While writing my article on the role of food in literature I came across a book on Children’s literature and the ways in which candies and other treats are used as symbolic elements to explore themes such as temptation, the disintegration of harmony, the madness of the world of the grown ups.. . Don’t worry I’ll try my best to finish it by Saturday! Needless to say, Alice in Wonderland, together with Charlie and the Chocolate factory and many others, figures quite prominently in this study. Though I have to admit I have yet to read the novel and its sequels, I did saw both the Disney cartoon and the Tim Burton’s version of it- the latter being my favorite. I’m always in awe and in constant fascination with the Mad-hatter and I have to say that Johnny Deep was utterly amazing in the movie. I love the hatter’s insanity and his ability to find reason within his own madness. It’s heartbreaking and puzzling at the same time. Of all his random riddles my favorite is quite possibly one of the most famous ones: ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’
To me it summarizes the hatter’s complex psyche and the whole world of Wonderland. It appears that there are many interpretations to this question: some explain it as a senseless riddle, others unleashed their creativity with the most interesting solutions:
- You can write on both!
- They both stand on sticks
The most popular answer, and certainly the one that I like the most, sees an echo of Poe’s literary genius in it. Who would forget his haunting poem the ‘Raven’? Or the scary and yet incredibly beautiful short stories? You certainly cannot help linking the weird minds of the characters inhabiting Poe’ s literary world with Carroll’s Wonderland.
Carroll himself wrote in the preface to the 1896 edition of the fairy tale his own interpretation: ‘Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!’
So dear readers, have you got your own answer to the question?