During Alice's encounter with Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the twins point out the Red King lying fast asleep...
...He had a tall red night-cap on, with a tassel, and he was lying crumpled up into a sort of untidy heap, and snoring loud-- "fit to snore his head off!" as Tweedledum remarked.Every time I read this surreal description of the Red King's Dream I think how astonishing it is to find such a disturbing philosophical conundrum within the pages of a children's book.
"I'm afraid he'll catch cold with lying on the damp grass," said Alice, who was a very thoughtful little girl.
"He's dreaming now," said Tweedledee: "and what do you think he's dreaming about?"
Alice said, "Nobody can guess that."
"Why, about you!" Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. "And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be?"
"Where I am now, of course," said Alice.
"Not you!" Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. "You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream!"
"If that there King was to wake," added Tweedledum, "you'd go out-- bang!--just like a candle!"
"I shouldn't!" Alice exclaimed indignantly. "Besides, if I'm only a sort of thing in his dream, what are you, I should like to know?"
"Ditto," said Tweedledum.
"Ditto, ditto," cried Tweedledee.
He shouted this so loud that Alice couldn't help saying "Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."
"Well, it's no use your talking about waking him," said Tweedledum, "when you're only one of the things in his dream..."
I remember being decidedly bothered by this passage when I was young, but the closer I get to going out -- bang! -- like a candle, the more alarming it seems...
[Images: Sir John Tenniel]