Tweedledum and Tweedledee
|"Tweedledum and Tweedledee"|
John Tenniel's illustration, from Through the Looking-Glass (1871), chapter 4
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.
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 Battista Bononcini, written by John Byrom (1692–1763):
- 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!
Although Byrom is clearly the author of the epigram, the last two lines have also been attributed to Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. Although the rhyme in its familiar form 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.
Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel
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 also physically, and Gardner goes so far as to claim that Carroll intended them to be enantiomorphs, i.e., three-dimensional mirror images. Evidence for these assumptions cannot be found in any of Lewis Carroll's writings.
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 & 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.
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 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 & 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.
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.
Other references in popular culture
- In DC Comics, two long-time Batman villains call themselves Tweedledum and Tweedledee, because they are cousins who happen to be identical and very similar to the original versions. Their true names, appropriately, are Deever and Dumfree Tweed. They occasionally appear as henchmen of the Joker, but just as often operate solo. They first appeared in Detective Comics #74.They also had a cameo in Grant Morrison's and David McKean's graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.
- Rudyard Kipling references Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee at the beginning of the short story "Her Majesty's Servants", from The Jungle Book (1894).
- In a 1921 letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, the writer James Joyce uses the twins "Tweedledum and Tweedledee" to characterize Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung and their conflict.
- In the film Alice in Wonderland (1999), they appear right after Alice's encounter with the talking flowers, which also were originally only in Through the Looking-Glass.
- 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.
- During the 2000 United States presidential election, candidate Ralph Nader pointed out that George W. Bush and Al Gore were not very different in their corporate policies, and called them Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
- 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." 
- 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."
- "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" features as the opening song on Bob Dylan's 2001 album Love and Theft.
- In the satirical BBC Radio 4 show The News at Bedtime, the main characters are John Tweedledum and Jim Tweedledee, played by Jack Dee and Peter Capaldi.
- I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 418.
- C.Edgar Thomas: Some Musical Epigrams and Poems, The Musical Times, November 1, (1915), p. 661.
- John Byrom: Epigram on the Feuds between Handel and Bononcini, The Poems, The Chetham Society 1894–1895. Source: Literature Online.
- M. Gardner, ed., The Annotated Alice (New York: Meridian, 1963).
- J. Beck, The Animated Movie Guide (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2005), p. 11.
- 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.
- James Joyce: Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver. 24 June 1921
- "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"
- "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."
- Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States Harper Perennial Classics, 2005. p.345 ISBN 0-06-083865-5.
- "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”
- http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/tweedle-dee-tweedle-dum, retrieved 18/04/09.