Sunday, November 13, 2011

Of queens and talking flowers

The reading challenge is going well so far, and I'm pleased to report that I finished Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass this past week.  I know I quoted Lewis Carroll in last weekend's post, but I love his work so much that I'm going to quote him again.  And perhaps yet even more in the near future.  I find it no wonder anymore that even Thomas S. Monson quoted him in General Conference last year; Carroll's writing is just that good.

What I love so much about Carroll is all the morals he slips into his stories and dialogue.  As one character, the Duchess, explains in Chapter Nine of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

Indeed, it does.  And one particularly significant moral--an eternal truth--can be found in the second chapter of Through the Looking-Glass.  This book is loosely based on a game of chess, in which Alice desires to become a queen.  But it's not a short or an easy process:

For some minutes Alice stood without speaking, looking out in all directions over the country -- and a most curious country it was. There were a number of tiny little brooks running straight across it from side to side, and the ground between was divided up into squares by a number of little green hedges, that reached from brook to brook.

`I declare it's marked out just like a large chessboard!' Alice said at last. `There ought to be some men moving about somewhere -- and so there are!' She added in a tone of delight, and her heart began to beat quick with excitement as she went on. `It's a great huge game of chess that's being played -- all over the world -- if this is the world at all, you know. Oh, what fun it is! How I wish I was one of them! I wouldn't mind being a Pawn, if only I might join -- though of course I should like to be a Queen, best.'

. . .

At the two-yard peg [the Red Queen] faced round, and said, `A pawn goes two squares in its first move, you know. So you'll go very quickly through the Third Square -- by railway, I should think -- and you'll find yourself in the Fourth Square in no time. Well, that square belongs to Tweedledum and Tweedledee -- the Fifth is mostly water -- the Sixth belongs to Humpty Dumpty -- But you make no remark?'

`I -- I didn't know I had to make one -- just then,' Alice faltered out.

`You should have said,' `"It's extremely kind of you to tell me all this" -- however, we'll suppose it said -- the Seventh Square is all forest -- however, one of the Knights will show you the way -- and in the Eighth Square we shall be Queens together, and it's all feasting and fun!' Alice got up and curtseyed, and sat down again.

At the next peg the Queen turned again, and this time she said, `Speak in French when you can't think of the English for a thing -- turn out your toes as you walk -- and remember who you are!' She did not wait for Alice to curtsey this time, but walked on quickly to the next peg, where she turned for a moment to say `good-bye,' and then hurried on to the last.

How it happened, Alice never knew, but exactly as she came to the last peg, she was gone. Whether she vanished into the air, or whether she ran quickly into the wood (`and she can run very fast!' thought Alice), there was no way of guessing, but she was gone, and Alice began to remember that she was a Pawn, and that it would soon be time for her to move.

Also from Chapter Two:

`How is it you can all talk so nicely?' Alice said, hoping to get it into a better temper by a compliment. `I've been in many gardens before, but none of the flowers could talk.'

`Put your hand down, and feel the ground,' said the Tiger-lily. `Then you'll know why.' 
Alice did so. `It's very hard,' she said, `but I don't see what that has to do with it.' 
`In most gardens,' the Tiger-lily said, `they make the beds too soft -- so that the flowers are always asleep.'

We have to move to get to the Eighth Square.  Remember who you are, and don't be afraid of the hard ground; we're not alone in this game.

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