Lewis Carroll Riddles

Rearrange the letters of NOR DO WE to make one word.



(From The Universe in a Handkercheif, Lewis Carroll's Mathematical Recreations, Games, Puzzles, and Word Plays, by Martin Gardner)


'First, the fish must be caught.'
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 like glue-
Holds the lid to the dish, while it lies in the
Which is easiest to do,
Un-dish-cover the fish, or dishcover the


An oyster. A baby can pick it up from an oyster bed, a penny would buy one in Carroll's day, it cooks quickly, it lies in its own dish, it is easily placed on the table, but the "dish-cover" is hard to raise because it is held to the dish by the oyster in the middle.

The White Queen tells alice this riddle in Through the Looking Glass. The riddle is never answered in the book.



The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on on hearing this; but all he said was, "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"...
"Have you guessed the riddle yet?" the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
"No, I give it up," Alice replied. "What's the answer?"
"I haven't the slightest idea," said the Hatter.

The Mad Hatter never answers his riddle in Alice's Adventure In Wonderland, but Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice gives three answers: one from Carroll and two from Sam Loyd, the famous puzzle master.

Carroll's answer: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!" Note the clever misspelling of nevar so it is "raven" spelled backwards.

Loyd's answer 1: "Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes"

Loyd's other answers: "Because Poe wrote on both; bills and tales are among their characteristics; because they both stand on their legs. conceal their steels, and ought to be made to shut up."


Clare writes:

A warning to dining while at work - or a solution to the riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

Eat your supper off a writing desk and you will find,
The experience can be rather UNKIND.
For into your soup you might sink your bread,
And find it is covered in black ink instead!
So if you are RAVENous -
(And rather unstable),
You will find it is best to eat off a table.

The collective noun for ravens is an unkindness.
When you are hungry you are ravenous so thus if you are hungry at your writing desk the writing desk will be unkind to you as you sup.
Tables are often in nest, as are ravens (okay thats stretching it slightly!).

John DeHaven writes: "One contains a river that runs forward (Esk) and the other contains a river that runs backwards (Neva)." Thanks John!


John gave his brother James a box:
About it there were many locks.

James woke and said it gave him pain;
So gave it back to John again.

The box was not with lid supplied,
Yet caused two lids to open wide;

And all these locks had never a key-
What kind of box, then, could it be?


John gave James a box on the head.


(From The Universe in a Handkercheif, Lewis Carroll's Mathematical Recreations, Games, Puzzles, and Word Plays, by Martin Gardner)




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