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.
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 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
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
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,
‘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
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
(in which Alice had put ‘THE WHITE KNIGHT IS SLIDING DOWN THE
POKER. HE BALANCES VERY BADLY’) ‘That’s not a memorandum of
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
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.