Tweedledum and Tweedledee

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For the comic book characters, see Tweedledum and Tweedledee (comics).
"Tweedledum and Tweedledee"
Roud #19800
John Tenniel's illustration, from Through the Looking-Glass (1871), chapter 4
Written by Traditional
Published 1805
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are fictional characters in an English nursery rhyme and in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Their names may have originally come from an epigram written by poet John Byrom. The nursery rhyme has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19800. The names have since become synonymous in western popular culture slang for any two people who look and act in identical ways, generally in a derogatory context.


Common versions of the nursery rhyme include:

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
    Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
    Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
    As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
    They quite forgot their quarrel.[1]


The words "Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee" make their first appearance in print in "one of the most celebrated and most frequently quoted (and sometimes misquoted) epigrams", satirising the disagreements between George Frideric Handel and Giovanni Bononcini, written by John Byrom (1692–1763):[2]

Some say, compar'd to Bononcini
That Mynheer Handel's but a Ninny
Others aver, that he to Handel
Is scarcely fit to hold a Candle
Strange all this Difference should be
'Twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee![3]

Although Byrom is clearly the author of the epigram, the last two lines have also been attributed to Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.[1] While the familiar form of the rhyme was not printed until around 1805, when it appeared in Original Ditties for the Nursery, it is possible that Byrom was drawing on an existing rhyme.[4]

Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel[edit]

The characters are perhaps best known from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice Found There (1871). Carroll, having introduced two fat little men named Tweedledum and Tweedledee, quotes the nursery rhyme, which the two brothers then go on to enact. They agree to have a battle, but never have one. When they see a monstrous black crow swooping down, they take to their heels. The Tweedle brothers never contradict each other, even when one of them, according to the rhyme, "agrees to have a battle". Rather, they complement each other's words. This fact has led Tenniel to assume that they are twins, and Gardner goes so far as to claim that Carroll intended them to be enantiomorphs — three-dimensional mirror images. Evidence for these assumptions cannot be found in any of Lewis Carroll's writings.[4]

Other media[edit]

1951 film[edit]

Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear in the 1951 version of Alice in Wonderland, despite the fact that the movie is primarily based on the original Alice book.[5]

As Alice follows the white rabbit, she gets lost. Tweedledum & Tweedledee stumble upon her as they lurk out of the shadows. Alice greets them but states she must be on her way. Tweedledum & Tweedledee want to play, suggesting numerous games. When she declines they ask her why, and she replies "Because I'm curious".

Tweedledum and Tweedledee begin to weep, whispering "The oysters were curious too...". After Alice persists that she wants to know why, (and as they smile to each other menacingly) they narrate the tale of The Walrus and the Carpenter to Alice. After they're done, they want to play again. They begin playing with each other as Alice slips away unnoticed by the two.

In the film they have a slight Irish accent and are very obnoxious to Alice. The two appear identical in every way. They finish each other's sentences and make very odd movements with their bodies; such as jumping extremely high in the air and wobbling their legs as if they were noodles. They also make honking noises when they are touched or when they move. They seem as if they have a devious motive because they smile menacingly to each other a few times throughout the course of the scene they appear in.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are often represented by actors in Disney theme Parks. The Disney versions of the characters later made frequent appearances in the Disney television series House of Mouse and can also be spotted during the final scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.[6]

2010 film[edit]

In the 2010 Alice in Wonderland film, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are portrayed by Matt Lucas, whose face was digitally added to the bodies of both Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

In the film, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are the court jesters of the Red Queen, but are secretly part of the resistance that supports the White Queen. Early in the film, they help the White Rabbit lure Alice to Wonderland and later help her escape the Queen's soldiers, but are then caught themselves by the Jubjub bird. They are also shown hitting each other as in the 1951 Disney film. In the video game adaptation of the film, they make infrequent appearances as obstacles. The player must give the duo aid in whatever game they are playing to gain a bag of impossible ideas (the game's currency) and some information that will become useful later on.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland[edit]

Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (a spin-off of Once Upon a Time) with Tweedledum played by Ben Cotton and Tweedledee played by Marty Pinocchio. This version of the characters appear as servants of the Red Queen ever since she was wed to the Red King. Tweedledee has secretly worked with Jafar. In "Home," Tweedledum hears through the grape vine that Cyrus has been captured. As he goes to tell the Red Queen of this, he discovers Tweedledee's secret association with Jafar and also informs the Red Queen of this. When Jafar visits the Red Queen's palace, he finds a box addressed to him by the Red Queen containing Tweedledee's head as he tells Jafar "I think she's onto us." In "Nothing to Fear," Jafar takes out Tweedledee's head and asks him where he can find the Jabberer. Upon learning about how the tiger was imprisoned an entire army from Tweedledee, Jafar ends up taking the body of one of his henchmen and attaches Tweedledee's head to the body so that Tweedledee can lead him to the Jabberwocky's prison. In "Dirty Little Secrets," Tweedledum is shown to still be loyal to the Red Queen when he comes to visit her cell. The Red Queen sends Tweedledum to deliver a message to Alice and Cyrus telling them that Jafar now has all three genie lamps and has released the Jabberwocky. In "Heart of the Matter," Tweedledum finds Alice and Cyrus' invisible tent and carries out the Red Queen's warning to them. Alice suggests that Tweedledum takes her and Cyrus to the tunnels into the Red Queen's palace so that they can rescue her from Jafar.

