Through the Looking-Glass

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Through the Looking-Glass
Through the looking glass.jpg
First edition cover of Through the Looking-Glass
AuthorLewis Carroll
IllustratorJohn Tenniel
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's fiction
Publication date
27 December 1871 (dated 1872)
Preceded byAlice's Adventures in Wonderland 

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (also known as Alice Through the Looking-Glass or simply Through the Looking-Glass) is a novel published on 27 December 1871 (though indicated as 1872)[1] by Lewis Carroll and the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Alice again enters a fantastical world, this time by climbing through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it. There she finds that, just like a reflection, everything is reversed, including logic (for example, running helps one remain stationary, walking away from something brings one towards it, chessmen are alive, nursery rhyme characters exist, and so on).

Through the Looking-Glass includes such verses as "Jabberwocky" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter", and the episode involving Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The mirror above the fireplace that is displayed at Hetton Lawn in Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire (a house that was owned by Alice Liddell's grandparents, and was regularly visited by Alice and Lewis Carroll) resembles the one drawn by John Tenniel and is cited as a possible inspiration for Carroll.[2]

It was the first of the "Alice" stories to gain widespread popularity, and prompted a newfound appreciation for its predecessor when it was published.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

Chapter One – Looking-Glass House: Alice is playing with a white kitten (whom she calls "Snowdrop") and a black kitten (whom she calls "Kitty") when she ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror's reflection. Climbing up onto 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. 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 the mirror. She also observes that the chess pieces have come to life, though they remain small enough for her to pick up.

Alice entering the looking-glass.

Chapter Two – The Garden of Live Flowers: Upon leaving the house (where it had been a cold, snowy night), she enters a sunny spring garden where the flowers can speak; they perceive Alice as being a "flower that can move about". Elsewhere in the garden, Alice meets the Red Queen, who is now human-sized, and who impresses Alice with her ability to run at breathtaking speeds.

Chapter Three – Looking-Glass Insects: 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 jumps over the third row and directly into the fourth rank, thus acting on the rule that pawns can advance two spaces on their first move. She arrives in a forest where a depressed gnat teaches her about the looking glass insects, strange creatures part bug part object (e.g., bread and butterfly, rocking horse fly), before flying away sadly. Alice continues her journey and along the way, crosses the "wood where things have no names". There she forgets all nouns, including her own name. With the help of a fawn who has also forgotten his identity, she makes it to the other side, where they both remember everything. Realizing that he is a fawn, she is a human, and that fawns are afraid of humans, it runs off (to Alice's frustration).

Illustration of Alice meeting Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Alice meeting Tweedledum (centre) and Tweedledee (right)

Chapter Four – Tweedledum and Tweedledee: She then meets the fat twin brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whom she knows from the nursery rhyme. After reciting the long poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter", they 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. Finally, the brothers begin suiting up for battle, only to be frightened away by an enormous crow, as the nursery rhyme about them predicts.

Illustration of the Red King sleeping against a tree
The Red King dreaming

Chapter Five – Wool and Water: 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 in a small shop. 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".

Chapter Six – Humpty Dumpty: After crossing yet another brook into the sixth rank, Alice immediately encounters Humpty Dumpty, who, besides celebrating his unbirthday, provides his own translation of the strange terms in "Jabberwocky". In the process, he introduces Alice to the concept of portmanteau words, before his inevitable fall.

The White Knight

Chapter Seven – The Lion and the Unicorn: "All the king's horses and all the king's men" come to Humpty Dumpty's assistance, 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 with each other. In this chapter, the March Hare and Hatter of the first book make a brief re-appearance in the guise of "Anglo-Saxon messengers" called "Haigha" and "Hatta".

Chapter Eight – "It's my own Invention": 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 called Haddocks' Eyes, and repeatedly falls off his horse.

Chapter Nine – Queen Alice: Bidding farewell to the White Knight, Alice steps across the last brook, and is automatically crowned a queen, with the crown materialising abruptly on her head (a reference to pawn promotion). 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.

Chapter Ten – Shaking: Alice arrives and seats herself at her own party, which quickly turns into chaos. Alice finally grabs the Red Queen, believing her to be responsible for all the day's nonsense, and begins shaking her.

Chapter Eleven – Waking: Alice awakes in her armchair to find herself holding the black kitten, who she deduces to have been the Red Queen all along, with the white kitten having been the White Queen.

Chapter Twelve – Which dreamed it?: The story ends with Alice recalling the speculation of the Tweedle brothers, that everything may have been a dream of the Red King, and that Alice might herself be no more than a figment of his imagination. The book ends with the line "Life, what is it but a dream?"


Main characters[edit]

Minor characters[edit]



One of the key motifs of Through the Looking-Glass is that of mirrors, including the use of opposites, time running backwards, and so on, not to mention the title of the book itself. In fact, the themes and settings of the book make it somewhat of a mirror image to its predecessor, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The first book begins in the warm outdoors, on 4 May;[a] uses frequent changes in size as a plot device; and draws on the imagery of playing cards. The second book, however, opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on 4 November (the day before Guy Fawkes Night);[b] uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device; and draws on the imagery of chess.


