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For other uses, see Through the Looking Glass (disambiguation).

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) is a work of children's literature by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). It is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The themes and settings of Through the Looking-Glass make it a kind of mirror image of Wonderland: the first book begins outdoors, in the warm month of May (May 4),[1] uses frequent changes in size as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of playing cards; the second opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on November 4 (the day before Guy Fawkes Night),[2] uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of chess. In it, there are many mirror themes, including opposites, time running backwards, and so on.

Plot summary


Alice entering glass room through mirror

Alice is playing with her kittens—a white kitten (whom she calls "Snowdrop") and a black kitten (whom she calls "Kitty"), the offspring of Dinah, Alice's cat in the first book—when she ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror's reflection. Climbing up on the fireplace mantel, she pokes at the wall-hung mirror behind the fireplace and discovers, to her surprise, that she is able to step through it to an alternative world, the Looking-Glass Land. In this reflected version of her own house, she finds a book with looking-glass poetry, "Jabberwocky", whose reversed printing she can read only by holding it up to a mirror. She also observes that the chess-pieces have come to life, though they remain small enough for her to pick up.

Upon leaving the house (where it had been a cold, snowy night), she enters a sunny spring garden where the flowers have the power of human speech; they perceive Alice as being a "flower that can move about." Elsewhere in the garden, Alice meets the Red Queen (now human-sized), who impresses Alice with her ability to run at breathtaking speeds—a reference to the chess rule that queens are able to move up to seven spaces at once, and in any direction, making them the most "agile" of the pieces. The Red Queen reveals to Alice that the entire countryside is laid out in squares like a gigantic chessboard, and offers to make Alice a queen if she can move all the way to the eighth rank/row in a chess match. Alice is placed in the second rank as one of the White Queen's pawns, and begins her journey across the chessboard by boarding a train that literally jumps over the third row and directly into the fourth rank, acting on the rule that pawns can advance two spaces on their first move.

File:Red King sleeping.jpg

Red King snoring, by John Tenniel

She then meets the fat twin brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whom she knows from the famous nursery rhyme. After reciting the long poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter, the Tweedles draw Alice's attention to the Red King—loudly snoring away under a nearby tree—and maliciously provoke her with idle philosophical banter that she exists only as an imaginary figure in the Red King's dreams (thereby implying that she will cease to exist the instant he wakes up). Finally, the brothers begin acting out their nursery-rhyme by suiting up for battle, only to be frightened away by an enormous crow.

Alice next meets the White Queen, who is very absent-minded but boasts of (and demonstrates) her ability to remember future events before they have happened. Alice and the White Queen advance into the chessboard's fifth rank by crossing over a brook together, but at the very moment of the crossing, the Queen transforms into a talking Sheep. Alice soon finds herself struggling to handle the oars of a small rowboat, where the Sheep annoys her with (seemingly) nonsensical shouting about "crabs" and "feathers". (Unknown to Alice, these are standard terms in the jargon of rowing—and thus the Queen/Sheep, for a change, is speaking in a perfectly logical and meaningful way!)

After crossing yet another brook into the sixth rank, Alice immediately encounters Humpty Dumpty, who provides his own translation of the strange terms in "Jabberwocky" (in the process, introducing Alice and the reader to the concept of portmanteau words) before his inevitable fall. "All the king's horses and all the king's men" come to Humpty Dumpty's assistance, naturally, and are accompanied by the White King along with the Lion and the Unicorn, who again proceed to act out a nursery rhyme by fighting each other. In this chapter, the March Hare and Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland make a brief re-appearance from the first novel in the guise of "Anglo-Saxon messengers" called "Haigha" and "Hatta" (i.e. "Hare" and "Hatter"—these names are the only hint given as to their identities other than John Tenniel's illustrations).

Upon leaving the Lion and Unicorn to their fight, Alice reaches the seventh rank by crossing another brook into the forested territory of the Red Knight, who is intent on capturing the "white pawn" Alice until the White Knight comes to her rescue. Escorting her through the forest towards the final brook-crossing, the Knight recites a long poem of his own composition, and repeatedly falls off his horse—his clumsiness is a reference to the "eccentric" L-shaped movements of chess knights, and may also be interpreted as a self-deprecating joke about Lewis Carroll's own physical awkwardness and stammering in real life.

