Through the Looking-Glass

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Through the Looking-Glass
Through the looking glass.jpg
First edition cover of Through the Looking-Glass
Author Lewis Carroll
Illustrator John Tenniel
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genre Children's fiction
Publisher Macmillan
Publication date
27 December 1871
Preceded by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (also known as Alice Through the Looking-Glass or simply Through the Looking-Glass) is an 1871 novel [1] by Lewis Carroll and the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Alice again enters a fantastical world, this time by climbing through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it. There she finds that, just like a reflection, everything is reversed, including logic (e.g. running helps you remain stationary, walking away from something brings you towards it, chessmen are alive, nursery rhyme characters exist, etc.).


Through the Looking-Glass includes such verses as "Jabberwocky" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter", and the episode involving Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The mirror above the fireplace that is displayed at Hetton Lawn in Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire (a house that was owned by Alice Liddell's grandparents, and was regularly visited by Alice and Lewis Carroll) resembles the one drawn by John Tenniel, and is cited as a possible inspiration for Carroll. [2]

It was the first of the "Alice" stories to gain widespread popularity, and prompted a newfound appreciation for its predecessor when it was published. [3]

Plot summary

Chapter One – Looking-Glass House: Alice is playing with a white kitten (whom she calls "Snowdrop") and a black kitten (whom she calls "Kitty") when she ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror's reflection. Climbing up onto the fireplace mantel, she pokes at the wall-hung mirror behind the fireplace and discovers, to her surprise, that she is able to step through it to an alternative world. In this reflected version of her own house, she finds a book with looking-glass poetry, "Jabberwocky", whose reversed printing she can read only by holding it up to the mirror. She also observes that the chess pieces have come to life, though they remain small enough for her to pick up.

Alice entering the looking-glass. Aliceroom3.jpg
Alice entering the looking-glass.

Chapter Two – The Garden of Live Flowers: Upon leaving the house (where it had been a cold, snowy night), she enters a sunny spring garden where the flowers can speak; they perceive Alice as being a "flower that can move about". Elsewhere in the garden, Alice meets the Red Queen, who is now human-sized, and who impresses Alice with her ability to run at breathtaking speeds.

Chapter Three – Looking-Glass Insects: The Red Queen reveals to Alice that the entire countryside is laid out in squares, like a gigantic chessboard, and offers to make Alice a queen if she can move all the way to the eighth rank/row in a chess match. Alice is placed in the second rank as one of the White Queen's pawns, and begins her journey across the chessboard by boarding a train that jumps over the third row and directly into the fourth rank, thus acting on the rule that pawns can advance two spaces on their first move. She arrives in a forest where a depressed gnat teaches her about the looking glass insects, strange creatures part bug part object (e.g., bread and butterfly, rocking horse fly), before flying away sadly. Alice continues her journey and along the way, crosses the "wood where things have no names". There she forgets all nouns, including her own name. With the help of a fawn who has also forgotten his identity, she makes it to the other side, where they both remember everything. Realizing that he is a fawn, she is a human, and that fawns are afraid of humans, it runs off (to Alice's frustration).

Alice meeting Tweedledum (centre) and Tweedledee (right) Tennieldumdee.jpg
Alice meeting Tweedledum (centre) and Tweedledee (right)

Chapter Four – Tweedledum and Tweedledee: She then meets the fat twin brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whom she knows from the nursery rhyme. After reciting the long poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter", they draw Alice's attention to the Red King—loudly snoring away under a nearby tree—and maliciously provoke her with idle philosophical banter that she exists only as an imaginary figure in the Red King's dreams. Finally, the brothers begin suiting up for battle, only to be frightened away by an enormous crow, as the nursery rhyme about them predicts.

The Red King dreaming Red King sleeping.jpg
The Red King dreaming

Chapter Five – Wool and Water: Alice next meets the White Queen, who is very absent-minded but boasts of (and demonstrates) her ability to remember future events before they have happened. Alice and the White Queen advance into the chessboard's fifth rank by crossing over a brook together, but at the very moment of the crossing, the Queen transforms into a talking Sheep in a small shop. Alice soon finds herself struggling to handle the oars of a small rowboat, where the Sheep annoys her with (seemingly) nonsensical shouting about "crabs" and "feathers".

Chapter Six – Humpty Dumpty: After crossing yet another brook into the sixth rank, Alice immediately encounters Humpty Dumpty, who, besides celebrating his unbirthday, provides his own translation of the strange terms in "Jabberwocky". In the process, he introduces Alice to the concept of portmanteau words, before his inevitable fall.