Lewis Carroll's diagram of the story as a chess game
The composition, according to Glen Downey

While the first Alice novel took playing cards as a theme, Through the Looking-Glass instead used chess; most of the main characters are represented by chess pieces, with Alice being a pawn. The looking-glass world consists of square fields divided by brooks or streams, and the crossing of each brook typically signifies a change in scene, with Alice advancing one square. At the book's beginning, Carroll provided and explained a chess composition with descriptive notation, corresponding to the events of the story. Although the piece movements follow the rules of chess, other basic rules are ignored: one player (White) makes several consecutive moves while the (Red/Black) opponent's moves are skipped, and a late check (12... Qe8+) is left undealt with. Carroll also explained that certain items listed in the composition do not have corresponding piece moves but simply refer to the story, e.g. the "castling of the three Queens, which is merely a way of saying that they entered the palace". Despite these liberties, the final position is an authentic checkmate.

The most extensive treatment of the chess motif in Carroll's novel was made by Glen Downey in his master's thesis, later expanded and incorporated into his dissertation on the use of chess as a device in Victorian fiction. In the former piece, Downey gave the composition's moves in algebraic notation: 1... Qh5 2. d4 3. Qc4 4. Qc5 5. d5 6. Qf8 7. d6 8. Qc8 9. d7 Ne7+ 10. Nxe7 11. Nf5 12. d8=Q Qe8+ 13. Qa6 14. Qxe8#.[4] In the latter piece, Downey treated the 21 items in the composition sequentially, identifying the above 16 coherent chess moves, and another five items as "non-moves" or pure story descriptors, per Carroll's qualification.[5]

The mating position nearly satisfies the conditions of a pure mate, a special type of checkmate where the mated king is prevented from moving to any of the adjacent squares in its field by exactly one enemy attack, among other conditions. The position is also nearly an ideal mate, a stronger form of pure mate in which every piece on the board of either color contributes to the checkmate. The one feature of the position which prevents it from being either a pure or an ideal mate is that the Red (Black) King is unable to move to e3 for two reasons: the knight's attack, and the (sustained) attack of the newly promoted, mating queen. Although pure and ideal mates are "incidental" in real games, they are objects of aesthetic interest to composers of chess problems.[6]


The White Queen offers to hire Alice as her lady's maid and to pay her "twopence a week, and jam every other day." Alice says that she doesn't want any jam today, to which the Queen replies, "you couldn't have it if you did want it. The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day." This is a reference to the rule in Latin that the word iam or jam—which means now, in the sense of already or at that time—cannot be used to describe now in the present, which is nunc in Latin. Therefore, "jam" is never available today.[7] This exchange is also a demonstration of the logical fallacy of equivocation.[8]

Poems and songs[edit]

Most poems and songs of the book do not include a title.

The Wasp in a Wig[edit]

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"). A biography of Carroll, written by Carroll's nephew, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, suggests that one of the reasons for this suppression was a suggestion from his illustrator, John Tenniel,[11] who wrote in a letter to Carroll dated 1 June 1870:[12]

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.

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 auctioned at Sotheby's; the catalogue description, in part, read, "the proofs were bought at the sale of the author's…personal effects…Oxford, 1898." The document would be won by John Fleming, a Manhattan book dealer, for a bid of about US$832 (equivalent to $4,366 in 2020).[13] The contents were subsequently published in Martin Gardner's More Annotated Alice (1990),[14] and is also available as a hardback book.[15]

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, but the proofs have yet to receive any physical examination to establish age and authenticity.[16]

The missing episode was included in the 1998 TV film adaptation Alice through the Looking Glass.

Dramatic adaptations[edit]

The book has been adapted several times, both in combination with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and as a stand-alone feature.

Stand-alone adaptations[edit]

Adaptations with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland[edit]

Film and TV[edit]

Stage productions[edit]

Maidie Andrews as Alice in Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Comedy Theatre, London during the Christmas period 1903–04. Pictured in The Tatler (January 1904)


See also[edit]



  1. ^ During the "Mad Tea-Party", Alice reveals that the date is "the fourth" and that the month is "May" (chap.7).
  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 of Guy Fawkes Night that take place on 5 November. In Chapter 5, she affirms that her age is "seven and a half exactly."
  3. ^ See "Jabberwocky" full poem including readings, via Wikisource.
  4. ^ See "Walrus and the Carpenter" full poem, via Wikisource.


