This website uses cookies. Learn more? Ok, Don't show me this message again

Through the Looking-Glass 1

Through the Looking-Glass Looking-Glass House. Alice’s out of the way adventures start again in the second Alice book by Lewis Carroll, published in 1871.

This time she meets characters from a game of chess – as opposed to the pack of cards in the first book. There are more jokes based on bending logic, and we can look forward to plenty of conundrums.

In the opening scene, Alice is playing with her cats and a ball of wool (worsted). This might well have been written from observation. Lewis Carroll’s real name was Charles Dodgson, and he was tutor at Christchurch College, Oxford. He befriended Alice Liddell, the pretty and clever daughter of the College’s Dean. And Alice really did have a cat called Dinah.

But the highlight of the chapter is surely one of the most brilliant pieces of nonsense ever written. The poem called

“JABBERWOCKY” which begins ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves..”

Read, of course, by Natasha. Duration 23.10.



Looking-Glass House

One thing was certain, that the WHITE kitten had had nothing to

do with it:–it was the black kitten’s fault entirely. For the

white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for

the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well,

considering); so you see that it COULDN’T have had any hand in

the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children’s faces was this: first she

held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with

the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way,

beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at

work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying

to purr–no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the

afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner

of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep,

the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of

worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it

up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was,

spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the

kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

‘Oh, you wicked little thing!’ cried Alice, catching up the

kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it

was in disgrace. ‘Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better

manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!’ she added,

looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a

voice as she could manage–and then she scrambled back into the

arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began

winding up the ball again. But she didn’t get on very fast, as

she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and

sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee,

pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then

putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would

be glad to help, if it might.

‘Do you know what to-morrow is, Kitty?’ Alice began. ‘You’d

have guessed if you’d been up in the window with me–only Dinah

was making you tidy, so you couldn’t. I was watching the boys

getting in sticks for the bonfire–and it wants plenty of

sticks, Kitty! Only it got so cold, and it snowed so, they had

to leave off. Never mind, Kitty, we’ll go and see the bonfire

to-morrow.’ Here Alice wound two or three turns of the worsted

round the kitten’s neck, just to see how it would look: this led

to a scramble, in which the ball rolled down upon the floor, and

yards and yards of it got unwound again.

‘Do you know, I was so angry, Kitty,’ Alice went on as soon as

they were comfortably settled again, ‘when I saw all the mischief

you had been doing, I was very nearly opening the window, and

putting you out into the snow! And you’d have deserved it, you

little mischievous darling! What have you got to say for

yourself? Now don’t interrupt me!’ she went on, holding up one

finger. ‘I’m going to tell you all your faults. Number one:

you squeaked twice while Dinah was washing your face this

morning. Now you can’t deny it, Kitty: I heard you! What’s that

you say?’ (pretending that the kitten was speaking.) ‘Her paw

went into your eye? Well, that’s YOUR fault, for keeping your

eyes open–if you’d shut them tight up, it wouldn’t have

happened. Now don’t make any more excuses, but listen! Number

two: you pulled Snowdrop away by the tail just as I had put down

the saucer of milk before her! What, you were thirsty, were you?

How do you know she wasn’t thirsty too? Now for number three:

you unwound every bit of the worsted while I wasn’t looking!

‘That’s three faults, Kitty, and you’ve not been punished for

any of them yet. You know I’m saving up all your punishments for

Wednesday week–Suppose they had saved up all MY punishments!’

she went on, talking more to herself than the kitten. ‘What

WOULD they do at the end of a year? I should be sent to prison,

I suppose, when the day came. Or–let me see–suppose each

punishment was to be going without a dinner: then, when the

miserable day came, I should have to go without fifty dinners at

once! Well, I shouldn’t mind THAT much! I’d far rather go

without them than eat them!

‘Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How

nice and soft it sounds! Just as if some one was kissing the

window all over outside. I wonder if the snow LOVES the trees

and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers

them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says,

“Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” And when

they wake up in the summer, Kitty, they dress themselves all in

green, and dance about–whenever the wind blows–oh, that’s

very pretty!’ cried Alice, dropping the ball of worsted to clap

her hands. ‘And I do so WISH it was true! I’m sure the woods

look sleepy in the autumn, when the leaves are getting brown.

