Through the Looking-Glass
Chapter 7: The Lion and the Unicorn
Alice sees soldiers and horses running through the forest as she walks into the wood. She comes across the White King, who is jotting notes down in his memorandum book. He delightedly tells Alice that he has sent out all of his horses and men, with the exception of two horses needed for “the game,” and his messengers, Haigha and Hatta, who are in town on errands. The White King asks Alice if she passed Haigha or Hatta on the road, but she declares that she has seen nobody. The White King expresses amazement that she can see “Nobody” at all, admitting that he has difficulty seeing real people. Confused, Alice looks around, and finally catches sight of Haigha wriggling toward them. When Haigha (the March Hare) arrives, the White King asks him for a hand sandwich. After devouring the sandwich, the White King munches on hay given to him by Haigha and asks his messenger if he passed anyone on the road. Haigha says he passed “nobody,” prompting the White King to declare that Alice saw Nobody too, and that Nobody must be a slow walker. Haigha asserts that he is sure that nobody walks faster than he does. The White King disagrees, explaining that Nobody would be with them now if Nobody did indeed walk faster.
Haigha informs the White King that the Lion and the Unicorn are fighting in town. As they run to town to watch, Alice repeats a nursery rhyme about the Lion and the Unicorn. In the rhyme, the Lion and the Unicorn fight for a crown, stop to eat bread and cake, and are then drummed out of town. When they arrive in town, Alice and her companions stand with Hatta (the Mad Hatter). Hatta informs them of the events of the fight thus far. The Lion and the Unicorn stop their fighting for a moment. The White King calls for a refreshment break, so Hatta and Haigha pass bread around. Alice notices the White Queen dart through, observing that someone seems to be chasing her. The White King realizes that Alice has caught sight of the White Queen and points out that she runs so quickly that following her would be fruitless.
The Unicorn approaches Alice, staring at her in disgust as it asks her what she is. Alice states that she is a child, but the Unicorn decides that she is a Monster. The Unicorn strikes up a bargain with Alice that they will believe in each other now that they have seen each other. The Unicorn calls for cake, which Haigha produces. The Lion joins them, and orders Alice to cut the cake. Despite her repeated slicing, the cake persists in coming back together. The Unicorn explains that Alice must pass the cake around first and cut afterward. Alice begins passing the cake, and it splits into three pieces, leaving her with nothing to cut. Just then, she hears a deafening drumbeat that scares her and causes her to run off in terror. She crouches on the other side of a brook, imagining that the noise also caused the Lion and the Unicorn to flee.
Alice again sees the power language has to dictate outcomes, for the events described in her nursery rhymes come true both for Humpty Dumpty and the Lion and the Unicorn. The crash that begins the chapter is the fall that Alice described in her nursery rhyme, an assumption reinforced by the fact that the White King sends (almost) all of his horses and men, presumably to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Similarly, the battle between the Lion and the Unicorn unfolds in the same way as the nursery rhyme. The White King’s literalist tendencies reinforce the idea that language dictates outcomes. He mistakes Alice and Haigha’s unspecific “nobody” for a real person named “Nobody.” The White King portrays Nobody as a character who takes words at their face value, which reaffirms the inversion motif. For the White King, things and events are not explained through words, but words themselves become literal things and events.