On (Re)Discovering Alice Through the Looking Glass

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.

Alice going Through the Looking Glass (John Tenniel)

John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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!

Alice Humpty DumptyFils 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!


About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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4 Responses to On (Re)Discovering Alice Through the Looking Glass

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Yes, my boys liked Behind the Looking Glass more than In Wonderland, although I suspect it was the nonsense rather than the nuances which appealed to them.

  2. balaam says:

    Carroll is more than Alice. I’d like to read thoughts on Sylvie and Bruno too.

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