While reading Douglas Adam's The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, I came across this:

She passed the time quietly in a world of her own in which she was surrounded as far as the eye could see with old cabin trunks full of past memories in which she rummaged with great curiosity, and sometimes bewilderment. Or, at least, about a tenth of the cabin trunks were full of vivid and often painful or uncomfortable memories of her past life; the other nine tenths were full of penguins, which surprised her. Insofar as she recognized at all thatshe was dreaming, she realized she must be exploring her own subconscious mind. She had heard it said that humans are supposed only to use about a tenth of their brains, and that no one was very clear what the other nine tenths were for, but she had certainly never heard it suggested that they were used for storing penguins. Chapter 2

Is there any specific reason for why penguins in particular, or just comic effect?

  • 4
    You're reading Douglas Adams and you expect it to make sense? :-P This kind of humorous writing is full of non-sequiturs.
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 6, 2018 at 13:08
  • 3
    “Ford... you're turning into a penguin. Stop it.” from H2G2. And according to Wikipedia he wrote something called Penguin and PanMac hitch a ride together. Maybe he just liked penguins?
    – auden
    May 6, 2018 at 17:24
  • 1
    Long dark time since I read Long Dark Tea-Time, but Adams is an absurdist, and this has the ring of classic dada. (Got me thinking about Dick Van Dyke ;)
    – DukeZhou
    May 8, 2018 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


Judging from what I have read of Douglas Adams, this is most likely just for comedic effect. Usually when something absurd yet meaningful happens in most of his works it has some contribution to the plot or characters (e.g., the refrigerator eventually becomes a god of guilt). Other than instances like that, Adams's books are full of funny but mostly random details, such as the I Ching calculator's problem with anything greater than the number four. These really don't serve any specific reason within the story, and probably would only occasionally represent something of particular interest to Adams (as far as I know). Here it mostly seems that he's poking fun at the psychology a bit and the well-known but false idea that we only use one-tenth of our brains. After all, what could be more ridiculous than penguins in one's subconscious?

Sorry for the gif! Kind of.

I mean, look at them, they're goofy enough without any encouragement.


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