The Wolf Among Us[edit]

Tweedledum and Tweedledee also appear in a game called The Wolf Among Us. The player controls Sheriff Bigby Wolf as he attempts to uncover who murdered two prostitutes. During this he encounters Tweedledum and Tweedledee who are working for The Crooked Man and are trying to cover up the murders and make Bigby's investigation significantly harder, eventually the Tweedles are ordered to kill Bigby, however Bigby defeats the twins and has the opportunity to kill Tweedle-Dum.

Pandora Hearts[edit]

In the anime and manga series the chain Duldee with its exponentiation duldum is a female chain that make puppets out of people and later controls it's contractor. Noise and Echo is based on the twins tweeduldee and tweeduldum as their personalities opposites of each other.

Other references in popular culture[edit]

  • GK Chesterton's story "When Doctors Agree", from "The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond", has the main character noting that there is no difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. "You will remember that it is distinctly recorded that they agreed. But remember what they agreed about."
  • A 1971 hit song by the Scottish pop group Middle of the Road was called Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum.
  • In Joe Versus the Volcano (1990, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) the twin sloops owned by industrialist Samuel Graynamore are named the Tweedledee and the Tweedledum. The Tweedledee sinks before the film takes place. The Tweedledum is struck by a sinister lighting bolt and sinks during the film.
  • In the 2000 videogame American McGee's Alice Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are enemies in Wonderland which Alice encounters; they mock her as her psychiatrist's "favourite patient" and then proceed to duel her.
  • In the SyFy TV miniseries Alice (2009), the twins are called Dr. Dee and Dr. Dum, and are a cross between mad scientists and torturers who use illusions to extract information from their victims.
  • In the anime and manga series Kiddy Grade, Tweedledum (a teenage boy) and Tweedledee (a teenage girl) are twin members of a special, trade policy enforcer group named "ES" consisting of agents with various superpowers.
  • Helen Keller, the first deaf/blind recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree and a prolific writer and left-wing activist, said this of democracy in the US: "Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee." [10]
  • Leading up to the United Kingdom general election, 2010, Tory leader David Cameron compared coalition-building British party leaders to "Tweedledum talking to Tweedledee, who is talking to Tweedledem."[11]
  • The two transformers from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Mudflap and Skids, despite strong racial beliefs to the contrary, are most likely based on Tweedledum and Tweedledee[citation needed], as both Autobots are short, roundish in appearance, lacking in intelligence and discipline, and they are twins, as the Tweedle brothers are most commonly depicted. Ironically, during the film, the two engage in a battle that ends in a stalemate when Bumblebee stops their brawl by throwing them outside, whereas the tweedle brothers never engaged in their own agreed battle.
  • In the 2013 video game The Wolf Among Us, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee make an appearance as antagonists, working for an unknown boss. The video game itself was based on the Fables comic book series.


  1. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 418.
  2. ^ C.Edgar Thomas: Some Musical Epigrams and Poems, The Musical Times, November 1, (1915), p. 661.
  3. ^ John Byrom: Epigram on the Feuds between Handel and Bononcini, The Poems, The Chetham Society 1894–1895. Source: Literature Online.
  4. ^ a b M. Gardner, ed., The Annotated Alice (New York: Meridian, 1963).
  5. ^ J. Beck, The Animated Movie Guide (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2005), p. 11.
  6. ^ Griffin, S. (2000). Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: the Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out. New York: New York University Press. p. 228. ISBN 0-8147-3122-8. 
  7. ^ James Joyce: Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver. 24 June 1921
  8. ^ "Political compass". Pace News. Retrieved 2008-09-14. compared to other western democracies, especially those with a finely-tuned system of proportional representation, most mainstream political activity in the US is concentrated over a more narrow ideological range 
  9. ^ "Nader assails major parties: scoffs at charge he drains liberal vote". CBS (Associated Press). 2000-04-06. Retrieved 2008-09-14. There is a difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but not that much. 
  10. ^ Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States Harper Perennial Classics, 2005. p.345 ISBN 0-06-083865-5.
  11. ^ "All Bets Are Off in British Campaign". New York Times. 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2010-04-26. “Tweedledum talking to Tweedledee, who is talking to Tweedledem”
  12. ^, retrieved 18/04/09.