"The Walrus and the Carpenter" is a darkly comic narrative poem with elements of fantasy and nonsense. It was written by the British author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll. It was first published in 1871 as part of Carroll's children's novel Through the Looking-Glass, in which the brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee recite it to the girl Alice.
The poem describes how the Walrus and the Carpenter feast on a vast quantity of oysters, after having persuaded the oysters to accompany them on a walk.
Many interpretations have been put forward as to the symbolism of the poem. The fact that one of the characters is a carpenter is often taken to be a Biblical reference, that is to say it has been suggested that the Carpenter represents Jesus. However, Lewis Carroll himself does not seem to have attached any particular meaning to the character's profession and was indifferent as to whether the Walrus was accompanied by a carpenter, a butterfly or a baronet. He told the illustrator John Tenniel that he could draw whichever of those three he chose since the meter of the poem would remain the same.
"The Walrus and the Carpenter" has often been included as parts of adaptations of both Through the Looking-Glass and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Even though it is nighttime, the sun is still shining brightly down on the sea. The Walrus and the Carpenter walk on the beach. They appear to consider the sand to be a kind of dirt because the presence of it upsets them and they wish that it could be cleared away.
The Walrus calls out for four oysters to come on to the beach and walk hand in hand with the Carpenter and him. The oldest oyster refuses to leave the sea. However, four young oysters quickly answer the Walrus' call and many more soon follow them. The oysters are described as having clean faces and coats and wearing freshly polished shoes, even though they do not have any feet.
After having walked for a while, the Walrus announces that it is time to take a rest and have a conversation. Shortly afterwards, he calls for bread, pepper and vinegar and tells the oysters, "We can begin to feed". The oysters realize that he and the Carpenter intend to eat them and protest. The Walrus continues to speak kindly to the oysters, acknowledging that he and the Carpenter played a cruel trick on them. He even begins to cry while sorting the oysters according to size. The Carpenter, however, shows no sympathy for the oysters and only talks about bread and butter.
Some time later, the Carpenter asks the oysters if they think it is time to go home. There is no answer because all of the oysters have been eaten.
In the 1933 Hollywood movie Alice in Wonderland, a largely live-action film, an animated version of "The Walrus and the Carpenter", directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, appears.
The poem is set to music and, through the use of visuals, slightly expanded in Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland. The characters of the Walrus and the Carpenter have gone on to appear in other Disney productions and at the company's theme parks.
- In Through the Looking-Glass, Tweedledee tells Alice that the Walrus' crying was merely a ruse, so that he could eat more oysters than the Carpenter. Hiding behind his handkerchief, the Walrus was able to prevent the Carpenter from seeing how many oysters he was eating.
- Text of Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" on Wikisource.
- Public domain recording of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" on YouTube.
- The Walrus and the Carpenter (characters) on Alice in Wonderland Wiki.
- "The Walrus and the Carpenter" on All Things Alice Wiki.
- The Walrus and the Carpenter on Disney Wiki.