly taken to the hospital. The doctor walked in and said I cannot operate on this child, this is my son. How is that possible?

  2. paxus says :

    You also have me pegged about skipping the edit step. Which i did this morning, but i am helping Kelpie will swoop in and clean up.

  3. newworldpractice says :

    I love this idea! There’s a riddle I’m chewing on. But I’ll get angry you if you post the answer before I find it. So, stay tuned…

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