Saturday 10 March 2007


Commenting on yesterday's post recounting my dream about the Queen, Suzanne wondered what dreams are "trying to tell us", which put me in mind of another dream involving royalty that is dreamt in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There.

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.

"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..."
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 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]


Anonymous said...

I read this when I couldn't get to sleep (again! but it's getting rarer!) That passage used to fascinate me... it's a bit like the egg & chicken conundrum, I think. But it's not going to help me sleep!

Brian Sibley said...

Sorry, Suzanne! :-(

Brian Sibley said...

With the funny accent used by Mr W in the film, I'm surprised you could make out ANYTHING he said!! ;-)

Now I'm going to have to watch it again... :-)

Riddley Walker said...

As long as when you do go out, Brian, you do it with a bang! ;-)

Brian Sibley said...

GILL writes...

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded by a sleep."

The Bard, as ever, has an appropriate quote!

The Editor Writes...

Incidentally, a singularly appropriate Word Verfication was required to post Gill's comment: 'airby'.

Airby hangs a tale, maybe...?

['THEREBY hangs a tale,' is used by the aforementioned Bard in 'The Taming of the Shrew', 'As You Like It' and 'Othello'!]