‘Kitty, can you play chess? Now, don’t smile, my dear, I’m

asking it seriously. Because, when we were playing just now, you

watched just as if you understood it: and when I said “Check!”

you purred! Well, it WAS a nice check, Kitty, and really I might

have won, if it hadn’t been for that nasty Knight, that came

wiggling down among my pieces. Kitty, dear, let’s pretend–‘

And here I wish I could tell you half the things Alice used to

say, beginning with her favourite phrase ‘Let’s pretend.’ She

had had quite a long argument with her sister only the day before

–all because Alice had begun with ‘Let’s pretend we’re kings

and queens;’ and her sister, who liked being very exact, had

argued that they couldn’t, because there were only two of them,

and Alice had been reduced at last to say, ‘Well, YOU can be one

of them then, and I’LL be all the rest.’ And once she had really

frightened her old nurse by shouting suddenly in her ear, ‘Nurse!

Do let’s pretend that I’m a hungry hyaena, and you’re a bone.’

But this is taking us away from Alice’s speech to the kitten.

‘Let’s pretend that you’re the Red Queen, Kitty! Do you know, I

think if you sat up and folded your arms, you’d look exactly like

her. Now do try, there’s a dear!’ And Alice got the Red Queen

off the table, and set it up before the kitten as a model for it

to imitate: however, the thing didn’t succeed, principally,

Alice said, because the kitten wouldn’t fold its arms properly.

So, to punish it, she held it up to the Looking-glass, that it

might see how sulky it was–‘and if you’re not good directly,’

she added, ‘I’ll put you through into Looking-glass House. How

would you like THAT?’

‘Now, if you’ll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I’ll

tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there’s

the room you can see through the glass–that’s just the same as

our drawing room, only the things go the other way. I can see

all of it when I get upon a chair–all but the bit behind the

fireplace. Oh! I do so wish I could see THAT bit! I want so

much to know whether they’ve a fire in the winter: you never CAN

tell, you know, unless our fire smokes, and then smoke comes up

in that room too–but that may be only pretense, just to make

it look as if they had a fire. Well then, the books are

something like our books, only the words go the wrong way; I know

that, because I’ve held up one of our books to the glass, and

then they hold up one in the other room.

‘How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty? I

wonder if they’d give you milk in there? Perhaps Looking-glass

milk isn’t good to drink–But oh, Kitty! now we come to the

passage. You can just see a little PEEP of the passage in

Looking-glass House, if you leave the door of our drawing-room

wide open: and it’s very like our passage as far as you can see,

only you know it may be quite different on beyond. Oh, Kitty!

how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-

glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it!

Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow,

Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so

that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist

now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through–‘ She

was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she

hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass WAS

beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.

In another moment Alice was through the glass, and had jumped

lightly down into the Looking-glass room. The very first thing

she did was to look whether there was a fire in the fireplace,

and she was quite pleased to find that there was a real one,

blazing away as brightly as the one she had left behind. ‘So I

shall be as warm here as I was in the old room,’ thought Alice:

‘warmer, in fact, because there’ll be no one here to scold me

away from the fire. Oh, what fun it’ll be, when they see me

through the glass in here, and can’t get at me!’

Then she began looking about, and noticed that what could be

seen from the old room was quite common and uninteresting, but

that all the rest was as different as possible. For instance, the

pictures on the wall next the fire seemed to be all alive, and

the very clock on the chimney-piece (you know you can only see

the back of it in the Looking-glass) had got the face of a little

old man, and grinned at her.

‘They don’t keep this room so tidy as the other,’ Alice thought

to herself, as she noticed several of the chessmen down in the

hearth among the cinders: but in another moment, with a little

‘Oh!’ of surprise, she was down on her hands and knees watching

them. The chessmen were walking about, two and two!

‘Here are the Red King and the Red Queen,’ Alice said (in a

whisper, for fear of frightening them), ‘and there are the White

King and the White Queen sitting on the edge of the shovel–and

here are two castles walking arm in arm–I don’t think they can

hear me,’ she went on, as she put her head closer down, ‘and I’m

nearly sure they can’t see me. I feel somehow as if I were


Here something began squeaking on the table behind Alice, and

made her turn her head just in time to see one of the White Pawns

roll over and begin kicking: she watched it with great

curiosity to see what would happen next.

‘It is the voice of my child!’ the White Queen cried out as she

rushed past the King, so violently that she knocked him over

among the cinders. ‘My precious Lily! My imperial kitten!’ and

she began scrambling wildly up the side of the fender.

‘Imperial fiddlestick!’ said the King, rubbing his nose, which

had been hurt by the fall. He had a right to be a LITTLE annoyed

with the Queen, for he was covered with ashes from head to foot.

Alice was very anxious to be of use, and, as the poor little

Lily was nearly screaming herself into a fit, she hastily picked

up the Queen and set her on the table by the side of her noisy

little daughter.

