>Spoiler Alert! Or Trigger Warning, if you are emotionally tied to storytelling. This post will discuss some of the secret codes used in a book. If you haven’t yet read ‘The Book Scavenger,’ I suggest that you do so. Until that time, don’t read beyond the following paragraph!<
I picked up a copy of The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman from Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store so that my wife would have something to read on the scant downtime she had during the AMVA Conference held there this past summer. It was advertised as the One Book One Denver selection for 2016.
The Book Scavenger is a great book for kids of all ages ineterested in books, exploration, codes, and ciphers – which is what I really wanted to address. This book uses Ogham, an ancient celtic system of writing that blends the celtic affinity for runes with the new Latin language that was appearing in the British Isles early in the Common Era. As such, it’s really just a cipher, one just as easily used for encrypting the modern Latin letters of Western Languages today as it was when it was created.
The puzzle created by Maddie was quite maddening. She decided to use Ogham as her cipher repeated here:
That would be fine. Except that once you know the message is in Ogham, that’s it. Just translate directly and you get the answer. This is both easier and harder than I was hoping for. It’s easier in that knowing Ogham (or at least how to find the means of translating it) means there is no puzzle at all. It’s harder because without knowing (Recognizing is a better word) Ogham, the cipher is nearly impossible to solve.
My expectation was that the cipher used Ogham as the letters, but they were still missmatched into a cryptogram. Rather than looking up the cipher itself, I simply chose to substitute letters on my own under the assumption that it doesn’t matter what they mean, I just needed more accessible letters to work from. So, despite the lack of any requirement to do a cipher, I made one out of this puzzle anyway.
Which lead to the next problem…
Ciphers require patterns to gain entry. But Maddie had chosen a non-sense phrase that intentionally undermined the tools of deciphering. The message was short, Letters were rarely repeated, and when letters were repeated, they were purposefully misleading for any frequency-based solution strategy.
Take home message: Don’t create more problems than you need!
Second Take home message: I need to get ahold of Book 2 in this series before I finish this one.