Welcome to another Ladies I Love edition of the A to Z Challenge! Today’s letter is Q, for QUEEN. Specifically, I’ll be introducing you to four queens from Lewis Carroll‘s books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass“. I’m a huge fan of these two books and have several editions of them at home – I even memorized “The Jabberwocky” in seventh grade and can still recite it! And did you ever notice that Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land are actually Queendoms? It’s the queens who rule these lands, and even though the kings are there, they’re pretty wimpy and submissive to the queens, who are able to rule with gusto. If you are interested in Alice’s Wonderland adventures, there’s a great wiki that you should visit – you can find it here. But let’s get on with the business at hand!
First, there’s only one queen in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and I’ll bet you can guess who that is – that’s right, the Queen of Hearts! But don’t get confused – she is also sometimes mistakenly referred to as “The Red Queen”, whom I will introduce in a moment. The Queen of Hearts is actually one of a pack of cards who enjoys playing croquet (using hedgehogs for balls and flamingos for mallets), and of course, handing out death sentences like they are going out of style by yelling “off with her head!” should anyone look crosswise at her. Fortunately, the king is there to discreetly pardon most of the convicted, but if it’s all the same, I wouldn’t want to get on the Queen of Heart’s bad side!
After Alice leaves Wonderland, she enters Looking-Glass Land and there encounters two more queens of a different sort as they are chess pieces and not anything like the sociopathic Queen of Hearts. First she meets the White Queen, directly upon entering Looking-Glass Land, but the queen doesn’t really interact with her until further in the game of chess that Alice finds herself playing. She takes her place in the game as a white pawn and has to get to the 9th square to become a queen herself. When she gets to the fifth square, she meets the White Queen again, who then gives Alice some great advice:
When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” — The White Queen, Through the Looking-Glass
The White Queen is a bit mysterious, and fades in and out of the story, transforming into a knitting sheep and into one of Alice’s white cats. The Red Queen, on the other hand, is a bit more proactive with Alice in getting her to the 9th square. The Red Queen is my favorite of the queens we find in Alice’s story. While bossy, the Red Queen can get things done. She urges Alice to move quickly and save time where possible. She states:
Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” — The Red Queen, Through the Looking Glass
I can so relate to this statement – sometimes life feels like this, right? In fact, there’s something called The Red Queen Hypothesis in the field of biology that describes how evolution works: “For an evolutionary system, continuing development is needed just in order to maintain its fitness relative to the systems it is co-evolving with” — Leigh Van Valen (1973). This means that evolution is just a big game of “Keeping Up with the Jones'” – if you have a competitor or a predator, as a species, you need to evolve to find ways of surviving the challenges of the competitor or predator. However, those competitors and predators must also evolve too, to keep up with you! But I digress…
In the end, Alice does get to the 9th square to become a queen in her own right. The White Queen meanders off and disappears, but the Red Queen continues to cause trouble for Alice, who decides to shake some sense into the Red Queen. The Red Queen then transforms into Alice’s black kitten and Alice wakes from her dream…having defeated the Red Queen (and King) and won her game of chess.
To be honest, the Queens are not my favorite characters in Alice’s adventures – I rather enjoy the Cheshire Cat (no surprise there, right?) and the Mad Hatter. But they are both male, and well, I needed to write about Ladies for this Challenge. But the queens are no less fascinating than any of other Lewis Carroll’s inventions! Who is your favorite character in these stories, or do you have another fairy tale that you connect with?