The White Knight Alice knight.jpg
The White Knight

Chapter Seven – The Lion and the Unicorn: "All the king's horses and all the king's men" come to Humpty Dumpty's assistance, and are accompanied by the White King, along with the Lion and the Unicorn, who again proceed to act out a nursery rhyme by fighting with each other. In this chapter, the March Hare and Hatter of the first book make a brief re-appearance in the guise of "Anglo-Saxon messengers" called "Haigha" and "Hatta".

Chapter Eight – "It's my own Invention": Upon leaving the Lion and Unicorn to their fight, Alice reaches the seventh rank by crossing another brook into the forested territory of the Red Knight, who is intent on capturing the "white pawn"—Alice—until the White Knight comes to her rescue. Escorting her through the forest towards the final brook-crossing, the Knight recites a long poem of his own composition called Haddocks' Eyes, and repeatedly falls off his horse.

Chapter Nine – Queen Alice: Bidding farewell to the White Knight, Alice steps across the last brook, and is automatically crowned a queen, with the crown materialising abruptly on her head (a reference to pawn promotion). She soon finds herself in the company of both the White and Red Queens, who relentlessly confound Alice by using word play to thwart her attempts at logical discussion. They then invite one another to a party that will be hosted by the newly crowned Alice—of which Alice herself had no prior knowledge.

Chapter Ten – Shaking: Alice arrives and seats herself at her own party, which quickly turns into chaos. Alice finally grabs the Red Queen, believing her to be responsible for all the day's nonsense, and begins shaking her.

Chapter Eleven – Waking: Alice awakes in her armchair to find herself holding the black kitten, who she deduces to have been the Red Queen all along, with the white kitten having been the White Queen.

Chapter Twelve – Which dreamed it?: The story ends with Alice recalling the speculation of the Tweedle brothers, that everything may have been a dream of the Red King, and that Alice might herself be no more than a figment of his imagination. The book ends with the line "Life, what is it but a dream?"


Main characters

Minor characters

Writing style and symbolism


One of the key motifs of Through the Looking-Glass is that of mirrors, including the use of opposites, time running backwards, and so on, not to mention the title of the book itself. In fact, the themes and settings of the book make it somewhat of a mirror image to its predecessor, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The first book begins in the warm outdoors, on 4 May; [lower-alpha 1] uses frequent changes in size as a plot device; and draws on the imagery of playing cards. The second book, however, opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on 4 November (the day before Guy Fawkes Night); [lower-alpha 2] uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device; and draws on the imagery of chess.

Lewis Carroll's diagram of the story as a chess game Alice chess game.png
Lewis Carroll's diagram of the story as a chess game


Whereas the first book has the deck of playing cards as a theme, Through the Looking-Glass is based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most of the main characters are represented by a chess piece, with Alice being a pawn.

The looking-glass world is divided into sections by brooks or streams, with the crossing of each brook usually signifying a change in the scene, and corresponding to Alice advancing by one square. Furthermore, since the brook-crossings do not always correspond to the beginning and ends of chapters, most editions of the book visually represent the crossings by breaking the text with several lines of asterisks ( * * * ). The sequence of moves (white and red) is not always followed. The most extensive treatment of the chess motif in Carroll's novel is provided in Glen Downey's 1998 dissertation The Truth About Pawn Promotion: The Development of the Chess Motif in Victorian Fiction. [4]


The White Queen offers to hire Alice as her lady's maid and to pay her "twopence a week, and jam every other day." Alice says that she doesn't want any jam today, to which the Queen replies, "you couldn't have it if you did want it. The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day." This is a reference to the rule in Latin that the word iam or jam—which means now, in the sense of already or at that time—cannot be used to describe now in the present, which is nunc in Latin. Therefore, "jam" is never available today. [5] This exchange is also a demonstration of the logical fallacy of equivocation. [6]

The Walrus and the Carpenter Briny Beach.jpg
The Walrus and the Carpenter

Poems and songs

Most poems and songs of the book do not include a title.

The Wasp in a Wig

Lewis Carroll decided to suppress a scene involving what was described as "a wasp in a wig" (possibly a play on the commonplace expression "bee in the bonnet"). A biography of Carroll, written by Carroll's nephew, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, suggests that one of the reasons for this suppression was a suggestion from his illustrator, John Tenniel, [9] who wrote in a letter to Carroll dated 1 June 1870: [10]

I am bound to say that the 'wasp' chapter doesn't interest me in the least, and I can't see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can't help thinking – with all submission – that there is your opportunity.

