Sharpening a Spade

When the crew of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark is making preparations for seeking that impossible creature, we read that “the Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade”. This action is so outlandish that the editor and commentator Martin Gardner remarks ad locum: “Why in the world were they sharpening a spade?” (Gardner 2006: 44.)

Source: The Semantics and Semiotics of Sharpening a Spade: Apossible Explanation of Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, Line 273; by Ezequiel Ferriol, 2017

Sharpening a spade is not outlandish. I saw farmers and gardeners doing that. Sharpening the spade before digging makes work easier. I think that Gardener simply asked what the Boots and the Broker wanted to do with a spade.

Quite probably the Boots and the Broker sharpened a spade because they were going to dig.

The Broker and the Monk

In this image one of the elements has been marked (blue frame) which Henry Holiday borrowed from a 17th century painting (by an anonymous artist). This might be a bit different from the borrowing described by T. S. Eliot in 1920. The borrowing ot the pictorial allusion is inconspicuous. It doesn’t enrich Holiday’s illustration. It’s only purpose might be that of a signpost pointing to another work of art.

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