Nine Snark Hunters

There is no tenth member in Henry Holiday’s illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. I think that the Snark hunting party consists of nine members only. Let us take them in order of their introduction:

  1. The Bellman, their captain.
  2. The Boots, a maker of Bonnets and Hoods (here marked with colouring)
  3. The Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes, but repeatedly complains about the Beaver’s evil lace-making.
  4. The Broker, to value their goods.
  5. The Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense, might perhaps have won more than his share.
  6. The Banker, engaged at enormous expense, had the whole of their cash in his care.
  7. The Beaver, that paced on the deck or would sit making lace in the bow and had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck, though none of the sailors knew how.
  8. The Baker, also addressed by “Fry me!”, “Fritter my wig!”, “Candle-ends” as well as “Toasted-cheese”, and known for joking with hyenas and walking paw-in-baw with a bear.
  9. The Butcher, who only could kill Beavers, but later became best friend with the lace-making animal.

9 or 10 hunters? | Care and Hope | The Snark

2017-11-06, edited: 2018-08-13

What I tell you three times is true!

001    “Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
002        As he landed his crew with care;
003    Supporting each man on the top of the tide
004        By a finger entwined in his hair.

005    “Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
006        That alone should encourage the crew.
007    Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
008        What I tell you three times is true.

329    “’Tis the voice of the Jubjub!” he suddenly cried.
330        (This man, that they used to call “Dunce.”)
331    “As the Bellman would tell you,” he added with pride,
332        “I have uttered that sentiment once.

333    “’Tis the note of the Jubjub! Keep count, I entreat;
334        You will find I have told it you twice.
335    ’Tis the song of the Jubjub! The proof is complete,
336        If only I’ve stated it thrice.

Kelly Ramsdell Fineman told us …

… that President Theodore Roosevelt and Edith Wharton were huge fans of the Snark. On one visit to the White House, Wharton learned of the following exchange that occurred between the President and the Secretary of the Navy (undoubtedly unaware of Carroll’s poem, or at least unaware that Roosevelt was quoting):

During discussion, Roosevelt said to the secretary of the Navy,

“Mr. Secretary, what I tell you three times is true!”

The Secretary replied stiffly,

“Mr. President, it would never for a moment have occurred to me to impugn your veracity.”

Yes, better don’t impugn your leader’s veracity. Even though he will get rid of you rather sooner than later, you don’t need to push it.


The Bellman’s Rule is stated in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, line #7 and line #335. I said it in Lua – wrote it in Python, I made that indeed, but I wholly forgot (when finally done), that Haskell is what you need! So, here is an example for how to implement that rule:

#! /usr/bin/haskell
import Data.List
statementList :: [String]
statementList =
  ["I am a stable genius!"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"There are 9 Snark hunters."
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"I am a stable genius!"
  ,"Brexit promises will be kept!"
  ,"Brexit promises will be kept!"
  ,"Brexit promises will be kept!"
  ,"6 * 7 = 39"
  ,"6 * 7 = 39"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"6 * 7 = 42"
  ,"I am a stable genius!"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"6 * 7 = 39"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
atLeastThrice :: [String] -> [String]
atLeastThrice sL =
  [head grp | grp <-
    group $ sort sL, length grp >= 3]

Result (if loaded and executed in GHCi):

*Main> atLeastThrice statementList
["6 * 7 = 39","Brexit promises will be kept!","I am a stable genius!","There are 10 Snark hunters."]

If you want to prove other claims, just change statementList.

2017-12-16, update: 2018-07-25

From Rule 42 to Rule 51 in Germany

At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out ‘Silence!’ and read out from his book, ‘Rule Forty-two. ALL PERSONS MORE THAN A MILE HIGH TO LEAVE THE COURT.’ Everybody looked at Alice.
‘I’m not a mile high,’ said Alice.
‘You are,’ said the King.
‘Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen.
‘Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,’ said Alice: `besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.’
‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.
‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, chapter XII

In the 1952 German dubbed version of Disney’s 1951 Alice movie, “Rule 42” had been replaced by “Paragraph 51”. Nobody can really know what “42” stands for, but in Germany “he has the article 51” (“Er hat den Paragraph 51“) meant “He is mad”. It was until the year 1975 that the article 51 of the German penal code provided the legal base for insanity defense.

