Sylvie's Truant-Pupil, who has to be persuaded to attend
to his lessons. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded.
Fig. I, Vol. II: 8 (by Harry Furniss).

Puns are an important element of Lewis Carroll's word-play throughout his work. But possibly the most intense spate of puns occurs in the fairy child Bruno's recitation of geographical place-names in "the King-fisher Lesson," in the opening chapter of Sylvie and Bruno Concluded:

And there it was, a large Map of the World, spread out on the ground. It was so large that Bruno had to crawl about on it, to point out the places named in the "King-fisher Lesson."

"When King-fisher sees a Lady-bird flying away, he says 'Ceylon if you Candia!' And when he catches it, he says 'Come to Media! And if you're Hungary or thirsty, I'll give you some Nubia!' When he takes it in his claws he says 'Europe!' When he puts it into his beak, he says 'India!' When he's swallowed it, he says 'Eton!' That's all." [Ch.1]

Clues are required for the cracking of the Carroll-Bruno code, which Bruno, unlike his earlier child-character Alice, is allowed to be privy to, as an avatar of the childhood imago persisting within Lewis Carroll's personality. Such clues would best seem to come from the then-current Victorian Geography of place-names, together with Carroll's onomatopoeic word-play. The first line of Bruno's memory aid then translates as "Sail on, if you can, dear!", with the then-current place names for Sri Lanka, and Herakleion on Italian Crete. The closing use of the name of a famous British college is of course Carroll's pun on the resounding "Eaten!" The remaining puns are here left to the reader's ingenuity in decoding.

Related Material


Carroll, Lewis. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. London: Macmillan, 1893.

Created 21 May 2021