• When is a tail a tale? [Competition post 1]

    By Peter Law -

  • 88

‘Hmmm. What’s this?’

         __      __                  .___                   .__            .___
        /  \    /  \____   ____    __| _/___________  _____ |__| ____    __| _/
        \   \/\/   /  _ \ /    \  / __ |/ __ \_  __ \/     \|  |/    \  / __ |
         \        (  <_> )   |  \/ /_/ \  ___/|  | \/  Y Y  \  |   |  \/ /_/ |
          \__/\  / \____/|___|  /\____ |\___  >__|  |__|_|  /__|___|  /\____ |
               \/             \/      \/    \/            \/        \/      \/

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?

**COMPETITION**

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 kids@tate.org.uk. 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(   )''          \
                  \                                   \
                    -----------------------------------

Discussion Area

  1. It’s the Mad Hatter! ^_^

    An Unusual Visitor - November 16, 2011

  2. Pingback: Welcome to your Wondermind « KUNST x TECHNOLOGIE

  3. Cool! Mad Hatter?

    Mimioboots - January 1, 2012

  4. Here’s one of my shape poems!

    A
    shed is
    dusty with cobwebs
    and spiders that crawl using
    eight long hairy legs! The tools in the
    shed are rakes and brooms, the lawnmower
    revs outside and the insects and bugs know
    it’s safe to come out! Dad’s trowels and glov
    -es are sat on by monstrous arachnids of all
    sizes! The bees in their nest underneath the
    shed realise that the lawnmower’s coming
    back! The bugs hide, and snuggle safe in
    the SHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mimioboots - January 1, 2012

  5. oops! didn’t work! :( well maybe it looks a bit like half the shed????

    Mimioboots - January 1, 2012

  6. Mad Hatter

    cara - January 19, 2012

  7. Mad Hatter

    Tom Donaldson - January 19, 2012

  8. Mad Hatter

    conor - January 21, 2012

  9. Mad Hatter

    Anon - January 23, 2012

  10. Mad Hatter

    Eve - January 24, 2012

  11. The Mad Hatter

    Frode - January 30, 2012

  12. It is obviously the MAD HATTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Martha - January 30, 2012

  13. Mad Hatter

    Clemmie - January 30, 2012

  14. The Mad Hatter

    Maya Williams - January 30, 2012

  15. The Mad Hatter

    Ruben - January 30, 2012

  16. it’s the Mad Hatter at a tea party

    Isabella Bride - January 30, 2012

  17. It is the Mad Hatter

    Ares - January 30, 2012

  18. Mad Hatter

    spokegg - January 31, 2012

  19. probably mad hatter

    alex - January 31, 2012

  20. It’s the Mad Hatter.

    Georgina - February 1, 2012

  21. Mad Hatter!

    Megan - February 1, 2012

  22. I agree it is the Mad Hatter

    Ivan - February 2, 2012

  23. Mad Hatter

    Jessica Pugh - February 4, 2012

  24. Mad Hatter, we meet again. I see through your ASCII disguise.

    David A - February 4, 2012

  25. MAD HATTER

    Geor Geor - February 5, 2012

  26. The Mad Hatter!

    Louise - February 5, 2012

  27. The Mad Hatter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Dami - February 5, 2012

  28. Mad hatter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Katie-Anne - February 5, 2012

  29. Mad hatter

    Chloe - February 5, 2012

  30. Mad Hatter

    Geraint Starr - February 2012 - February 5, 2012

  31. Mad Hatter

    Holly Winship - February 5, 2012

  32. Mad hatter

    Maddy o'sullivan - February 6, 2012

  33. Mad Hatter

    Rachel Madeley - February 6, 2012

  34. Mad Hatter

    Gemma - February 7, 2012

  35. Mad Hatter

    Abby Glynn - February 8, 2012

  36. Mad Hatter

    Eleni Harfoot - February 9, 2012

  37. It’s the Mad Hatter

    Joanna Thorpe - February 10, 2012

  38. Mad Hatter

    MazyP - February 10, 2012

  39. Mad Hatter

    Daniella - February 10, 2012

  40. Mad Hatter

    Bryony Hickson - February 11, 2012

  41. Mad Hatter

    peta - February 11, 2012

  42. Mad Hatter

    jessica - February 11, 2012

  43. Mad Hatter

    Anna Tomlinson - February 11, 2012

  44. Mad Hatter

    Anna Roberts - February 12, 2012

  45. Mad Hatter

    Lewis - February 12, 2012

  46. Mad Hatter

    Rhys Kilby - February 12, 2012

  47. Its MAD HATTER

    luke kramer-gallery - February 12, 2012

  48. Mad Hatter

    Adele Poxon - February 12, 2012

  49. Mad Hatter

    adam - February 12, 2012

  50. MAD HATTER

    Hannah McDonald - February 12, 2012

  51. Mad Hatter

    Matthew Menton - February 12, 2012

  52. mad hatter

    alex moffat - February 12, 2012

  53. Mad Hatter

    Kristen Stearn - February 13, 2012

  54. mad hatter

    steveb - February 14, 2012

  55. Mad Hatter

    Bridie Iris Stocks, aged 9. - February 14, 2012

  56. Mad Hatter

    Caroline Doyle - February 14, 2012

  57. Mad Hatter

    Sonny Nye Meredith - February 15, 2012

  58. Mad Hatter

    Janette - February 16, 2012

  59. Mad Hatter

    liam bristow - February 16, 2012

  60. Mad Hatter

    Alexis Pettie - February 17, 2012

  61. Mad Hatter

    Lois dickerson - February 17, 2012

  62. The Mad Hatter

    Leo Adlam - February 17, 2012

  63. The Mad Hatter

    Eloise Adlam - February 17, 2012

  64. Mad hatter

    Ellie Metcalfe - February 19, 2012

  65. Mad Hatter

    Charlotte Perkins - February 19, 2012

  66. Mad Hatter

    Jackie Goldston - February 20, 2012

  67. Mad Hatter

    Tamzin Myburgh - February 20, 2012

  68. Mad Hatter

    Harry Pugh - February 20, 2012

  69. MAD HATTER

    Elaine Skidmore - February 21, 2012

  70. MAD HATTER

    lilly-faye - February 21, 2012

  71. Mad Hatter

    Ryan Cinato - February 21, 2012

  72. Mad Hatter

    Amina - February 21, 2012

  73. Hatter gone Mad

    Paul - February 22, 2012

  74. The Mad Hatter

    Thomas Randle - February 23, 2012

  75. MAD HATTER

    ste - February 23, 2012

  76. mad hatter mad hatter mad hatter mad hatter BOOM BOOM

    matthew you know Jones - February 23, 2012

  77. mad hatter, of course!!!!

    kirsty james - February 24, 2012

  78. Mad Hatter

    Hanna Dunleavy - February 25, 2012

  79. Mad Hatter

    Sophie Corbett - February 26, 2012

  80. Mad Hatter

    Cameron Norton - February 26, 2012

  81. The Mad Hatter

    Harry Chadwick - February 26, 2012

  82. Mad Hatter

    Luke Kearsley - February 26, 2012

  83. Mad Hatter

    Jack Monkeyboy - February 27, 2012

  84. Mad Hatter

    sonya ritchie - February 27, 2012

  85. The mad hatter

    Max J - February 27, 2012

  86. Mad Hatter

    Zhane Rose - February 29, 2012

  87. Mad Hatter

    cameron aldridge - February 29, 2012

  88. The Mad Hatter

    Saskia Lewis - March 10, 2012