‘Mine is a long and a sad tale!’

It’s National Storytelling Week and one quick little story that comes to mind is the tale of the mouse from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. I was brought up on this book, and Through The Looking Glass, and I know chunks off by heart. I can conjure up in my mind’s eye many of the illustrations – the famous, slightly scary ones by Tenniel – without having looked at them in some years.

In both books the mad, dreamlike chapters function almost like separate stories, certainly as separate episodes. And within the chapters are pastiche poems and songs which are little stories in themselves: The Walrus & The Carpenter, or ‘Your Are Old, Father William’.

But my absolute favourite always was, and still is, the mouse’s tale – shaped like a tail and tapering away in a most satisfying manner. According to Martin Gardner in The Annotated Alice, this is ‘perhaps the best known example in English of emblematic or figured verse: poems printed in such a way that they resemble something related to the subject matter.’ It is funny and cruel and beautifully rhymed, all of which appealed to my heartless disposition as a young child.

The Mouse's Tale, Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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5 thoughts on “‘Mine is a long and a sad tale!’

  1. I have a fondness for the Gardner edition — it helped me make sense of the puns, in-jokes and other subtleties as perceived by Alice‘s Victorian audience in what otherwise seemed to me to be totally arbitrary whimsy. A great bible and one I still keep.

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