Red Queen (Through the Looking-Glass)

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Red Queen
Alice character
Tenniel red queen with alice.jpg
The Red Queen lecturing Alice, by John Tenniel
First appearance Through the Looking-Glass
Created by Lewis Carroll
Gender Female
Occupation Queen
Spouse(s) Red King
Will Scarlet (Once Upon a Time only)
Nationality Looking-Glass Land

The Red Queen is a fictional character in Lewis Carroll's fantasy novel, Through the Looking-Glass. She is often confused with the Queen of Hearts from the previous book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, although the two are very different.


With a motif of Through the Looking-Glass being a representation of the game of chess, the Red Queen could be viewed as an antagonist in the story as she is the queen for the side opposing Alice. Despite this, their initial encounter is a cordial one, with the Red Queen explaining the rules of Chess concerning promotion — specifically that Alice is able to become a queen by starting out as a pawn and reaching the eighth square at the opposite end of the board. As a queen in the game of Chess, the Red Queen is able to move swiftly and effortlessly.

Later, in Chapter 9, she appears with the White Queen, posing a series of typical Wonderland/Looking-Glass questions ("Divide a loaf by a knife: what's the answer to that?"), and then celebrating Alice's promotion from pawn to queen. When that celebration goes awry, Alice turns upon the Red Queen, whom she "considers as the cause of all the mischief", and shakes her until the queen morphs into Alice's pet kitten. In doing this, Alice presents an end game, awakening from the dream world of the looking glass, by both realizing her hallucination and symbolically "taking" the Red Queen in order to checkmate the Red King.

Confusion with the Queen of Hearts

The Red Queen is commonly mistaken for the Queen of Hearts in the story's predecessor, Alice in Wonderland. The two share the characteristics of being strict queens associated with the color red. However, their personalities are very different. Indeed, Carroll, in his lifetime, made the distinction between the two Queens by saying:

The 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland perpetuates the long-standing confusion between the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts. In the film, the Queen of Hearts delivers several of the Red Queen's statements, the most notable being based on her "all the ways about here belong to me". Both characters say this to suggest importance and possible arrogance, but in the Red Queen's case it has a double meaning since her status as a Chess-queen means that she can move in any direction she desires.

In both American McGee's Alice and Tim Burton's film adaptation of the books, the characters are also combined, leading to further popular misconception. Also, Jefferson Airplane's song "White Rabbit" contains the lyric "and the Red Queen's off with her head", another instance of the two characters combined or mistaken for one another. However, American McGee's game implies that after Alice was put into the asylum the Queen of Hearts and Red Queen fused together.

Popular culture

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The 2010 live-action film Alice in Wonderland, fashioned as a sequel to the novel, features Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen.[2] Bonham Carter's head was digitally increased three times its original size on screen.[3] Bonham Carter's character is a combination of the Red Queen, the Duchess and the Queen of Hearts.[4] From the original Red Queen, this character gets only a relationship to the White Queen. Here the Red Queen is the older sister of the White Queen, and is jealous of her sister, whom her subjects genuinely love. From the original John Tenniel illustrations of the Duchess, she gets a massive head in proportion to her body and a retinue of frog footmen. The White Queen theorizes that the movie's Red Queen has a tumor pressing against her brain, explaining both her large head and her deranged behaviour. Most of her characteristics are taken from the Queen of Hearts, including:

  • A quickness to anger, including the famous phrase "Off with his/her/their/your head!" Her first name, Iracebeth, is a play on the word "irascible". In the movie, the queen's moat is full of heads from her many decapitations. Carter has said that she based her performance on her toddler-aged daughter.[5]
  • The use of animals as inanimate objects. Beside the flamingo mallets & hedgehog croquet balls from the original, this queen also uses them as furniture.[6]
  • Having tarts stolen, although in this adaptation it was a starving frog footman who stole the tarts rather than the Knave of Hearts. Here, the queen is madly in love with the Knave of Hearts, who leads her army, and has executed her husband the King for fear that he would leave her.
  • Employment of a fish footman and the White Rabbit.
  • Heart motifs throughout her palace & a 16th-century-style costume associated with the queen of hearts playing card & the original John Tenniel illustrations for the Queen of Hearts.

The irritable, snobbish mother of Alice's potential husband, cast as a corresponding villain in the "real world" also resembles the Queen of Hearts when she fumes about her gardeners planting white instead of red roses.

After the Jabberwocky is slain by Alice, the Red Queen's army stops fighting and following her orders. The White Queen banishes the Red Queen to Outland where nobody is to say a word to her or show her any kindness. The Knave of Hearts is also banished and tries to kill the Red Queen only to be thwarted by the Mad Hatter. As the Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts are carried off to their exile, the Red Queen repeatedly shouts "He tried to kill me" while the Knave of Hearts begged for the White Queen to have him killed.

In the video game adaptation of the film, she plays a minor role, first appearing as a mere illustration. She is not seen in person until near the end of the game, first playing croquet and beheading the hedgehogs she uses as balls whenever they miss their target at her castle, and then again both before and after the battle with the Jabberwocky. Her clothes and persona is similar to the Tudor sisters Queen Mary I (persona) and Queen Elizabeth I (clothes).[citation needed]

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

The Red Queen appears in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (a spin-off to Once Upon a Time) portrayed by Emma Rigby. She is a character distinct from the Queen of Hearts (Barbara Hershey), who was her tutor in magic. Like the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen is an émigré to Wonderland from the Enchanted Forest, having originally been a young woman named Anastasia, with whom Will Scarlet (the Knave of Hearts) was in love. The Red Queen featured as one of the show's main antagonists, alongside Jafar.

Pandora Hearts

Two characters from the manga/anime Pandora Hearts are based on the Red Queen, Alice and Lacie, though Lacie has more in common with the Red Queen than Alice, who also has connections with The Queen of Hearts.

American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns

The Red Queen is combined into the Queen of Hearts in the first game, American McGee's Alice. The names are used interchangeably. However, in the second game the are separated once more and the player meets the Queen of Hearts in her original form, the Red Queen is never seen.

Adaptive uses outside the arts

In science

In business

  • “Red Queen marketing” is defined as the business practice of launching new products in order to replace past failed launches while the overall sales of a brand may remain static or growth is less than fully incremental (Donald Kay Riker, 2009).[8]


  1. Gardner, Martin; Lewis Carroll (1998). The Annotated Alice. Random House. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-517-18920-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Kit, Borys (October 24, 2008). "Crispin Glover joins Alice in Wonderland". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved October 25, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  3. Topel, Fred (December 19, 2008). "Alan Rickman talks about Alice in Wonderland". Retrieved February 21, 2010. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The inhabitants of 'Alice in Wonderland'". USA Today. Gannett Company. June 23, 2009. Retrieved January 9, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Laws, Roz (March 5, 2010). "Film: Johnny Depp on magic, madness and The Wiggles". Birmingham Mail. Trinity Mirror Midlands Limited. Retrieved March 7, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Salisbury, Mark (March 2010). "Alice in Wonderland: The curious one that will get the kids screaming... Her real name is Raisie". Total Film. Future Publishing. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. The Red Queen Principle
  8. OTC Product News, April 24, 2009

Further reading