Tweedledum's fury over his missing rattle

Tweedledum's fury over his missing rattle — Illustration to the fourth chapter of Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels. "But it isn't old!" Tweedledum cried, in a greater fury than ever. "It's new, I tell you — I bought it yesterday — my nice NEW RATTLE!" and his voice rose to a perfect scream."

Student assistants from the University Scholars Program, National University of Singapore, scanned this image and added text under the supervision of George P. Landow. See below for commentary. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the site and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Commentary by Ray Dyer

Carroll gives a mostly clinically accurate account of Tweedledum's fury, describing "a voice choking with passion," and continuing, "his eyes grew yellow and large all in a moment … he pointed with a trembling finger… beginning to stamp about wildly and tear his hair…." After such clarity the reader might well suspect that Carroll had witnessed such outbursts himself, particularly of tantrums in the nursery, where Lewis Carroll as a child and adolescent had known and played with a number of younger siblings. Alternatively, he may have been caricaturing the typical pantomime character, who may use such excesses to release the audience's poorly-hidden desire to laugh and howl at such extremes.

In his later children's fairytale of Sylvie and Bruno, Carroll would also include a dramatic tantrum by a part-grown child, with the author again employing a high degree of perspicacity and telling comment. The scene occurs at Sylvie's birthday party, when the odious Uggug, son of the scheming Sub-Warden and his wife, tricks the fairy girl by spilling a plate of butter over her new dress:

"It's this!"!" cried the bad boy exultingly, as he emptied the dish over her, then with a grin of delight at his own cleverness, looked around for applause… Uggug's triumph was a very short one: the Sub-Warden had returned, just in time to be a witness to his dear child's playfulness, and in a moment a skilfully applied box [= a blow] on the ear had changed his grin of delight into a howl of pain. "My darling!" cried his mother, enfolding him in her fat arms. "Did they box his ears for nothing? A precious pet!" … Sylvie came back again … And she tried to shake hands with the little ruffian: but Uggug only blubbered louder, and wouldn't make friends… [Carroll, Ch. III]

The two tantrums, as depicted by Carroll's principal two illustrators John Tenniel and Harry Furniss, show Carroll's accurate knowledge of childhood behaviour.

Note also that Tenniel is careful to include in the background of the picture, doubtless to Carroll's precise instructions, the hopeless efforts of Tweedledee to hide away from blame by rolling himself up in the ever-present large black umbrella. Again one is tempted to invoke scenarios likely remembered by Lewis Carroll from his own childhood and adolescence. Such temptation will be even stronger with the next, and final, Tenniel portrayal of the Tweedles with Alice.


Carroll, Lewis. Sylvie and Bruno. London: Macmillan, 1889.

Last modified 9 May 2021