The Queen gasped, and sat down: the rapid journey through the

air had quite taken away her breath and for a minute or two she

could do nothing but hug the little Lily in silence. As soon as

she had recovered her breath a little, she called out to the

White King, who was sitting sulkily among the ashes, ‘Mind the


‘What volcano?’ said the King, looking up anxiously into the

fire, as if he thought that was the most likely place to find


‘Blew–me–up,’ panted the Queen, who was still a little

out of breath. ‘Mind you come up–the regular way–don’t get

blown up!’

Alice watched the White King as he slowly struggled up from bar

to bar, till at last she said, ‘Why, you’ll be hours and hours

getting to the table, at that rate. I’d far better help you,

hadn’t I?’ But the King took no notice of the question: it was

quite clear that he could neither hear her nor see her.

So Alice picked him up very gently, and lifted him across more

slowly than she had lifted the Queen, that she mightn’t take his

breath away: but, before she put him on the table, she thought

she might as well dust him a little, he was so covered with


She said afterwards that she had never seen in all her life

such a face as the King made, when he found himself held in the

air by an invisible hand, and being dusted: he was far too much

astonished to cry out, but his eyes and his mouth went on getting

larger and larger, and rounder and rounder, till her hand shook

so with laughing that she nearly let him drop upon the floor.

‘Oh! PLEASE don’t make such faces, my dear!’ she cried out,

quite forgetting that the King couldn’t hear her. ‘You make me

laugh so that I can hardly hold you! And don’t keep your mouth

so wide open! All the ashes will get into it–there, now I

think you’re tidy enough!’ she added, as she smoothed his hair,

and set him upon the table near the Queen.

The King immediately fell flat on his back, and lay perfectly

still: and Alice was a little alarmed at what she had done, and

went round the room to see if she could find any water to throw

over him. However, she could find nothing but a bottle of ink,

and when she got back with it she found he had recovered, and he

and the Queen were talking together in a frightened whisper–so

low, that Alice could hardly hear what they said.

The King was saying, ‘I assure, you my dear, I turned cold to

the very ends of my whiskers!’

To which the Queen replied, ‘You haven’t got any whiskers.’

‘The horror of that moment,’ the King went on, ‘I shall never,

NEVER forget!’

‘You will, though,’ the Queen said, ‘if you don’t make a

memorandum of it.’

Alice looked on with great interest as the King took an

enormous memorandum-book out of his pocket, and began writing. A

sudden thought struck her, and she took hold of the end of the

pencil, which came some way over his shoulder, and began writing

for him.

The poor King looked puzzled and unhappy, and struggled with the

pencil for some time without saying anything; but Alice was too

strong for him, and at last he panted out, ‘My dear! I really

MUST get a thinner pencil. I can’t manage this one a bit; it

writes all manner of things that I don’t intend–‘

‘What manner of things?’ said the Queen, looking over the book


POKER. HE BALANCES VERY BADLY’) ‘That’s not a memorandum of

YOUR feelings!’

There was a book lying near Alice on the table, and while she

sat watching the White King (for she was still a little anxious

about him, and had the ink all ready to throw over him, in case

he fainted again), she turned over the leaves, to find some part

that she could read, ‘–for it’s all in some language I don’t

know,’ she said to herself.

It was like this.


sevot yhtils eht dna ,gillirb sawT’

ebaw eht ni elbmig dna eryg diD

,sevogorob eht erew ysmim llA

.ebargtuo shtar emom eht dnA

She puzzled over this for some time, but at last a bright

thought struck her. ‘Why, it’s a Looking-glass book, of course!

And if I hold it up to a glass, the words will all go the right

way again.’

This was the poem that Alice read.


‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:

Long time the manxome foe he sought–

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,

And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’

He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘It seems very pretty,’ she said when she had finished it, ‘but

it’s RATHER hard to understand!’ (You see she didn’t like to

confess, ever to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.)

‘Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas–only I don’t

exactly know what they are! However, SOMEBODY killed SOMETHING:

that’s clear, at any rate–‘

‘But oh!’ thought Alice, suddenly jumping up, ‘if I don’t make

haste I shall have to go back through the Looking-glass, before

I’ve seen what the rest of the house is like! Let’s have a look

at the garden first!’ She was out of the room in a moment, and

ran down stairs–or, at least, it wasn’t exactly running, but a

new invention of hers for getting down stairs quickly and easily,

as Alice said to herself. She just kept the tips of her fingers

on the hand-rail, and floated gently down without even touching

the stairs with her feet; then she floated on through the hall,

and would have gone straight out at the door in the same way, if

she hadn’t caught hold of the door-post. She was getting a

little giddy with so much floating in the air, and was rather

glad to find herself walking again in the natural way.

Leave a Reply

Did you like this story? Please write in English. Comments are moderated