Lewis Carroll’s “Rule 42” might not have been plain nonsense.

Being Unwise

According to Karen Gardiner, “it would be unwise for anyone to imply that they have found the answer to the book’s mystery.” The book is Lewis Carroll’s and Henry Holiday’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876).

I started my Snark hunt in December 2008. Initially I probably had been quite unwise. That might explain the title The real story behind “The Hunting of the Snark” of an early post in The Lewis Carroll Forum. I am sorry for that botched exercise in self-irony.

Gardiner gave her warning to Snark hunters in her paper Life, Eternity, and Everything: Hidden Eschatology in the Works of Lewis Carroll, published on p.25~41 in THE CARROLLIAN, No. 31, mailed by the UK Lewis Carroll Society to me in June 2018 (yet not listed in

As for “Article 42” in Thomas Cranmer’s 42 Articles and “Rule 42” in The Hunting of the Snark, the main argument of Gardiner’s June 2018 paper is “that Carroll’s frequent and unexplained use of the number 42, and in particular his development of Role 42 in the preface of The Hunting of the Snark and Rule 42 in Alice’s trial scene highlight the doctrine of eternal punishment that Carroll was so concerned about.” The issue was addressed in this Blog in December 2017: Eternal Disconnect.

As for Thomas Cranmer’s 42 Articles and the Baker’s 42 boxes in The Hunting of the Snark, Gardiner made me aware of Angus MacIntyre‘s comment (1994) “The Baker’s 42 Boxes are the original Protestant Articles of 1553, with Thomas Cranmer’s name on each.” Since 2010 I believe that too. Thanks to Karen Gardiner’s 2018 paper in THE CARROLLIAN and to Angus MacIntire’s suggestion I now know that linking the Baker in The Hunting of the Snark to Thomas Cranmer (among other references) is not such a weird idea after all.

The Article 42 in the 42 Articles was of special interest to Carroll/Dodgson, who objected to the belief in an eternal punishment. But I don’t think that this explains why in The Hunting of the Snark Carroll came up with 42 boxes rather than 39 boxes as a reference to one of the most important foundations of the Anglican church. I suggest that Carroll chose the “42” as among several references to Thomas Cranmer, the author of the 42 Articles.

I started in December 2008 to be unwise with a single finding. But soon I understood, that there are many answers to Lewis Carroll’s and Henry Holiday’s textual and pictorial puzzles in The Hunting of the Snark. There are no references in Gardiner’s papers to my findings related to Thomas Cranmer and his 42 Articles, but it is good to learn that also theologists write about religious aspects of The Hunting of the Snark. Reverend Karen Gardiner is a Priest in the Church of England.


Truth Tweaking Tweets

Why Donald Trump Can’t Kill the Truth, by Errol Morris, TIME, 2018-05-22:

[…] What is so scary about the present time is that people believe that they can assert truth just by screaming louder than others or repeating themselves endlessly, like the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”: “What I tell you three times is true.” […]

In my view, tweaking the truth is nothing new. But the ability to tweet the tweaked truth within a few seconds to millions of people makes the difference. It turns Trump’s language (as well as the language of Trump haters) into a wide spread epidemy.

Henry Holiday's BoojumI think that Carroll’s tragicomedy (or even tragedy?) The Hunting of the Snark is very much about what we are experiencing in these days: Legimate dispute (Snark) is turning more and more into toxic eristic (Boojum). And beware if it bites you, it’s contagious! Our pursuit of happiness can take many paths, therefore conflicts are unaviodable parts of our journey. But beware of the day, if your Snark be a Boojum! For then you will softly and suddenly vanish away, and never be met with again.


By the way: As for an on-line Snark, Morris’ article links to the Poetry Foundation. They do a good job, but Ebooks Adelaide offers a better on-line rendering of the poem. My version is based on an earlier Ebooks Adelaide version.

The Bard


Bycatch (found in 2013) from my Snark hunt:


initial post: 2017-09-26

Face Change

In an early draft to the illustration The Crew on Deck in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, the illustrator Henry Holiday gave the Bellman a different face than the one which the Bellman had in the final illustration. Henry Holiday didn’t discard the original face. He moved that round faced character to the illustration The Barrister’s Dream and then turned the Bellman in the illustration The Crew on Deck into a Darwin look-alike.