Through the Looking-Glass | Study Guide

Lewis Carroll

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Through the Looking-Glass | Chapter 7 : The Lion and the Unicorn | Summary



As Alice continues her journey, she encounters soldiers and then the White King, who is sitting on the ground writing. "I've sent them all!" declares the White King: "four thousand two hundred and seven" soldiers. This is what he had promised Humpty Dumpty, should the egg ever need rescuing. However, the king admits he has kept two horses and two men in reserve. The king's messenger, Haigha (the March Hare), arrives and reports that the Lion and the Unicorn are "at it again." They are fighting for the king's crown, even though neither of them will actually get it if one wins. Alice and the king run to the fight, where they find the second messenger, Hatta (the Mad Hatter), watching the Lion and the Unicorn.

Soon the combatants pause for refreshments. At this juncture, Alice tells the White King she sees the White Queen running, and the king remarks, "There's some enemy after her, no doubt." But he does nothing more.

Alice speaks with both the Lion and the Unicorn. The Lion refers to her as "Monster," and the Unicorn and Alice share astonishment that they each thought the other wasn't real but a "fabulous monster." The Lion and Unicorn are both contentious and argue over plum cake. Before the end of the meal, loud drumming fills the air. Alice crosses another small brook and leaves.


Here again, the White Queen's independence is highlighted. When Alice tells the White King she sees the White Queen running, he does not feel compelled to rescue her. Without bothering to look in the queen's direction, the king remarks, "There's some enemy after her, no doubt. That wood's full of them." Believing there are enemies aplenty in the wood, he does not send any of his soldiers to her aid. When Alice asks whether he himself will go to help the queen, he responds, "No use, no use! She runs so fearfully quick." To him, the queen has the situation under control. His focus, instead, is on the Lion and the Unicorn. Notably, he is intimidated by them: "he was very nervous, and his voice quite quivered."

The subject of belief surfaces again. The Unicorn is amazed that Alice is real, and she points out she thought he was a fictional being. Once they both acknowledge they thought the other was a "fabulous monster," the Unicorn proposes, "If you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?" Apparently it is not only the White Queen who can believe in the impossible.

This suspension of disbelief may also be read as a plea to young readers to hold onto their childhood beliefs as they mature. Alice is no longer the easily startled, frequently crying child of Alice in Wonderland. Her journey in Through the Looking-Glass shows a maturation that indicates girlhood is passing. In the past several chapters, she's been entreated to believe in "impossible things" and "fabulous monsters." Moreover, she's been christened "Monster" by one such creature. By extension, she is an "impossible thing" in the Looking-glass world.

Readers also might note that the Unicorn is traditionally a symbol of innocence. The Greek bestiary Physiologus (2nd century CE) says the only way to capture a unicorn is for a virgin to be in its path. Alice, an innocent girl, is exactly that. Although this mythological aspect is not belabored, it may not be a coincidence that the character who seems kindest to Alice is the Unicorn, a mythological creature said to be unable to resist an innocent girl.

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