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Looking Glass Day

“I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all.”

~ Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll, 1871

Are you having a Looking Glass Day? Year? Decade? Are the slithy toves and mome raths getting you down? If you feel as if you've fallen down a rabbit hole where "everything that is, isn't, and everything that isn't is," or if it seems as if you've pushed through a looking glass into a world of confusion where everything is backwards and all logic is reversed, you are not alone. The date of the official Looking Glass Day is derived from hints in the text of Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass." Both Alice and Humpty Dumpty make reference to events which mark the date as the day before Guy Fawkes Night and six months after the date of Alice's first adventure in Wonderland! In the story, Alice climbs up on the fireplace mantel and pokes at the wall-hung mirror behind the fireplace to discover that she is able to step through it to an alternative world! Alice continues her adventures in this mirror world of twisted logic and confusion as one of the characters participating unwillingly in an obfuscated virtual chess game as a pawn. Aren't we all ... 🐇 🕳️ ♘♟️♕

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.

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