Alice In Wonderland Easter Egg - How Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

During the Tea Party, the Alice is asked how a Raven is like a Writing desk. Carrol never answers his own riddle. The answer is "Poe wrote on both".

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Contributed By: Prince Mu-Chao on 08-30-1999
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Special Requirements: da book, fool.
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McIdas writes:
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?" The answer Lewis Carroll gives is that "They both produce a few notes, all very flat, and are almost never turned the wrong way front." I think what he means is that: "they both produce a few notes" - ravens don't have much variety in their songs and people use desks to write (paper) notes as well. "all very flat" - what could be flatter than a piece of paper? And ravens' songs are apparently rather flat-sounding. "and are almost never turned the wrong way front" - a desk is useless if it's faced the wrong way, because you can't sit there. "raven" spelt backwards is "nevar", and thus "raven" is almost "never" turned the wrong way front.
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Don Fox writes:
In the preface of the 1896 edition of ALICE, 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, viz: 'Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar [sic] put with the wrong end in front' This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all." In later printings, nevar was "corrected" to never (undoubtedly by an overzealous editor). Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice and More Annotated Alice listed: "Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes" and "Because Poe wrote on both." (Puzzle maven Sam Loyd, 1914) Aldous Huxley offered two (nonsensical) answers in Vanity Fair (September 1928): "because there's a B in both, and there's an N in neither." This was expanded with: "because each begins with E." "Because it slopes with a flap." (Cyril Pearson) In THE SHINING, chapter 39, Stephen King proposed: "The higher the fewer, of course!" "One might communicate with the dead through either." Automatic writing is used to communicate with the dead, and ravens are symbolically associated as messengers between the living and the dead. Yet another suggestion: "Both have inky quills."
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big dave writes:
one is a rest for pens, the other is a pest for wrens
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Ben writes:
Why couldn't "Poe wrote on both" be the correct answer to the riddle? After all, the word "on" has two common uses. 1. about, as in "I wrote a term paper on abortion." 2. on top of, as in "I wrote the paper on my desk." Therefore, Poe wrote on (about) the raven and Poe also wrote on (on top of) his writing desk. Put simply, "Poe wrote on both". Ben
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Disgruntled writes:
You are all right because as L.C. said, there orginally was no answer so any answer could really apply.
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dramaqueen writes:
Why is raven like a writting desk? It not only appeared in Alice in Wonderland but it is in a play called "The Babel of Circular Labyrinths" by Don Nigro. It is about a blind man in a library in the middle of a labyrinth who is confronted by a woman who is suppose to kill him. He asks her the question and she says "a dead man sits at one and the other sits on a dead man." There are a couple other possible answers. "Both are inked with blackness"
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nicole writes:
Well, all of your answers are correct. I am only twelve years old and even though there is not an answer, the question is still verifiable. Honestly, I believe that the answer is that there is no answer. Not all questions may be answered. People can come up with at least one million questions a day. Probably only one out of every ten of those questions are answered. Therefore, the answer may be that there is a question everybody asks themselves before they ask a question,"Will my question be answered?" You won't know unless you ask the question that you want to ask. Unless you ask that question that you want to ask, you'll never know the answer.
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RealityChuck writes:
Carroll wrote the question without any answer in mind. Later, he came up with an explanation (including "the notes they make are flat"), and others have been proposed (my favorite, "Because neither begins with an 'N.'"), but to state one or another is "the" answer is meaningless.
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wrektangle writes:
They are both covered in inky quills.
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Gorp writes:
The answer I've heard is because there's a "B" in both. It's a joke. The answer has nothing to do with the question. It's just stating the fact that the word "both" has a "B" in it. This answer seems to go along with the general silliness of the book.
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Bill writes:
Anyone who wants to read this riddle or any other stuff from Alice in wonderland can download the book here(http://members.nbci.com/billcrosoft/publicfiles/alice.txt). Does anyone but me absolutely love public domain?
