“I mark this day with a White Stone...”
I’m sure Charles Dodgson would have loved Go, had he discovered it, with its deep logic and with all those shiny black and silky white stones resonating on the hollowed-out board...
It was on this day he rowed young Alice Liddell and her sisters up the river, down a rabbit-hole, and sowed the seeds of a delightful myth.
In remembrance, may I reveal one small secret from my own little tale of nonsense with a long title: ‘The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond?’
This tale is a nonsensical quest story set at the Turning of the Year. Many of its characters relate to this: notably (and obviously, in this context) The Dodongs.
He has two heads because two heads are plainly better than one, especially in a book of nonsense and because he is Ineffable Emperor of the Land of Nod, which sits in the middle of the Great Sea of Slumber, which is all around us, if only we could see it, which is why he has hands instead of wings – he can swim through the air.
He has scales instead of feathers, for his feathers are so magical he has to hide them inside himself to protect them (two are hidden in Queen Mumbie-Bumbee’s magic pillow).
|Pilgrim Crow flummoxed by the Dodongs at Writing Desk Rock|
Why Dodongs, you may ask?
This two-headed Janus bird sits at the Turning of the Year looking forwards into the New Year and backwards into the old (Postvorta and Antevorta) ?
Because his name is simply an anagram of Dodgson, the surname of Lewis Carroll, whose chosen emblem was the Dodo (some say on account of his stutter, which seems like two voices fighting for speech)
and because Janus was the family crest of the Dodgsons.
Hence the Dodong’s anagrammatic parting shot in the book:
“If you would be,
As E. Clerihew, droll,
If you happen upon my book, see how many other characters, in name or function, you can relate to the Turning of the Year,
or to myth, folklore and legend,
or to local history (the book has a real setting, Brimham Rocks, a National Trust site near Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire – and a real map: you can follow the whole adventure and even meet two of my characters there, in a manner of speaking...)
ISBN 9780955548611. Price £14.99 Available from several good bookshops, Lovereading4kids
– great site – it has all my reviews on it), Waterstones (stores and website), Amazon if you must, or signed and posted direct from me at Causeway Cottage, 63, High St., Billingshurst, West Sussex, RH14 9QP.
is form of language I think perhaps most nearly and delightfully described by my mother’s sister when a young girl, writing to her older sister at a time when a letter was a letter, a joy and not a sentence:
“...and French! Well, it’s quite a nice little language all by itself. He! He! He! You should have seen it (my essay).”
|Dora’s letter to her sister, with a watercolour on every page, and even the envelope reverse!|
And its last sentence takes us neatly back to where Alice and her sisters climbed into a boat with the Reverend Charles Dodgson and Mr. Duckworth, on this day in 1862, and they all rowed happily into posterity.