Monday, February 24, 2014

Victorian Fantasy: "Through the Looking Glass"

This month, the Victorian Fantasy discussion group had a short field trip, convening on the Great Lawn of Victoria City, in front of the main library. The topic of discussion was Lewis Carroll’s two books about young Alice, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, though the thrust of the discussion was about the latter book.

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 001

Our normal master of ceremonies, Sir JJ Drinkwater, had transformed into the Mad Hatter, and his cohost, Dame Kghia Gherardi, into the Queen of Hearts:

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 002

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 003

Through the Looking Glass begins as Alice, playing with a white and black kitten as well as a chess set, steps through a wall mirror into a fantastical world in which the chess pieces are now life-sized and come to life. Alice, a mere pawn, starts on the second row of the chess board and makes her way across the board, to the eighth row, thereby becoming a queen. Along the way she has a number of adventures with strange characters, including Red and White Knights, Humpty Dumpty, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Dame Kghia posed an interesting thought: "Are the rules a symbol of adulthood that Alice is trying to figure out?” She continued, "I'm thinking about White Queen's statement and the fact that the rules often seem arbitrary to Alice and children in general. [T]he book seems to be leading Alice through rituals so she learns the rules but things are still confusing to her, which is why words are taken so literally in this world.” In this view, the queens are the “adults,” and Alice, in becoming a queen herself, has taken a step into the adult world. It was a view that had not occurred to me, but seems entirely consistent with the book. (If this interpretation is commonplace knowledge, don't disillusion me.)

Some of the many attendees - only some of whom are pictured below, I fear - arrived in costume for tea and conversation:

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Miss Janet Rhiadra as Alice, enjoying a cuppa 

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 005Mr. Rory Torrance, with a Mad Hatter-inspired top hat

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 006Miss Herndon Bluebird

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 007Miss Aznana Shieldmaiden

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 008Mr. Ludo Merit, with his wonderful Cheshire Cat avatar

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 011Miss Eve Compton

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 012Our White Queen...

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 013…and our Red Queen, also known as Queen Mystic

Victorian Literature  Looking Glass 014And another Alice, your humble scribe

Next month’s discussion will be held March 19, and the topic will be The Novel of the Black Seal, by Arthur Machen. I am not familiar with either the author or the work, so I look forward to reading it. The 1895 work is part of a longer episodic novel, The Three Impostors, and is described as “incorporate[ing] several inset weird tales and culminat[ing] in a final denouement of deadly horror, connected with a secret society devoted to debauched pagan rites.” This sounds like quite a story!

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