Answering the Novice Question, "Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?"

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1865, features the Mad Hatter asking, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" at a tea party. ”

Originally, it was supposed to be an enigma no one could solve.

For what reason is a raven like a typewriter?

Lewis Carroll, in an updated preface to the book, explains the solution to the puzzle. A raven is like a desk, he said: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho' they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front." Therefore, both ravens and desks are capable of producing notes.

In any case, there's more to this puzzle than meets the eye.

Why is a raven like a desk? is a question I get asked quite frequently, and in this article I hope to provide a satisfying answer. ”

The Raven and the Desk: What's the Connection? (Origin)

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A raven against a black sky—Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk Author-created Canva artwork, "Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?"

Alice in Wonderland is unable to solve the Mad Hatter's puzzle.

The Mad Hatter admits there is no solution to the riddle in the first edition of the book.

The following book passage makes this point crystal clear:

The Riddle: Have You Figured It Out Yet? " the Mad Hatter said once more to Alice.

With a firm "no," Alice said, "I'm giving up." How do I find the solution? ”

The Mad Hatter said, "I don't know the first thing about that."

March Hare: "Neither do I."

Alice let out a long sigh. When I asked her what she thought I should do with my time, she said, "I think you might do something better with the time than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers." ”

It's no surprise that this puzzle became one of the most well-known and infuriating in history given how difficult it is to solve.

You can watch the puzzle scene from Disney's animated film below:

Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?, a YouTube Video by Footkinetics

Though Carroll denied ever intending for there to be a resolution, he did provide one in a revised preface to the book.

In the 1896 edition, puzzle fans can find the following:

The question of whether or not an answer to the Hatter's Riddle can be conceived has been put to me so often that I might as well record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz., "Because it can produce a few notes." Despite their flatness, it is never turned around the wrong way. ’

The word "never" in an early draft of the preface is rumored to have been spelled "nevar" on purpose.

As you may have noticed, "nevar" is the backwards spelling of "raven."

Caroll's literary "Easter Egg" may have been accidentally altered by a proofreader. ”

Just Like a Desk, But Why a Raven? Here's the Deal (Explanation of the Answer)

Just because you've figured out the solution to the puzzle doesn't mean it's logical.

In light of this, let's analyze Carroll's response.

Separating the solution into its three constituent parts helps me better understand it.

  • "Because it can make some sounds," he said.
  • Despite this, they are extremely flat.
  • Plus, "the wrong end is never facing out."

For the simple reason that it can make some noise

Ravens and desks both have the ability to create notes. In one case, we hear a raven croak, while in the other, we see paper notes appear on a desk.

A writer uses a writing desk to compose written works, such as letters and memos.

Carroll's youthful word play is what I admire most about him. Every puzzle has a hidden wordplay puzzle inside it.

Typically, his riddles (and their solutions) have multiple layers of meaning.

However, they are "very flat."

Neither the pitch nor the timbre of a raven's song varies greatly from note to note.

Flat, too, is a handwritten note on a writing desk.

When talking about a raven's "note," the word "flat" refers to the acoustic quality of the bird, but when talking about a desk, it refers to the note's geometrical shape.

And it's never turned around so the wrong side is facing out.

This piece of the riddle has multiple interpretations.

The most crucial involves the backwards spelling of "nevar," This intentionally misspelled word read backwards is "raven. ”

The phrase "wrong end in front" refers to a word that is written backward, which never occurs (except, of course, in her revised preface).

It is also unacceptable to "put" a desk in such a way that the back of the desk is facing the author.

To the point where a desk for writing would be useless.

However, there are additional interpretations that could be made. Ravens are usually depicted looking ahead, either up or down.

The front of a desk is where you set your notebook or paper down when you're writing.

As a result, it's possible that Carroll is also trying to convey the idea that, like a raven, a desk is usually viewed from the front.

What's the Deal With Ravens and Desks? Alternate Suggestions

In spite of the fact that Caroll offered a solution to his own riddle, many others have done so as well.

What follows are a few of the most insightful responses I've come across:

There are some from Straight Dope, some from Quora, and some from other scholarly studies.

Pens, Prisons, and Solitary Confinement

Australian resident Noel Bird of Boreen Point made the connection between the raven and the writing desk's quill:

The quill holds the key; both can be written, but neither can be held hostage. ”

The feathered quill was the most essential component of any writing desk. After all, with it, one could "pen" a letter or note instead of typing it.

It is possible to confine a raven.

So, just like a raven, a quill can be "penned but never truly be captive." ”

Thus, a quill and a raven are equally unrestrained.

Writers don't have to pay for a quill because of their imagination. Since a raven has its own independent will, it can fly wherever it pleases.

Things that go "cricket" in the air when you mention pens, ink, and words

In the same vein, Connor Cochran brought up the topic of quills:

An observation on Lewis Carroll's "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" ” riddle Remember that feather pens were commonly used and inkwells were standard on writing desks, and the best answer I've ever heard is, "Because they both come with inky quills." ”

If Merriam-Webster is to be believed As defined by, a quill is "one of the large stiff feathers of the wing or tail." ”

Similar to a raven's wing or tail

True, a quill or "feathered pen" was widely used as a means of communication back then.

It is not surprising that Caroll envisioned a writing desk and a raven's quill.

The Poe Conundrum and Other Puzzles

Sam Loyd, a mathematician, chess player, and puzzle inventor, has provided one of the most well-known solutions to the puzzle.

In response to Loyd's word puzzle, he provided two solutions.

The first is as follows:

The reason why they are not recognized as musical notes is because of the notes they are noted for. ”

The solution he provides is a lyrical mystery in itself.

There is no musicality to the notes made by either a raven or a desk.

His second, more convincing response to the riddle is simply, "Because Poe wrote on both." ”

Obviously, this is a nod to the great author Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe wrote "on" the topic of ravens and on writing desks. Actually, one of his most well-known works is a poem called "The Raven."

Additional Nonsensical Solutions

Since there is no correct response, you can give it.

Regardless of how ridiculous

For instance:

  • Neither of them is a jello mold.
  • That's what my English professor told us
  • In terms of comfort, both are winners in the bedroom.
  • One is a bird and the other is a flying vehicle.

There is no requirement for logic in the response, since the question itself is illogical.

To some extent, yes.

How Come a Raven Is Like a Desk, Anyway?

From Lewis Carroll: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" to this day still stumps puzzle-solvers

The point of the riddle is to demonstrate that the question is meaningless. Feel free to use your imagination.

Similar posts:


Wonderland, Alice
The Real Deal

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