Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass are so well known to children that it may come as a surprise, for adults, that these books are about a lot more than a dreamy land. We remember the frazzled rabbit, the crazy Hatter’s tea party, the disappearing cat with the creepy grin, the Tweedle brothers, and the bloodthirsty queen. And most of us, if we were young enough, (or brave enough to watch the Tim Burton movie), had nightmares about at least a few in that list.
But both books also contain political and social commentary, logic and math problems, and linguistic jokes galore. Lewis Carroll, a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a lecturer, teacher, and mathematician at Christ Church in Oxford. His cleverness has lots of dialogue that goes right over kids’ heads, but lots of playfulness with words that kids love (at the time, it seemed like really good advice for life):
The Red Queen tells Alice,
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.
And when Alice is falling down the rabbit hole:
And then, sometimes, Charles Dodgson just gets a little weird. When you were a kid, did you know the caterpillar was smoking a hookah? I sure didn’t.
“–No, it’s a hookah.”
“Can I get you a tissue?”)
And I went on with my sheltered life. Ya gotta wonder, sometimes, if the author got a little desperate for writing material and tried some drastic new methods:
Lewis Carroll tells his whole long haranguing, trippy story to a friend, rabbits and scary queens and kittens and all, “…and then she woke up.”
Friend, after a long pause, “Um, you been snacking on the mushrooms again, Charles?”
And that is why it became a kids’ story.
Well, in honor of Alice’s Trippy Adventures, today’s post has some riddles, straight out of the books. The first person with the right answer–you can tell us in the comments section–wins that fabulous glow of pride that comes from the knowledge that you were right. Blind your friends with it. And no fair googling the answers!
1. Why is a raven like a writing desk? (the Hatter asks this to Alice at his Tea Party)
That is easy: a baby, I think, could have caught it.
“Next, the fish must be bought.”
That is easy: a penny, I think, would have bought it.
“Now cook me the fish!”
That is easy, and will not take more than a minute.
“Let it lie in a dish!”
That is easy, because it already is in it.
“Bring it here! Let me sup!”
It is easy to set such a dish on the table.
“Take the dish-cover up!”
Ah, THAT is so hard that I fear I’m unable!
For it holds it like glue—
Holds the lid to the dish, while it lies in the middle:
Which is easiest to do,
Un-dish-cover the fish, or dishcover the riddle?’
(The Red Queen recites this to Alice in Through the Looking Glass)
And finally, just for fun, a short short version. We’ve never seen it so quick. Don’t blink. (Actually it does the blinking for you.)
At the end, all I can think is, “Look out! Here come the Boy Scouts!”
What did you think of the Alice books, as a kid or an adult? Tell us your guess to the riddles!