Week 15: Through the Looking-Glass

Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Red Queen and White Queen

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 1000 words.

Now that Alice is having a conversation with two Queens at once, the conversation is twice as weird as usual! There's even a mention of Humpty Dumpty - do you remember the song Humpty Dumpty sang about the fish? You might take a look before you read this section.

'She can't do sums a BIT!' the Queens said together, with great emphasis.

'Can YOU do sums?' Alice said, turning suddenly on the White Queen, for she didn't like being found fault with so much.

The Queen gasped and shut her eyes. 'I can do Addition, if you give me time -- but I can do Subtraction, under ANY circumstances!'

'Of course you know your A B C?' said the Red Queen.

'To be sure I do.' said Alice.

'So do I,' the White Queen whispered: 'we'll often say it over together, dear. And I'll tell you a secret -- I can read words of one letter! Isn't THAT grand! However, don't be discouraged. You'll come to it in time.'

Here the Red Queen began again. 'Can you answer useful questions?' she said. 'How is bread made?'

'I know THAT!' Alice cried eagerly. 'You take some flour -- '

'Where do you pick the flower?' the White Queen asked. 'In a garden, or in the hedges?'

'Well, it isn't PICKED at all,' Alice explained: 'it's GROUND -- '

'How many acres of ground?' said the White Queen. 'You mustn't leave out so many things.'

'Fan her head!' the Red Queen anxiously interrupted. 'She'll be feverish after so much thinking.' So they set to work and fanned her with bunches of leaves, till she had to beg them to leave off, it blew her hair about so.

'She's all right again now,' said the Red Queen. 'Do you know Languages? What's the French for fiddle-de-dee?'

'Fiddle-de-dee's not English,' Alice replied gravely.

'Who ever said it was?' said the Red Queen.

Alice thought she saw a way out of the difficulty this time. 'If you'll tell me what language "fiddle-de-dee" is, I'll tell you the French for it!' she exclaimed triumphantly.

But the Red Queen drew herself up rather stiffly, and said 'Queens never make bargains.'

'I wish Queens never asked questions,' Alice thought to herself.

'Don't let us quarrel,' the White Queen said in an anxious tone. 'What is the cause of lightning?'

'The cause of lightning,' Alice said very decidedly, for she felt quite certain about this, 'is the thunder -- no, no!' she hastily corrected herself. 'I meant the other way.'

'It's too late to correct it,' said the Red Queen: 'when you've once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.'

'Which reminds me -- ' the White Queen said, looking down and nervously clasping and unclasping her hands, 'we had SUCH a thunderstorm last Tuesday -- I mean one of the last set of Tuesdays, you know.'

Alice was puzzled. 'In OUR country,' she remarked, 'there's only one day at a time.'

The Red Queen said, 'That's a poor thin way of doing things. Now HERE, we mostly have days and nights two or three at a time, and sometimes in the winter we take as many as five nights together -- for warmth, you know.'

'Are five nights warmer than one night, then?' Alice ventured to ask.

'Five times as warm, of course.'

'But they should be five times as COLD, by the same rule -- '

'Just so!' cried the Red Queen. 'Five times as warm, AND five times as cold -- just as I'm five times as rich as you are, AND five times as clever!'

Alice sighed and gave it up. 'It's exactly like a riddle with no answer!' she thought.

'Humpty Dumpty saw it too,' the White Queen went on in a low voice, more as if she were talking to herself. 'He came to the door with a corkscrew in his hand -- '

'What did he want?' said the Red Queen.

'He said he WOULD come in,' the White Queen went on, 'because he was looking for a hippopotamus. Now, as it happened, there wasn't such a thing in the house, that morning.'

'Is there generally?' Alice asked in an astonished tone.

'Well, only on Thursdays,' said the Queen.

'I know what he came for,' said Alice: 'he wanted to punish the fish, because -- '

Here the White Queen began again. 'It was SUCH a thunderstorm, you can't think!' (She NEVER could, you know,' said the Red Queen.) 'And part of the roof came off, and ever so much thunder got in -- and it went rolling round the room in great lumps -- and knocking over the tables and things -- till I was so frightened, I couldn't remember my own name!'

Alice thought to herself, 'I never should TRY to remember my name in the middle of an accident! Where would be the use of it?' but she did not say this aloud, for fear of hurting the poor Queen's feeling.

'Your Majesty must excuse her,' the Red Queen said to Alice, taking one of the White Queen's hands in her own, and gently stroking it: 'she means well, but she can't help saying foolish things, as a general rule.'

The White Queen looked timidly at Alice, who felt she OUGHT to say something kind, but really couldn't think of anything at the moment.

'She never was really well brought up,' the Red Queen went on: 'but it's amazing how good-tempered she is! Pat her on the head, and see how pleased she'll be!' But this was more than Alice had courage to do.

'A little kindness -- and putting her hair in papers -- would do wonders with her -- '

The White Queen gave a deep sigh, and laid her head on Alice's shoulder. 'I AM so sleepy?' she moaned.

'She's tired, poor thing!' said the Red Queen. 'Smooth her hair -- lend her your nightcap -- and sing her a soothing lullaby.'

'I haven't got a nightcap with me,' said Alice, as she tried to obey the first direction: 'and I don't know any soothing lullabies.'

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what prevents Alice from explaining to the Red Queen how bread is made?
  • according to the White Queen, what was Humpty Dumpty looking for when he came to the door with a corkscrew?
  • what does the Red Queen tell Alice she must do for the sleepy White Queen?

Source: Through The Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). 1871. Website: Project Gutenberg.

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM