Front cover of a 1955 British edition of Alice Through the looking-Glass.

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There is an 1871 children's fantasy novel of twelve chapters. It was written by the British author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll. More recent editions of the book have been published under the titles Through the Looking-Glass and Alice Through the Looking-Glass. It is a sequel to Carroll's 1865 work Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice, the seven-year-old girl who is the novel's protagonist, dreams that she passes through the mirror in the living room of her house and finds herself in another world called Looking-Glass Land. She finds out that the whole of Looking-Glass Land is an enormous chessboard on which a worldwide game of chess is being played. Alice expresses a wish to take part in the game. She is allowed to join in as a white pawn, being told that, if she makes it to the Eighth Square at the end of the chessboard, she will become a queen. As she moves across the chessboard, Alice meets several unusual characters. Some of them (Tweedledum, Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty, the Lion and the Unicorn) are taken from traditional nursery rhymes. Others (Haigha and Hatta) are variants of characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

There have been much fewer adaptations to other media based exclusively or chiefly on Through the Looking-Glass than on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. However, adaptations to other media of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland often feature elements taken from Through the Looking-Glass as well.


On a snowy day in winter, the little girl Alice is scolding her cat Dinah's black kitten for misbehaving. She also remarks that the kitten has shown an interest in chess games and looks a bit like the red queen from her chess set. Alice starts to fantasize about the Looking-Glass House, the house which she can partially see in the living room mirror. She says that she would like to go through the mirror and see the rest of the house.

White king1

Alice picks up the White King. 1871 illustration by John Tenniel.

Alice dreams that the mirror dissolves around her. Passing into the living room of the Looking-Glass House, she finds that the parts of the room that she could not see before are quite different from the room in her own house. The paintings, the clock and the chess pieces are alive. Alice sees that some of the chess pieces, including the White King and Queen and their baby daughter Lily the white pawn, have fallen on the floor and are among the ashes from the fireplace. She picks up and cleans the King and Queen, although they are frightened by the experience because they cannot see or hear her. Alice also tries to read one of the books in the room. She finds that she has to hold it up to a mirror to read the text. She reads the poem "Jabberwocky" but does not really understand it.

Keen to see more of Looking-Glass Land, Alice goes out into the garden. She finds that all of the flowers there can talk, although they have difficulty understanding that she is not a plant like they are. Alice asks the flowers if there are any others like her in the garden. They point out to her that the Red Queen is there. Alice is surprised to find that the Red Queen, who was only a few inches high inside the house, is now taller than she is. The flowers explain that it is a result of the fresh air.

Peter Newell - Through the looking glass and what Alice found there 1902 - page 34

From the top of the hill that she has gone to with the Red Queen, Alice can see that all of Looking-Glass land is a gigantic chessboard. 1902 illustration by Peter Newell.

Alice chess game

Diagram of the chess game played in Through the Looking-Glass. Illustration from the 1871 edition.

Alice has difficulty walking towards the hill which the Red Queen has climbed. She eventually reaches her after she turns round and goes back the way she came. From the top of the hill, Alice can see that all of Looking-Glass is an enormous chessboard, the squares being divided by brooks, and that a game of chess is being played on it. When Alice says that she would like to join in the game, the Red Queen tells her that she can take baby Lily's place as a white pawn, adding that she will become a queen if she arrives at the Eighth Square at the end of the board. The Red Queen tells Alice that, since pawns can move two squares on their first move, she will quickly move from the Second Square to the Fourth Square by train, the Fourth Square is home to Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Fifth Square is mostly water, the Sixth Square belongs to Humpty Dumpty, the Seventh Square is a forest and in the Eighth Square they will have fun as queens together.

Wanting to avoid some elephants which are behaving like bees, Alice decides to walk another way and suddenly finds herself on board a train. The other passengers chastise her for not having a ticket. A gnat appears friendly towards Alice, although it keeps telling Alice that she missed the chance to make some puns. When Alice passes on to the Fourth Square, the train is no longer there but the gnat, now the size of a chicken, remains. It tells Alice about the nearby part of the forest where things have no names and about other insects in Looking-Glass Land, including the rocking-horse-fly, the snap-dragon-fly[1] and the bread-and-butter-fly. When Alice shows that she does not care for one of its jokes, the gnat vanishes away.

Alice enters the part of the forest where things have no name. A young deer is happy to stay close to Alice, until they come back to where things have names. As soon as the deer recognizes that Alice is a human child, it flees in terror. Alice follows signs that point to the homes of Tweedledum and Tweedledee,[2] hoping to ask them the way out of the forest. She sees that the two signs always point the same way, even when there is a fork in the road, and realizes that they both live in the same house.

Alice Tweedledum

Alice meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee. 1871 illustration by John Tenniel.

