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Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk?

Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk?
December 28, 2013 Peter Hemerlein

We receive questions and comments daily from customers about all things furniture. These questions and comments have a wide range and go well beyond what you would first think of when looking at our lovely selection of antique furniture. We get questions about repairs and value, shipping and insurance, and sometimes history of furniture. Several of our customers have asked us if we knew the answer to the famous riddle, “Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk?”. Quite a few people have offered their own answers to this riddle and asked if they were correct. Recently I was able to investigate this most perplexing question and have a few solid answers that I think everyone will enjoy.



This riddle originates from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as a question posed by the Mad Hatter to Alice. I would suggest reading the passage yourself (it encompasses several pages) as I find it to be one of the more amusing parts of the book. Carroll did not answer the riddle in his books, however, so many people peppered him with questions about this particular question that he was inclined to write the following in the preface of the 1896 edition:
“Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: ‘Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!’ This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all.”

Mr. Carroll’s response seems adequate and well thought out. Even more so when one finds out that he originally meant for the part of the answer “it is never put with the wrong end in front!” to read “it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!”. (Nevar is raven spelled backwards!) Proofreaders had edited this word to the proper spelling, not fully understanding the joke!
Despite the author’s attempt to forestall the attempts of his colleagues and readers to answer this riddle for him, many different answers have surfaced over time. Some of these are quite clever. Here are all of the substitute answers to the riddle we have come across in the past.
“Because Poe wrote on both!”
“Because both have clawed feet!”
“They both stand on sticks.”
“They both come with inky quills.”
Have you heard of any others?