Posted in History & Literature

The Raven And The Writing Desk

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

 This riddle was first posed by Lewis Carroll in his famous work, Alice in Wonderland, asked by the Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter asks this riddle in his nonsensical character, stating that he does not know the answer either. In fact, the book never reveals what the answer to the riddle is.

Perplexed, many readers wrote to Carroll as to the answer of this puzzle. After receiving so many enquiries, Carroll wrote in the preface of his next book that the riddle was thought of without the answer in mind, meaning that he did not know the commonality between the two either. However, he did suggest an answer that: 

“Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” (note that “nevar” is “raven” “put with the wrong end in front”)

Knowing that this riddle was never created with an answer, scholars have attempted to solve this riddle themselves ever since. There have been many proposed answers, such as “they both stand on sticks”, “they both come with inky quills” and the most famous “because Edgar Allan Poe wrote on both” (see The Raven). There have also been nonsensical answers (thus answering to the nonsensical nature of the riddle) such as “because there is a B in both and an N in neither”.

However, perhaps the best answer, as with all works by both Carroll and Poe, is that “you can baffle billions with both”.

Leave a Comment!