‘Hmmm. What’s this?’
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Something funny happens in Alice in Wonderland where Alice meets the mouse (CHAPTER III. A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale). This is what it says:
“Mine is a long and a sad tale!” said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
“It _is_ a long tail, certainly”, said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; “but why do you call it sad?” And she kept on puzzling about it while the Mouse was speaking, so that her idea of the tale was something like this –
"It _is_ a long tail, certainly," said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse's tail; "but why do you call it sad?" And she kept on puzzling about it while the Mouse was speaking, so that her idea of the tale was something like this:----"Fury said to a mouse, That he met in the house, `Let us both go to law: _I_ will prose- cute _you_.-- Come, I'll take no de- nial: We must have the trial; For really this morn- ing I've nothing to do.' Said the mouse to the cur, `Such a trial, dear sir. With no jury or judge, would be wast- ing our breath.' `I'll be judge, I'll be jury,' said cun- ning old Fury: `I'll try the whole cause, and con- demn you to death'."
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I expect you see what Lewis Carroll is doing there? The mouse’s tale looks like a tail (AND it has a ‘tail rhyme structure’, but let’s not get into that). Isn’t it brilliantly confusing? or maybe it makes perfect sense? The way the words are arranged in front of you tell a bit of the story.
Normally we we write a lot of words we put them plain rows. Some people say that makes it easier to read. I much prefer it when we have a bit of fun. Here’s some of chapter 6 of Alice in Wonderland. Where she meets the Cheshire Cat. Can you see what I’ve done?
The Cat only grinned whenit saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had VERY long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.'Cheshire Puss,' she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. 'Come, it's pleased so far,' thought Alice, and she went on. 'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' 'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, ' said the Cat. ' I don't much care where--' said Alice.'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat. '--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.'Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question.'What sort of people live about here?' 'In THAT direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, 'lives a Hatter: and in THAT direction,' waving the other paw, 'lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.' 'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked. 'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad.You're mad.' 'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'Alice didn't think that proved it at all; however, she went on 'And how do you know that you're mad?' 'To begin with,' said the Cat, 'a dog's not mad. You grant that?''I suppose so,' said Alice. 'Well, then,' the Cat went on, 'you see, a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad.''I call it purring, not growling,' said Alice.'Call it what you like,' said the Cat. 'Do you play croquet with the Queen to-day?''I should like it very much,' said Alice, 'but I haven't been invited yet.''You'll see me there,' said the Cat, and vanished.Alice was not much surprised at this, she was getting so used to queer things happening. While she was looking at the place where it had been, it suddenly appeared again. 'By-the-bye, what became of the baby?' said the Cat. 'I'd nearly forgotten to ask.' 'It turned into a pig,' Alice quietly said, just as if it had come back in a natural way. 'I thought it would,' said the Cat, and vanished again.
What fun! You can try it too. Why not choose some words and shape them into a picture like this (you can get all of the text of Alice in Wonderland online). Arranging words like this is a mixture of easy and hard (that sounds like something the Mad March Hare might say). Making cool pictures with the words is easy because all you’re doing is adding space and line breaks. My rule is that there always has to be at least one space between each word. Have a think about how you want your picture to look, then start from the top. Arranging the words is also hard (and interesting, like a puzzle) because if you ever have to go back and change a word it shifts all the other words about! But don’t worry if that happens, just add or take away some spaces elsewhere to balance things out. You learn a lot about how to make shapes, and how to make things up as you go along. Artists call it ‘responding to your materials’.
In the next post we’re going to do something even odder. What if we didn’t use words to draw pictures, just letters and symbols?
Finally, here’s the exciting puzzle competition bit. There’s a puzzle at the end of each of the four ‘Rabbit Hole’ posts. Write your answer for each puzzle in the comments. Then, when you have all four answers, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve got the answer right you could win an iMac! GOOD LUCK!
Here’s the first puzzle. Can you work out which Alice in Wonderland character this is a picture of below?
----- | | | | ************** -------- *'I haven't the * 0 , 0 * slightest idea' * 8 / () ***************** || || ----- -----\ ------------------------------------ \ \ \ c(_) C( )'' \ \ \ -----------------------------------