For many years, no one had any idea what this missing section was or whether it had survived. In 1974, a document purporting to be the galley proofs of the missing section was auctioned at Sotheby's; the catalogue description, in part, read, "the proofs were bought at the sale of the author's…personal effects…Oxford, 1898." The document would be won by John Fleming, a Manhattan book dealer, for a bid of about US$832(equivalent to $4,313 in 2019). [11] The contents were subsequently published in Martin Gardner's More Annotated Alice (1990), [12] and is also available as a hardback book. [13]

The rediscovered section describes Alice's encounter with a wasp wearing a yellow wig, and includes a full previously unpublished poem. If included in the book, it would have followed, or been included at the end of, Chapter 8 – the chapter featuring the encounter with the White Knight. The discovery is generally accepted as genuine, but the proofs have yet to receive any physical examination to establish age and authenticity. [14]

The missing episode was included in the TV adaptation Alice through the Looking Glass (1998)

Dramatic adaptations

The Jabberwock Jabberwocky.jpg
The Jabberwock

The book has been adapted several times, both in combination with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and as a stand-alone feature.

Stand-alone adaptations

Adaptations with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Film and TV

Stage productions

Maidie Andrews as Alice in Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Comedy Theatre, London during the Christmas period 1903-04. Pictured in The Tatler (January 1904) Maidie Andrews Tatler 1904.jpg
Maidie Andrews as Alice in Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Comedy Theatre, London during the Christmas period 1903–04. Pictured in The Tatler (January 1904)


See also

Related Research Articles

Jabberwocky Nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll

"Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll about the killing of a creature named "the Jabberwock". It was included in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The book tells of Alice's adventures within the back-to-front world of Looking-Glass Land.

<i>Alice in Wonderland</i> (1933 film) 1933 film by Norman Z. McLeod

Alice in Wonderland is a 1933 American pre-Code fantasy film adapted from the novels by Lewis Carroll. The film was produced by Paramount Pictures, featuring an all-star cast. It is all live-action, except for the Walrus and The Carpenter sequence, which was animated by Harman-Ising Studio.

<i>Alice in Wonderland</i> (1985 film) 1985 two-part film directed by Harry Harris

Alice in Wonderland is a 1985 two-part made-for-television adventure family fantasy musical film of Lewis Carroll's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). An Irwin Allen production, it used a huge all-star cast of notable actors and actresses. The title role was played by Natalie Gregory, who wore a blonde wig for this miniseries. Alice in Wonderland was first telecast December 9, 1985, and December 10, 1985, at 8:00pm EST on CBS.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee Pair of fictional brothers from Carrolls "Through the Looking Glass"

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are characters in an English nursery rhyme and in Lewis Carroll's 1871 book Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Their names may have originally come from an epigram written by poet John Byrom. The nursery rhyme has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19800. The names have since become synonymous in western popular culture slang for any two people who look and act in identical ways, generally in a derogatory context.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

"The Walrus and the Carpenter" is a narrative poem by Lewis Carroll that appeared in his book Through the Looking-Glass, published in December 1871. The poem is recited in chapter four, by Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Alice. The poem is composed of 18 stanzas and contains 108 lines, in an alternation of iambic tetrameters and iambic trimeters. The rhyme scheme is ABCBDB, with masculine rhymes throughout. The rhyming and rhythmical scheme used, as well as some archaisms and syntactical turns, are those of the traditional English ballad.

Works based on <i>Alice in Wonderland</i>

Lewis Carroll's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) have been highly popular in their original forms, and have served as the basis for many subsequent works since they were published. They have been adapted directly into other media, their characters and situations have been appropriated into other works, and these elements have been referenced innumerable times as familiar elements of shared culture. Simple references to the two books are too numerous to list; this list of works based on Alice in Wonderland focuses on works based specifically and substantially on Carroll's two books about the character of Alice.


An unbirthday is an event that is typically celebrated on any or all of the 364 days in which it is not a person's birthday. It is a neologism coined by Lewis Carroll in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, giving rise to "The Unbirthday Song" in the 1951 animated feature film Alice in Wonderland.

