The Mouse's Tail/Tale

Foreshadowing the nonsense trial at the end of the book, The Mouse’s Tale describes why the Mouse that Alice meets while swimming in the river of her own tears dislikes cats and dogs.  The nature of the Alice’s Adventures Under Ground manuscript version is dramatically different from the first published text.  In Under Ground, fat, snug mice live happily under a mat until a cat and a dog trample them.  The published version describes an entity called “Fury” taking a mouse to trial in which Fury will be judge and jury, and will condemn the mouse to death.  

Both versions use shaped or patterned poetry which may provide multiple contexts to the poem.  Building on the tale/tail homonym, the shape of the poem resembles a long, curving, mouse’s tail.  Over time and as printing capacity has allowed, illustrators have built on this idea to more closely convey the shape of a tail (see the Pogany and Zwerger versions here).  Some critics have also noted that the shape of the poem is similar to a tornado, a physical manifestation of fury and also foreshadowing a similar text, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

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Lewis Carroll, illustrated by himself
Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
Guildford: Genesis Publications Limited, 1979.
Facsimile of Carroll’s original manuscript from 1864

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Lewis Carroll. John Tenniel (illustrator)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
London: Macmillan and Co., 1866

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Lewis Carroll. Willy Pogany (illustrator)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1929


Lewis Carroll. Lisbeth Zwerger (illustrator)
Alice in Wonderland
New York: North-South Books, 1999
Gift of Charles J. Barr

Playful Parodies: "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat"

Interpretive Illustrations