Saturday, June 27, 2020

In case you wondered …

… The Riddle of Why Literary Riddles Are Overlooked - Athenaeum Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Considering both ambition and quantity, the all-time master of riddles is probably Lewis Carroll (1832-1898). His Phantasmagoria and Other Poems (1869) included a number of riddles, including two that were double acrostics, a feat rarely attempted since Aldhelm’s Praefatio to his Aenigmata. Despite Alice’s disdain for riddles (“I think you might do something better with time than wasting it in asking silly riddles.”), Alice in Wonderland is loaded with riddles and the language of riddles. As with the Exeter Book, scholars have focused on what is unsolved: The Mad Hatter’s riddle “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Despite a statement by Carroll near the end of his life that indicated that the lack of answer to this riddle was part of his joke, commentators futilely continue to present “solutions” to the raven riddle.

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