The two brothers Tweedledee and Tweedledum detain Alice longer than she wants. she finds herself dancing with them and they recite the poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" to her. They point out that the Red King is sleeping nearby. They tell her that she is not real but only a "sort of thing" in the Red King's dream, adding that, if the Red King should wake up, she would vanish. When Tweedledum accuses Tweedledee of breaking his new rattle, the two agree to have a fight. They are both frightened away by a gigantic crow,

The enormous crow's flapping wings create a strong breeze. Alice notices a shawl flying away in the wind before seeing its owner, the White Queen, nearby. Alice fixes the White Queen's messy clothes and hair. The White Queen explains that the people of Looking-Glass Land live backwards, which is why she bleeds and cries out in pain before she pricks her finger and also why one of the King's messengers[3] is currently in prison for a crime that he has not yet committed (and may never commit),

After crossing a brook, Alice finds that the White Queen's voice has changed into a bleat. When she looks again, she sees that the White Queen has gone and that she is in a shop where the shopkeeper is an old sheep. Some time afterwards, the sheep hands Alice two knitting needles. The knitting needles suddenly change into oars and Alice finds herself in a small boat with the sheep. When Alice suddenly finds herself back in the shop again, she tells the sheep that she wants to buy an egg. The sheep places the egg on a shelf at the other end of the shop. As Alice walks towards the egg, She finds that it is getting bigger and that the shop has disappeared. After she jumps over a brook, she finds that the egg has become Humpty Dumpty himself.[4]

Peter Newell - Through the looking glass and what Alice found there 1902 - page 110

Alice meets Humpty Dumpty. 1902 illustration by Peter Newell.

Humpty Dumpty takes an immediate dislike to Alice when she remarks that he looks like an egg. She tries to be friendly by expressing concern that he might fall from the high narrow wall on which he is sitting. However, she angers Humpty Dumpty more when she reveals that she knows that the King has promised to send all his horses and all his men if he should fall, which Humpty Dumpty believed to be a secret. Alice tries to compliment Humpty Dumpty on his clothes but insults him again because she is not sure if he is wearing a belt or a neck tie. Humpty Dumpty explains that it is a tie and it was an un-birthday present, a present which can be given on any day which is not one's birthday, from the White King and Queen. Humpty Dumpty considers himself to be a master of language, saying, "When I use a word, it means just what I want it to mean". He explains the meaning of the first verse of "Jabberwocky" to her, before reciting a poem of his own to her, which ends abruptly. As she walks away, Alice comments on Humpty Dumpty, "Of all the unsatisfactory people I ever met", before she hears a loud crash.

Alice sees thousands of the King's foot soldiers and soldiers on horseback rushing towards where Humpty Dumpty fell. The White King tells Alice that he sent more than four thousand men but did not send his Anglo-Saxon messengers Haigha and Hatta[5] because he needs them for other things. Haigha arrives and tells the King that the Lion and the Unicorn are once again in town and fighting for the crown.[6] The White King finds this very amusing because it is his crown and the winner will not receive it.

Ten minutes

Alice, the White King, Haigha, Hatta, the Lion and the Unicorn. 1871 illustration by John Tenniel.

In town, the messenger Hatta, who has recently been released from prison, tells the King how the fight between the Lion and the Unicorn has been going. He is ordered to get some drummers to drum the Lion and the Unicorn out of town. The Lion and the Unicorn take a break from their fight to have some white bread, brown bread and plum cake. The Unicorn is originally shocked at the sight of Alice, saying that he always thought that girls were just "fabulous monsters". The Lion is also puzzled by the sight of Alice, asking if she is "animal - vegetable - or mineral[7]". Alice is ordered to serve some plum cake but finds that she cannot cut it. She is told to offer it first and cut it afterwards. When she offers the cake, it divides by itself. When the drummers arrive, Alice jumps over a brook to get away.

Alice finds herself in a forest, where a Red Knight says, "Check!" and declares that Alice is his prisoner. A White Knight arrives and announces that he has rescued Alice. The two knights agree to have a fight. It ends when they both land on their heads but the White Knight is declared the winner. The White Knight tells Alice that he will accompany her to the end of the Seventh Square. In spite of claiming to have had "plenty of practice", the Knight is extremely bad at riding and keeps falling off his horse. He carries an array of objects with him, including a beehive, mousetraps, carrots and fire irons. His horse wears anklets to protect its feet from shark bites. The White Knight fancies himself to be an inventor. He claims that his greatest invention was a pudding made of blotting paper, gunpowder and sealing wax. Before leaving Alice, he sings her a song to a tune which he claims to have composed, although Alice knows that not to be true because she recognizes the music.

Alice Red Queen White Queen

The White Queen, Queen Alice and the Red Queen. 1871 illustration by John Tenniel.

Passing over the brook into the Eighth Square, Alice finds that she is wearing a crown. The White Queen and the Red Queen suddenly appear. The Red Queen tells Alice that she cannot be a real queen until she has passed an examination. She asks Alice a series of trick questions, although the White Queen ends up getting more confused than Alice and needs to take a nap to recover.

