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Philemon is in his Riddling Hall; and therefore he is riddling.

“Consider this: may any touch Our Imperial Majesty without permission?” he asks.

The assembled philosophers rumble, no.

“Yet does a man’s shadow not cling to his feet?”

“Not when he skips,” chirps a little girl, as the crowd gapes around her.

“You again!” sniffs Philemon. “Well, consider this: in my Riddling Hall I am lit with a thousand lanterns, my shadow trapped under my feet! Can I not be said to have conquered darkness?”

“Well, if you trap your shadow in a box,” asks Corbin, “what does that make you?”


Conventional methods of hat-removal having failed completely, Philemon opens the task to the county’s finest natural philosophers.

“The die-press leaves plenty of earspace,” drawls the first presenter, “now.”

“No,” says Philemon.

“We lure the hat off with premium peanut butter,” chortles the second. “Never cheese!”

“No,” says Philemon.

“And when we’re done with the circular saw,” says the third, “the masking tape–”

“No no!” says Philemon. “No!”

The day’s last applicant is a small and serious girl.

“Hello,” says Philemon, curious.

“You’re not going to like hearing this,” says Corbin, looking–not without kindness–at his perfectly naked head.