After the qualified success of reading Alice in Wonderland to fils aîné, it took a while before he was prepared to let me introduce him to Looking Glass. I approached it with some trepidation as it is a long-standing favourite of mine and I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t liked it.
Fortunately, we appear to be in complete agreement that it is a much more interesting book than Wonderland. There’s no doubt that it has a great opening lines that pitches you right into the story:
One thing was certain, that the white kitten had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten’s fault entirely.
As before, a lot of the jokes went right over his head, as they did mine as a child, and there was quite a lot of vocabulary to be explained. When things got particularly silly, he was inclined to groan “Oh yeah, Alice is dreaming again” and there are some very surreal moments!
Fils aîné is attempting, on and off, to learn chess, so he liked the idea of Alice taking part in the game as a pawn and becoming a queen at the end, while both the Red and White Queens are great characters in their different ways. Meanwhile, there’s Jabberwocky to get to grips with, and Humpty Dumpty – a familiar figure offering an introduction to linguistic relativism.
Incidentally, on the subject of Humpty Dumpty, I had always been under the impression that it was Tenniel’s illustration that crystallised the idea of him as an egg, but that can’t be the case because it’s already there in the text:
However, the egg only got larger and larger, and more and more human: when she had come within a few yards of it, she saw that it had eyes and a nose and mouth; and when she had come close to it, she saw clearly that it was HUMPTY DUMPTY himself. ‘It can’t be anybody else!’ she said to herself. ‘I’m as certain of it, as if his name were written all over his face.’ (Chapter VI, Humpty Dumpty)
Anyway, I enjoyed myself hugely rediscovering a well-loved text, and the boy seems to have liked it too. And as before, the biggest frustration was in the poor quality of my cheap, second hand paperback. A nice copy where you can see the illustrations properly and without typos and layout errors is on fils aîné‘s Christmas list!
- Through the Looking Glass (marbleswords.com)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (bestofebooks.wordpress.com)