<i>The Looking Glass Wars</i> 2004 novel by Frank Beddor

The Looking Glass Wars is a series of three novels by Frank Beddor, heavily inspired by Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass. The basic premise is that the two books written by Lewis Carroll are a distortion of the 'true story'. It features twists and turns on the original story, such as the white rabbit really being Alyss's (Alice's) tutor, Bibwit Harte, and the Mad Hatter is really a very agile, somber bodyguard called Hatter Madigan.

<i>Alice in Wonderland</i> (musical) musical pantomime

Alice in Wonderland is a musical pantomime by Henry Savile Clarke, Walter Slaughter (music) and Aubrey Hopwood (lyrics), based on Lewis Carroll's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). The piece, billed as "A musical dream play in two acts", achieved considerable popularity. At Carroll's request, Slaughter retained the old tunes in the parodies such as "Bonny Dundee".

Red Queen (<i>Through the Looking-Glass</i>)

The Red Queen is a fictional character in Lewis Carroll's fantasy 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass. She is often confused with the Queen of Hearts from the previous book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), although the two are very different.

Red King (<i>Through the Looking-Glass</i>) fictional character in "Through the Looking-Glass" by Lewis Carroll

The Red king is a character who appears in Lewis Carroll's 1871 fantasy novel Through the Looking-Glass.

White King (<i>Through the Looking-Glass)</i> fictional character from Through the Looking-Glass

The White King is a fictional character who appears in Lewis Carroll's 1871 fantasy novel Through the Looking-Glass. Aside from Alice herself, he is one of the earliest chesspieces that are introduced into the story. Although he does not interact with Alice as much as the White Queen does, because Alice becomes a pawn on his side of the Chess-game, he is, on some levels, the most important character within the story at least as far as the game is concerned. He is not to be confused with the King of Hearts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

White Queen (<i>Through the Looking-Glass</i>) Fictional character from Carrolls Through the Looking-Glass

The White Queen is a fictional character who appears in Lewis Carroll's 1871 fantasy novel Through the Looking-Glass.

<i>Through the Looking Glass</i> (opera) opera

Through the Looking Glass is a chamber opera by the Australian composer Alan John to a libretto by Andrew Upton, based on Lewis Carroll's 1871 book and on the life of Alice Liddell, the girl for whom Carroll wrote the story's 1865 prequel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Looking-glass world fictional setting of “Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll

The looking-glass world is the setting for Lewis Carroll's 1871 children's novel Through the Looking-Glass.

A 1982 Broadway stage performance of Alice in Wonderland was telecast on PBS's Great Performances in 1983. Directed by Kirk Browning, it was produced by PBS affiliate WNET in New York. Black-and-white papier-mâché costumes aimed to re-create the book's original artwork by John Tenniel.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a 1987 Australian-Italian animated film nominally based on the 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. It was directed by Andrea Bresciani and Richard Slapczynski from a screenplay by Jameson Brewer. The film stars the voices of Janet Waldo, Mr. T, Jonathan Winters, Phyllis Diller, George Gobel, Alan Young, Clive Revill, and Townsend Coleman.

But Never Jam Today was a 1979 musical with music by Bert Keyes and Bob Larimer, lyrics by Larimer, and a book by both Larimer and Vinnette Carroll. The musical is based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and takes its title from the "jam tomorrow" discussion in Carroll's 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass.

<i>Alices Adventures Under Ground</i> (opera)

Alice's Adventures Under Ground is a 2016 one-act opera by Gerald Barry to his own libretto, based on Lewis Carroll's 1865 children book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass. First performed in a concert staging at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles on 22 November 2016, it received its stage premiere at the Royal Opera House on 3 February 2020. The staging was a joint production by the Royal Opera House, Irish National Opera and Dutch National Opera, and was directed by Antony McDonald.

<i>Alice through the Looking Glass</i> (1998 film)

Alice through the Looking Glass is a 1998 British fantasy television film, based on Lewis Carroll's 1871 book Through the Looking-Glass, and starring Kate Beckinsale.



  1. During the "Mad Tea-Party", Alice reveals that the date is "the fourth" and that the month is "May" (chap.7).
  2. In the first chapter, Alice speaks of the snow outside and the "bonfire" that "the boys" are building for a celebration "to-morrow," a clear reference to the traditional bonfires of Guy Fawkes Night that take place on 5 November. In Chapter 5, she affirms that her age is "seven and a half exactly."
  3. See "Jabberwocky" full poem including readings, via Wikisource.
  4. See "Walrus and the Carpenter" full poem, via Wikisource.


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Other sources

Online texts