90 of 139 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
It works. Edgar Allen Poe wrote a poem titled "The Raven," so he was writing something on a raven. You also write on desks. It makes sense to me, how about you?
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allanp writes:
Funny, I never heard any of those answers. I always thought it was because they both have quills (i.e., feathers and writing tools)
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Nilhag Dmaa writes:
Ah, one of those happy situations when the comments are better than the subject. Thank you all for your comments, my vote is for you!
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sandav writes:
Carroll (Dodgson) after the book had been out for some years said that the riddle had originaly had no answer, but that the best he had been provided with after its publication was 'that they both produce notes that are flat'
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Pascal writes:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1173/why-is-a-raven-like-a-writing-desk
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Not any answer could be an answer, although there may be no ONE answer. Carroll was a fantasist, not a Dadaist, after all.
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I've heard (I believe my source is either "The Straight Dope" or an Inponderables) that the answer is "One is nevar (sic) spelled backwards", but it was ruined by a correction of the 'typo'.
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Dahv writes:
Neither is made of aluminum. Or, because you cant ride either like a bicycle.
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The real answer to this question can be found be analyzing the question it self: Take a piece of paper, write down the question backwards, take out every second character, put it together - AND read it in this specific way: No, seriously. I'm just kidding. I think this is just an example of the sillyness in the book. It questions the monarchy, yeah, and it questions reality and probably has a couple of drug references. But what the main question is: "Is there an answer to all questions?"
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Ange writes:
This is, indeed, a possible answer as The Raven was written only about 20 years before "Alice" in 1845. However, surely in that case the Hatter's question would have been "Why is THE raven like a writing desk?" I seem to recall hearing that Carol's answer as "they both have wings". On the other hand, the much simpler answer is that I haven't the faintest idea.
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steven writes:
The notes their noted for aren't noted for being musical notes.
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Madriana writes:
They both have bills
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Eagle writes:
What do you mean schizophrenic? Just because his works are odd and bizarre doesn't mean he had schizophrenia. He even dedicated that poem to a friend named Alice Lidell. Do you have any clear proof that is not the way he wrote his books?
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Ange writes:
Another answer is that they both have wings.
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Albatunny writes:
It seemed as though the general, yet un-noted consensus was that this book is meaningless. It's a fairly well known hypothesis that it was a parody of the British government. And, I must opin, the best answer was that of Mr. Dodgson.
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normloman writes:
There are MANY similarities between Ravens and Writing Desks. For example both are composed of living or nonliving organic material. Both are things. Both are combustible. Both are found on earth. Both are solid. Unless you are a mind reader you can never know what the author intended.
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Da man writes:
This isn't an egg though.
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Heather writes:
The other day, my new algebra instructor gave an astonishing answer to an often pondered riddle, which i am clearly guilty of pondering as well, hence a previous question anonymously asked to me on my blog, i'm assuming most of you have heard it as well, Lewis Carroll's "How is a Raven, like a writing desk?!" Now, as i've stated in that post prior, i've given this much thought, and discussed it very seriously with one of my more literate friends and we simply came up with "they are both 'nevar' facing the wrong way. However, my new teacher's idea is that it references Edgar Allan Poe, he said that both a raven and a writing desk are alike since Edgar Allan Poe wrote on both of them. Now, i love this answer! I've never thought of it that way! Excitedly, i rushed home to inform my family of this new logic, but then i look in my copy of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the looking glass" with introduction and Notes by Tan Lin (writer, author, and critic, Ph.D. from Columbia University and teacher of creative writing at New Jersey City University) and Tan Lin's theory, i quote; "Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!(my original theory)" has vexed me further. Mind you, Lewis Carroll invented the riddle to have no answer at all, so from this point further i will answer with "i Haven't the slightest idea" .
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OutofEther writes:
Both a Raven and a Writing Desk were 'penned' by Edgar Allan Poe!!
5 of 11 people found this comment helpful. Did you? Yes No
alex writes:
the question is why? Of course we know the many ways.. but why?
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song writes:
Both are hard to see at night
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