Alice suddenly finds herself in front of a doorway marked "Queen Alice". With some difficulty, she enters the building and finds that a dinner party is being held. The guest are animals, birds and flowers. Alice finds that the food is alive and that it is considered bad manners for her to eat a leg of mutton and a pudding after she has been introduced to them. The Red Queen urges Alice to give a speech, at which point the candles grow enormous, the bottles change into bird-like creatures and many guests jump on the table cloth. Alice angrily throws off the table cloth and looks around for the Red Queen, who she considers responsible for the strange goings on. She finds that the Red Queen has shrunk to the size of a doll. She picks up the Queen and says, "I'll shake you into a kitten".

Waking up, Alice finds that she is holding Dinah's black kitten. She realizes that she has been dreaming but also continues to believe that she was part of the Red King's dream. She is confused as to whose dream it was.


There have been several adaptations of Through the Looking-Glass to other media and even more adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which also include characters and themes taken from Through the Looking-Glass.

Adaptations of Through the Looking-Glass alone include Walter lang's 1928 silent film Alice Through a Looking-Glass, a 1966 American TV musical, British TV movies from 1973 and 1998 and a 2008 opera which also draws on the life of Alice Lidell, the girl on whom Lewis Carroll modeled the character of Alice. Animated versions of the story were made in the Soviet Union in 1982 and in Australia in 1987.

The 1933 Hollywood film version of Alice in Wonderland contains many elements from Through the Looking-Glass as well, including an animated version of "The Walrus and the Carpenter", directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, and a star turn by W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty.

Alice in wonderland 1951

Alice talks to flowers in Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland.

Walt Disney's 1951 animated Alice in Wonderland includes several elements taken from Through the looking-Glass, including the concept of "un-birthdays", talking flowers and unusual insects. The characters Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear and recite the poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter". The Cheshire Cat recites the first verse of "Jabberwocky" each time it appears.

Tim Burton's 2010 film Alice in Wonderland also draws on concepts from Through the Looking Glass. The characters Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the White Queen and the Jabberwocky appear. The principal antagonist in the movie, played by Helena-Bonham Carter, is called the Red Queen.[8] A sequel to the movie, directed by James Bobin, was released in 2016. Although it is titled Alice Through the Looking-Glass, the 2016 film, in which an adult Alice searches for the Mad Hatter's family and travels back in time, has very little in common with Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass.

The second half of Irwin Allen's two-part TV movie Alice in Wonderland, first broadcast on CBS in the United States on December 10, 1985, is based on Through the Looking-Glass. In the TV movie, the Jabberwock monster comes alive after Alice reads "Jabberwocky" and pursues her for the rest of the film.

The 1999 British-American TV movie Alice in Wonderland, which aired on NBC in the United States and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom in 1999, features the characters of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Red Knight, the White Knight, the sleeping Red King and the poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter".

The 2009 miniseries Alice, which aired on the Syfy channel in the United States, draws on concepts from both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

See also


  1. Snap-dragon was a game which was popular at Christmas in 19th century England. The snap-dragon-fly is a Christmas-themed insect.
  2. Tweedledum2

    Alice helps Tweedledum and Tweedldeee prepare to fight. 1871 illustration by John Tenniel.

    "Tweedledum and Tweedledee" is a traditional English nursery rhyme. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice recites the rhyme thus:
    Tweedledum and Tweedledee
    Agreed to have a battle;
    For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
    Had spoiled his brand 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 phrase "Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee", to describe two almost identical things, dates back to at least the mid 18th century.

  3. John Tenniel's illustration from the first edition shows that the messenger is the Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
  4. Humpty Dumpty 1 - WW Denslow - Project Gutenberg etext 18546

    1902 depiction of Humpty Dumpty by W.W. Denslow.

    "Humpty Dumpty" is a traditional English nursery rhyme. The first printed version of it was published in 1797. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice recites the rhyme thus:
    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the King's horses and all the King's men
    Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his place again.

    The last line, which Alice comments is too long for the poem, is more usually given as, "Couldn't put Humpty together again". The rhyme was originally a riddle, listeners having to guess that Humpty Dumpty was an egg. The rhyme is no longer presented as a riddle because the image of Humpty Dumpty as a humanized egg is so well known.

  5. John Tenniel's illustrations from the first edition reveal Haigha and Hatta to be the March Hare and Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
  6. Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (Both Realms)

    The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, as used in England (left) and Scotland (right).!

    The Lion (representing England) and the Unicorn (representing Scotland) are the supporters on the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. British people have long imagined the two animals to be rivals. Versions of the nursery rhyme, in which the two beasts fight for the crown, date back to at least 1708. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice recites the nursery rhyme thus:
    The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the crown;
    The Lion beat the Unicorn all around the town.
    Some gave them white bread, some gave them brown;
    Some gave them plum-cake and drummed them out of town.
  7. "Animal, vegetable, mineral" was a popular parlor game in which everyone tried to guess what someone was thinking of by asking only yes/no questions - with the first question being one of the three: "Is it animal (or vegetable or mineral)?"
  8. The character of the Red Queen from Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland is a combination of the Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass and the Queen of Hearts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

External links

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