Bidding farewell to the White Knight, Alice steps across the last brook and is automatically crowned a queen (the crown materialising abruptly on her head). She soon finds herself in the company of both the White and Red Queens who relentlessly confound Alice by using word play to thwart her attempts at logical discussion. They then invite one another to a party that will be hosted by the newly crowned Alice (of which Alice herself had no prior knowledge). Alice arrives and seats herself at her own party which quickly turns to a chaotic uproar (much like the ending of the first book) in which Alice finally grabs the Red Queen, believing her to be responsible for all the day's nonsense, and begins shaking her violently with all her might. (By thus "capturing" the Red Queen, Alice unknowingly puts the Red King—who has remained stationary throughout the book—into checkmate, and is allowed to wake up.) Alice suddenly awakes in her armchair to find herself holding the black kitten, whom she deduces to have been the Red Queen all along, with the white kitten having been the White Queen. The story ends with Alice recalling the speculation of the Tweedle brothers, that everything may have, in fact, been a dream of the Red King and that Alice might herself be no more than a figment of his imagination. One final poem is inserted by the author as a sort of epilogue which suggests that life itself is but a dream.

Theme of chess

File:Alice chess game.png

Lewis Carroll's diagram of the story as a chess game

Whereas the first book has the deck of cards as a theme, this book is based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most main characters met in the story are represented by a chess piece, with Alice herself being a pawn.

Although the chess problem is generally regarded as a nonsense composition because of the story's 'faulty link with chess',[3] the French researchers Christophe LeRoy and Sylvain Ravot have argued[4] that it actually contains a 'hidden code' by Carroll to the reader. The code is supposed to be related to Carroll's relationship with Alice Liddell, and apparently contains several references to Carroll's favorite number, 42. The theory and its implications have been criticized[5] for lack of solid evidence, misrepresenting historical facts about Carroll and Alice,[6] and flirting with numerology and esotericism.

The looking-glass world is divided into sections by brooks, with the crossing of each brook usually signifying a notable change in the scene and action of the story: the brooks represent the divisions between squares on the chessboard, and Alice's crossing of them signifies advancing of her piece one square. Furthermore, since the brook-crossings do not always correspond to the beginning and ends of chapters, most editions of the book visually represent the crossings by breaking the text with several lines of asterisks ( * * * ). The sequence of moves (white and red) is not always followed, which goes along with the book's mirror image reversal theme as noted by mathematician and author Martin Gardner[citation needed].

The most extensive treatment of the chess motif in Carroll's novel is provided in Glen Downey's The Truth About Pawn Promotion: The Development of the Chess Motif in Victorian Fiction.[7]

Returning characters

The characters of Hatta and Haigha (pronounced as the English would have said "hatter" and "hare") make an appearance, and are pictured (by Sir John Tenniel, not by Carroll) to resemble their Wonderland counterparts, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. However, Alice does not recognize them as such.

Dinah, Alice's cat, also makes a return — this time with her two kittens; Kitty (the black one) and Snowdrop (the white one). At the end of the book they are associated with the Red Queen and the White Queen respectively in the looking glass world.

Though she does not appear, Alice's sister is mentioned. In both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass, there are puns and quips about two non-existing characters, Nobody and Somebody. Paradoxically, the gnat calls Alice an old friend, though it was never introduced in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Poems and songs

File:Briny Beach.jpg

The Walrus and the Carpenter

The Wasp in a Wig

Lewis Carroll decided to suppress a scene involving what was described as "a wasp in a wig" (possibly a play on the commonplace expression "bee in the bonnet"). It has been suggested in a biography by Carroll's nephew, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, that one of the reasons for this suppression was due to the suggestion of his illustrator, John Tenniel. In a letter to Carroll, dated June 1, 1870, Tenniel wrote:

…I am bound to say that the 'wasp' chapter doesn't interest me in the least, and I can’t see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can’t help thinking – with all submission – that there is your opportunity.[8]

For many years no one had any idea what this missing section was or whether it had survived. In 1974, a document purporting to be the galley proofs of the missing section was sold at Sotheby's; the catalog description read, in part, that "The proofs were bought at the sale of the author's … personal effects … Oxford, 1898…". The bid was won by John Fleming, a Manhattan book dealer. The winning bid was £1700.[citation needed] The contents were subsequently published in Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, and is also available as a hardback book The Wasp in a Wig: A Suppressed Episode ....[9]

The rediscovered section describes Alice's encounter with a wasp wearing a yellow wig, and includes a full previously unpublished poem. If included in the book, it would have followed, or been included at the end of, chapter 8 — the chapter featuring the encounter with the White Knight. The discovery is generally accepted as genuine, though some doubting voices have been raised. The proofs have yet to receive any physical examination to establish age and authenticity.[10]

Main characters


The Jabberwock, as illustrated by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, including the poem "Jabberwocky".

