When the Hatter tells Alice how he upset Time, at the Queen’s concert, he begins to demonstrates how this occurred:

”We quarrelled last March - just before he went mad, you know -“ (pointing with his teaspoon at the March Hare,) “it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing

‘Twinkle, twinkle little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!’

“You know the song perhaps?”

“I’ve heard something like it,” said Alice.

“It goes on, you know,” the Hatter continued, in this way-

Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle’”

The Dormouse seems to take the “twinkle” part of the above as a command:

Here the Dormouse shook itself, and began singing in its sleep - “Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle -“

Therefore, are there linguistic reasons for the Dormouse to assume that the Hatter is addressing him as a “bat,” and is commanding him to sing the word “twinkle,” at least four times?

2 Answers 2


Lewis Carroll was very interested in a great many aspects of language use, including the different dialects spoken in Britain during the Victorian Era. He owned a great variety of dictionaries, devoted to a great many conceivable topics related to language and languages (see J. Stearn’s Lewis Carroll’s Library, or C. lovett’s Lewis Carroll Among his Books). In Wonderland and Looking-Glass, he included several instance of the use of dialects. In The English Dialect Dictionary we find the only dialectal variant of the Dormouse (pictured in Wonderland):

DORMOUSE, sb, Glo...The bat, so called because it sleeps in winter. (The English Dialect Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 127.

Thus a wily Lewis Carroll, by using his knowledge of dialects, can make his Dormouse think himself a “bat,” and thus to take the Hatter’s words as a direct command for him to sing the words “Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle.”


Lewis Carroll has the Hatter use the word “twinkling,” giving the reader an idea of what is occurring in this Chapter so concerned with Time and time-keeping. When Alice mentions “beating time” when she learns music, the Hatter counters with:

Ah! that accounts for it,' said the Hatter. `He won't stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he'd do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o'clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you'd only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!'

So, the twinkling here is the short form for “in the twinkling of an eye,” which is also known as ‘in the bat of an eye.”

As the Dormouse/bat is continually sleeping his eyes are the only ones not twinkling, so he may have to “keep time” by saying the word “twinkle,” instead.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.