29th, 30th March, 1st, 5th, 6th April 2024

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

We’ve all heard variations of the terms Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whether it be from a
scornful mother angry at our childhood antics, or an annoyed teacher referring to you and
your fun-loving friend as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledumber’. While technically an insult,
being referred to in this way also shows some affection, as this much-loved, and often
misunderstood set of twins from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass's playful and
comical antics have made them fan favourites throughout the years.

While everyone knows who they are –or at least what their names refer to– few people know
their origin story. The oversized twins from Through the looking glass were actually inspired
by this nursery rhyme, which in turn, was inspired by an epigram (a short, witty poem) about
two feuding composers, Handel and Bonocini, written by the English poet, John Byrom.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

In the original Through the Looking Glass story, Alice meets them while on her journey
through Wonderland. She recites the poem, as it’s the only thing she knows about them,
however, they deny ever agreeing to have a battle over a rattle. They extend their hands to
Alice in friendship, but unable to decide whose hand to shake first, Alice grabs both of their
hands in a circle, and the three dance in a ring. After they finish their dance, Alice asks them
how to get out of the wood, but they ignore her and instead start telling her the poem about
‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ in a singsong and comical way. The poem is full of twists
and turns, causing Alice to change her mind about the characters in it again and again.

Their playful and unpredictable behaviour fits perfectly in a world so full of mystery and
uncertainty, and while they might seem to be copies of the same person at surface level,
they’re nuanced and unique characters in their own right.

Churnet Valley Railway invites you to meet these enigmatic twins yourself on our Mad
Hatter’s Tea Party train
. Come see if you can make sense of their poems and riddles as you
help Alice make her journey through the Wonderland that is our train.

Mad Hatters Tea Party