In Underground, when Alice’s giant arm makes a grab at the Rabbit, making him fall into a cucumber frame, he seems to have some trouble identifying just what it was that attacked him. The Rabbit then calls for the help of Pat the gardner, whom his proceeds to question thus:

“Now, tell me, Pat, what is that coming out of the window?" "Shure it's an arm, yer honour!" (He pronounced it "arrum".) "An arm, you goose! Who ever saw an arm that size? Why, it fills the whole window, don't you see?" "Shure, it does, yer honour, but it's an arm for all that." "Well, it's no business there: go and take it away!”

The gardener seems to have no problem identifying what he sees as an arum. Therefore, does Carroll make Alice’s giant arm also double as a Giant Arum, pronounced just as Pat the gardener pronounced it?

1 Answer 1


Carroll’s Pat the gardener correctly identifies the strange “object” in the window as a Giant Arum, the largest flower in the world (this information is available online under Giant Arum). Not only as a fictional gardener would he be able to identify this commonly grown English flower, but by having a botanically trained Lewis Carroll as the writer and illustrator of this book, the reader is given further graphic and literary clues (for Carroll’s botanical training, see Carroll’s Diaries, Volume 2, p. 89). Let us compare the graphic similarities between Carroll’s illustration of the arm/arum to an actual picture of a Giant Arum. enter image description here

1: enter image description herehttps://i.stack.imgur.com/X1cU0.png

And more modern Giant Arum enter image description here

Moreover, an Arum was also known in England as a “Jack-in-the-box” (see The Englishman’s Flora, p. 429), somewhat accounting for the other of Alice’s appendages that, like her arm/arum and the Rabbit, similarly caused Bill the lizard to violently fly up the chimney.

Last came a little feeble squeaking voice, ("that's Bill" thought Alice,) which said "well, I hardly know—I'm all of a fluster myself—something comes at me like a Jack-in-the-box, and the next minute up I goes like a rocket!"

Thus we have three clues to Carroll’s botanical puzzle/joke - Pat’s pronunciation of what he sees as an “arm/arrum/arum,” Carroll’s illustration of the arm/arum, and an Arum’s other name “Jack-in-the-box” - all pointing to the Carrollian arm/arum pun in Alice’s Adventures Underground, which then makes its way, without Carroll’s illustration this time, to Wonderland.

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