Nov 4

Looking Glass Day

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Through the Looking Glass
Sir John Tenniel
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"Twopence a week, and jam every other day."

~ The White Queen, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll, 1871

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves 

      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: 

All mimsy were the borogoves, 

      And the mome raths outgrabe."

- Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll

Looking Glass Day, November 4th, marks the fictionally derived date of of the story related in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There,  the 1871 novel by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson).   

In this sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), set some six months later than the earlier book, Alice again enters a fantastical world, this time by climbing through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it. 


Alice Liddell, the model and inspriration for the storybook Alice, and Lewis Carroll were regular visitors to a house in Cudnall Street, Charlton Kings,  owned by Alice Liddell's grandparents.  The mirror which inspired Lewis Carroll to write the story is reported to be still in existence there.

This tartan, designed by Carol A.L. Martin, suggests a glass-tinted view of a mirror-image world.

As the story begins, in Chapter One, "Looking-Glass House,"  Alice is playing with a white kitten "Snowdrop" and a black kitten "Kitty" - the offspring of Dinah, Alice's cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - when she ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror's reflection. Climbing up on 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.

The themes and settings of Through the Looking-Glass make it a kind of mirror image of Wonderland.

Whereas the first book has the deck of cards as a theme, this book is based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most main characters in the story are represented by a chess piece or animals, with Alice herself being a pawn.

The looking-glass world is divided into sections by brooks or streams, with the crossing of each brook usually signifying a notable change in the scene and action of the story: the brooks represent the divisions between squares on the chessboard, and Alice's crossing of them signifies advancing of her piece one square. 

Through the Looking-Glass includes the celebrated nonsense verse  "Jabberwocky.

Some of the words that Carroll created for this poem, such as "chortled" and "galumphing", have now entered the English language and are listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. The word "jabberwocky" itself has come to refer to nonsense language.

The original novel, Alice in Wonderland has been translated into at least 174 languages, including many variants of Scots:  Scots, Scots (Border), Scots (Caithness), Scots (Glaswegian), Scots (North-East or Doric), Scots (Shetland), Scots (Synthetic or Lallans), Scots (Ulster), Scots (West Central Scots or Ayrshire), and Scottish Gaelic.

And so too this much studied poem with its fanciful words has also been translated into many 

languages with grammatically and linguistically appropriate substitutions.

Here's the beginning of the curious French translation by Frank L. Warrin:

Le Jaseroque

Il brilgue: les tôves lubricilleux

Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave.

Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux

Et le mômerade horsgrave.

For more about this fascinating poem and for more translations into different languages, click the famous illustration by John Tenniel of Alice moving through the looking glass.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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