Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

by Lewis Carroll

Compared to Wonderland, the Looking-Glass world is less oddity and more a reverse world that plays on words. Oh, the transitions and events of each square are rightly lucid but the structure seems based on polarity or clever logic.

For example, the White Queen knows what will happen next week; the Red Queen can run as fast as possible without getting anywhere; and to cut the plum cake for the Lion and the Unicorn, Alice has to serve it first. There’s a sense that things are done in a reverse order.

Anything that isn’t evokes a strong sense of literary wordplay. For one, Alice literally meets Humpty Dumpty, and second, the text is full of poetry, some of it derived from actual poems that characters recite for Alice.

Additionally, there are creatures who are a play on ordinary ones through their words: a rocking-horse-fly, bread-and-butter-fly, and snap-dragon-fly (which I especially liked the sound of):

“Its body is made of plum-pudding, its wings of holly-leaves, and its head is a raisin burning in brandy.”

“And what does it live on?” Alice asked, as before.

“Frumenty and mince-pie,” the Gnat replied; “and it makes its nest in a Christmas box.” (182).

What’s lovely about it, is that it sounds like a creature of Christmas. Made of holiday items or winter finery, it evokes the holiday. Or at least what I think was associated with it at the time.

In all cases, they are what one could imagine is the reverse of an ordinary insect in our world, as well as a twist on a word in their name.

In terms of worldbuilding, Looking-Glass world is build on chess, which you think would give it a sense of organization. Fairly speaking, it does, but being a reverse world it also isn’t entirely sensible in how we, in our non-looking-glass world, comprehend reality. This whole concept reminds me of an idea I had back when I was a kid and my mild fascination with mirror-worlds. Fun times.

What struck me the most was how many aspects from Through the Looking-Glass were incorpated into Disney’s Alice in Wonderland: talking flowers, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Walrus and Carpenter poem, rocking-horse-fly, bread-and-butter-fly, and a lot of the Red Queen’s dialogue and demeanor are mixed with the Queen of Hearts.

Additionally, based on the pictures, it looked like the Red King’s Anglo-Saxon messengers, Haigha and Hatta (who had recently been in prison) were the March Hare and Hatter from Wonderland. I have no idea what that means.

The visual similarity does reinforce what I said about Adventures in Wonderland; there feels like there’s a story underneath what Alice knows. Such as: Why is the White King sleeping? He wasn’t initially when Alice picked him up.

Although, I did wonder when Alice woke up while shaking the Red Queen, who turned out the be the naughty black kitten, Kitty, whether it was just dream-play in her head. Whether her recent game of chess with the kitten put that into her dream.

There’s also a lot in here about identity and language.


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