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 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. 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.
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, 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.
In popular culture
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- 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.
- Helen Keller said 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." 
- Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear in the 1934 Betty Boop short film Betty in Blunderland using their clubs to suck their heads in their shirts and win.
- Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear in the 1951 version of Alice in Wonderland They are often represented by actors in Disney theme Parks. The Disney versions of the characters later appeared in the Disney television series House of Mouse and in the final scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- 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.
- "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" is the opening song on Bob Dylan's 2001 album Love and Theft.
- 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."
- Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, portrayed by Ben Cotton and Matty Finochio. They appear as the Red Queen's servants where they started out working for the Red King. While Tweedledum is shown to be loyal to the Red Queen, Tweedledee is shown to be loyal to Jafar.
- 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).
- James Joyce: Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver. 24 June 1921
- Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States Harper Perennial Classics, 2005. p.345 ISBN 0-06-083865-5.
- 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.
- "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.
- "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum". Bobdylan.com. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
- "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”