Saturday, November 26, 2005

Moon and Memory and Muchness

I was away camping for a couple days with no access to phone or Internet. It was cloudy during the day but the sky opened up at night to reveal the moon. One of the books I took with me was Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. I've read this book so many times that I must have memorized it.

And yet, parts of it seemed newly unfamiliar to me. For one, there was an extra character in the book, one I did not remember from before. Carroll (I assume this is still Carroll's work) refers to her only as "the thin brunette" In Chapter 7, for example, the chapter known as "The Mad Tea Party" she appears first in this paragraph, halfway through the chapter:

"He moved on as he spoke, and the Dormouse followed him: the March Hare moved into the Dormouse's place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. A thin brunette who had been watching, with her head cupped in her hands, moved into the place Alice had been sitting. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate. The thin brunette picked up the tea cup Alice had been drinking and sniffed it gingerly."

Now, I don't recall the thin brunettte, although earlier in the chapter Alice remarks:

"`I didn't know it was your table,' said Alice; `it's laid for a great many more than three.'"

So perhaps these additional characters were always there? In any case, this chapter also ends differently than I recall it. The action in the chapter continues even after Alice has left the scene. Here, I have typed in what I have in my edition as the conclusion of Chapter 7:

"The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: `--that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory...
The thin brunette at the end of the table joined in: "...and melancholy and madness and milk and...."

"...and teapots and tables and silk!.." exclaimed the March Hare triumphantly.

"Well..." the thin brunette, said, attempting to interrupt "...I dont think---"

The Dormouse continued as if he had never been interrupted ".. and muchness-- you know you say things are "much of a muchness"--did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?'

`Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, `I don't think--'

`Then you shouldn't talk,' said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.

"Oh! I know the answer to the riddle!" exclaimed the thin brunette and smiled to herself.

"What riddle?" said the Mad Hatter, gasping as he pushed on the Dormouse's feet.

"A raven is like a writing desk because Poe wrote on both!" said the thin brunette.

"Who is Poe? How does one write on a raven?" muttered the Dormous, his voice echoing inside the teapot. "Never mind her. She knows nothing." insisted the Hatter. The answer is "Because raven has no S in it."

"That makes no sense at all." said the thin brunette as she lazily stirred her tea.

"The next riddle" stated the Mad Hatter, ignoring her objections is "How does one fit a Dormouse into a teapot?"
"A perplexing problem" agreed the March Hare.

"Oh! That riddle is easier." said the thin brunette. And with this, she walked over and sat on top of the Dormouse the way one might sit upon a piece of overpacked luggage that will not close. Soon after, a large "Pop!" sound was heard and a tiny squeal could be heard from within the teapot. The March Hare promptly closed the lid of the now full teapot and the Mad Hatter took a ceremonious bow. The thin brunette walked off into the woods and neither of the others took the least notice of her going.

"That was fun" she said more to herself than to anyone else since there was nobody else to talk to in the woods. "Now I want to go see what happens when I wake up the Red King!"

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