For all other characters see: List of minor Characters in the Alice Series


  • A silent movie adaptation directed by Walter Lang, Alice Through a Looking Glass, was made in 1928.[11]
  • The 1933 live-action movie Alice in Wonderland, starring a huge all-star cast and Charlotte Henry in the role of Alice, featured most of the elements from Through the Looking Glass as well, including W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, and a Max Fleischer animated version of The Walrus and the Carpenter.[12]
  • The 1936 Mickey Mouse short film "Thru the Mirror" in which Mickey travels through his mirror and enter a bizarre world.
  • The 1951 animated Disney movie Alice in Wonderland also featured several elements from Through the Looking-Glass, including the poems "Jabberwocky" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter".[13]
  • The book was adapted into a TV musical in 1966, with songs by Moose Charlap, and Judi Rolin in the role of Alice.[14]
  • Another adaptation, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was produced by Joseph Shaftel Productions (distributed by Fox-Rank productions) in 1972, and is felt by many to be the most faithful adaptation to the original novel, with the exception of the omitted scene with the Cheshire Cat (Roy Kinnear) replaced by Tweedledum and Tweedledee (in a scene which remains faithful to their respective scene from Alice Through the Looking Glass). Fiona Fullerton played Alice, Michael Crawford played the White Rabbit, Peter Sellers played the March Hare and Dudley Moore played the Doormouse.
  • The book was adapted into a BBC TV movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1974, with Sarah Sutton playing Alice.[15]
  • The 1977 film Jabberwocky expands the story of the poem "Jabberwocky".
  • A 1980 liberal stage production was produced and written by Elizabeth Swados, Alice in Concert (aka Alice at the Palace), based on both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, and performed on a bare stage. Meryl Streep played the role of Alice, with additional supporting cast by Mark Linn-Baker and Betty Aberlin, et al.
  • A 1982 38-minute Soviet cutout-animated film was based on the book. It was made by Kievnauchfilm studio and directed by Yefrem Pruzhanskiy.[16]
  • The 1985 two-part TV musical Alice in Wonderland, produced by Irwin Allen, covered both books; Alice was played by Natalie Gregory. In this adaptation, the Jabberwock materializes into reality after Alice reads Jabberwocky, and pursues her through the second half of the musical.
  • The book was adapted into an animated TV movie in 1987, with Janet Waldo as the voice of Alice (Mr. T was the voice of the Jabberwock).[17]
  • A Channel 4 movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass, was produced in 1998, with Kate Beckinsale playing the role of Alice. This production restored the lost "Wasp in a Wig" episode.[18]
  • A live musical, Alice Through the Looking Glass, with music by Stephen Daltry, was produced in 2000.
  • The 1999 made-for-TV Hallmark/NBC film Alice in Wonderland, with Tina Majorino as Alice, merged elements from Through the Looking Glass including the talking flowers, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and the Chess theme including the snoring Red King and White Knight.
  • In 2007, Chicago-based Lookingglass Theater Company debuted an acrobatic interpretation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with Lookingglass Alice. Lookingglass Alice was performed in New York City (NYC), Philadelphia and is currently in an open-ended run in Chicago. There is also a version of the show touring in the United States.
  • Christmas 2007 a multimedia stage adaptation "Alice Through The Looking Glass" at The Tobacco Factory directed and conceived by Andy Burden, written by Hattie Naylor, music and lyrics by Paul Dodgson.
  • The 2008 opera Through the Looking Glass by Alan John
  • The 2009 Syfy TV mini-series Alice contains elements from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
  • 2009 book Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland is an adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass written entirely in rhyming verse by British-American author J.T. Holden
  • The 2010 movie Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton contains elements of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

See also


  1. In Chapter 7, "A Mad Tea-Party", Alice reveals that the date is "the fourth" and that the month is "May."
  2. In the first chapter, Alice speaks of the snow outside and the "bonfire" that "the boys" are building for a celebration "to-morrow", a clear reference to the traditional bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night, November 5; in the fifth chapter, she affirms that her age is "seven and a half exactly."
  3. See Lewis Carroll and chess on the Lewis Carroll Society Website
  4. See their web-site Lewis CARROLL's chess game dedicated to the problem and its possible meaning
  5. Moll, Arne (2008-07-13). "Lewis Carroll’s chess problem". Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  6. See: Leach, Karoline In the Shadow of the Dreamchild, London 1999, “The Unreal Alice”
  7. (University of Victoria, 1998)
  8. Gardner, Martin (2000). The Annotated Alice. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 283. ISBN 0393048470. 
  9. (Clarkson Potter, MacMillan & Co.; 1977)
  10. see lengthy discussion about the 'absence' of investigation on the Lewis Carroll Discussion List


  • Tymn, Marshall B.; Kenneth J. Zahorski and Robert H. Boyer (1979). Fantasy Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide. New York: R.R. Bowker Co. p. 61. ISBN 0-8352-1431-1.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  • Gardner, Martin (1990). More Annotated Alice. New York: Random House. p. 363. ISBN 0-394-58571-2. 
  • Gardner, Martin (1960). The Annotated Alice. New York: Clarkson N. Potter. pp. 180–181. 

External links

On-line texts

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