  1. ^ Oxford Companions. 1986. Oxford Companion to English Literature (5th Ed.).
  2. ^ Carroll, Lewis (1997). Lewis Carroll's Diaries: Containing Journal 8, May 1862 to September 1864. Lewis Carroll Society. p. 186.
  3. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey (1985). Secret Gardens: The Golden Age of Children's Literature. Houghton Mifflin. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-395-35293-9.
  4. ^ Downey, Glen (1992). Theoretical Checkmating: an Analysis of the Manner in which the "Chess Problem" in Through the Looking-Glass Resists and Subverts Critical Interpretations of the Novel's Chess Motif (PDF) (MA). McMaster University. p. 66 (.pdf p. 73).
  5. ^ Downey, Glen (1998). "3" (PDF). The Truth about Pawn Promotion: The Development of the Chess Motif in Victorian Fiction (PhD). University of Victoria.
  6. ^ Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1996) [first pub. 1992]. The Oxford Companion to Chess (second ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280049-3.
  7. ^ Cook, Eleanor (2006). Enigmas and Riddles in Literature. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521855101. p. 163.
  8. ^ Almossawi, Ali. "An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments". pp. 16–7. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Carroll, Lewis. 1897 [1872]. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company.
  10. ^ Bedtime-Story. 1999. "The Background & History of 'Alice in Wonderland'" Bedtime-Story Classics. Retrieved 29 January 2007.
  11. ^ Symon, Evan V. (18 June 2014) [2013]. "10 Deleted Chapters that Transformed Famous Books". Listverse.
  12. ^ Gardner, Martin (2000). The Annotated Alice. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-393-04847-6.
  13. ^ University Libraries. "The Wasp in a Wig: A 'Suppressed' Episode of Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There" [exhibit item]. Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll. University of Maryland Libraries.
  14. ^ Gardner, Martin. (1990) More Annotated Alice. New York: Clarkson N. Potter. ISBN 0-394-58571-2.
  15. ^ Carroll, Lewis (1977). The Wasp in a Wig: A Suppressed Episode of 'Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. New York: Lewis Carroll Society of North America.
  16. ^ Leach, Karoline (2015). "The Curious Case of the Wasp in the Wig" (PDF). Contrariwise. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  17. ^ Alice Through a Looking Glass (1928) at IMDb
  18. ^ Cleverdon, Douglas (1959). Alice Through the Looking Glass [sound recording]. Written by Lewis Carroll (1872). London: Argo. Retrieved via National Library of Australia and Archived on 10 April 2020.
  19. ^ Handley, Alan. 1966. Alice Through the Looking Glass, with music by M. Charlap, lyrics by E. Simmons. USA: NBC. TV special. See Alice Through the Looking Glass (1966) at IMDb.
  20. ^ "Alice Through the Looking Glass – 1966 Television Soundtrack." Masterworks Broadway. Track listing.
  21. ^ MacTaggart, James. 1973. Alice Through the Looking Glass. UK: BBC. Television special. See Alice Through the Looking Glass (1973) at IMDb.
  22. ^ Pruzhanskiy, Yefrem. 1982. Alice in the Land in the Other Side of the Mirror. RU: Kievnauchfilm. Retrieved from
  23. ^ Bresciani, Andrea, and Richard Slapczynski. 1987. Alice Through the Looking Glass. AU: Burbank Films Australia. See Alice Through the Looking Glass (1987) at IMDb.
  24. ^ Henderson, John. 1998. Alice Through the Looking Glass. UK: Projector Productions and Channel 4. See Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998) at IMDb.
  25. ^ Burden, Andy (dir.). Alice Through a Looking Glass [live production], written by H. Naylor, music by P. Dodgson. Factory Theatre: Tobacco Factory Theatres.
  26. ^ Upton, Andrew. 2008. Through the Looking Glass [opera], composed by A. John. Malthouse Theatre: Victorian Opera.
  27. ^ Wyatt, Stephen. 2011. "Lewis Carroll - Alice Through the Looking Glass" [radio broadcast], Saturday Drama. UK: BBC Radio 4. Retrieved via BBC Radio on 10 April 2020.
  28. ^ McLeod, Norman Z. 1933. Alice in Wonderland. US: Paramount Pictures. [Motion picture]. See Alice in Wonderland (1933) at IMDb.
  29. ^ Geronimi, Clyde, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske. 1951. Alice in Wonderland. US: Walt Disney Studios. See Alice in Wonderland (1951) at IMDb.
  30. ^ Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972) at IMDb
  31. ^ fictionrare2 (29 September 2014), Nel mondo di Alice 3^p, retrieved 23 April 2016
  32. ^ Alice in Wonderland (1985) at IMDb
  33. ^ Alice in Wonderland (1999) at IMDb
  34. ^ Alice (2009) at IMDb
  35. ^ Alice in Wonderland (2010) at IMDb
  36. ^ "Lookingglass Alice Video Preview". Archived from the original on 27 October 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  37. ^ "Lookingglass Alice | Lookingglass Theatre Company". 13 February 2007. Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  38. ^ a b "Theatre adaptations (excluding reimaginings)". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  39. ^ Wade, Laura. 2012. Alice. Oberon Modern Plays. Oberon Books. ISBN 9781849433570. [Theatre script]. Retrieved via Google Books.
  40. ^ "Alice's Adventures Under Ground". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  41. ^ Corry, John (15 June 1982). "Theater: Wonderland Characters in 'Looking-Glass'". The New York Times.
  42. ^ Jabberwocky (1977) at IMDb

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Online texts