Last week we left with Alice all grown up inside the Rabbit’s house and now we’re in for one of the most iconic scenes in the book, when Alice breaks one of the windows with her hand and reaches down into the Rabbit’s garden in order to find something to eat that’ll shrink her down […]
Last week we left with Alice all grown up inside the Rabbit’s house and now we’re in for one of the most iconic scenes in the book, when Alice breaks one of the windows with her hand and reaches down into the Rabbit’s garden in order to find something to eat that’ll shrink her down again.
In the garden we find a forgotten character: Pat.
“Digging for Apples, yer honor!”
The relationship between Pat and the Rabbit is socially unbalanced, like the ones we see in The Wind in the Willows: he’s working for the rabbit, like the chimney sweeper we’ll meet in a minute, and his race is widely debated. Some say he’s a monkey, but there’s no description of him. From what we know, however, we can guess he’s Irish, both from the accent and the way he uses “apples” when he really means “potatoes” (apparently it’s an Irish thing).
One theory is that Pat is one of the two guinea pigs that will help reviving Bill after he’s kicked out of the chimney by Alice and, in this case, we’ll also meet Pat as the jurors in the Queen’s court.
The other theory is that Carroll is imagining Pat to be an ape because Victorian satirical cartoons always depicted Irish people as apes. Fun times.
Some illustrators, however, decide to make him human. It’s the case of Harry Rountree (and I found this amazing website in which you can see all his illustrations).
He also gives us a nice clean idea of his clothes in the following illustrations, in which Pat and the rabbit are talking about the giant arm Alice has sprouted out of the house’s window.
“Now tell me, Pat, what’s that in the window?”
“Sure, it’s an arm, yer honour.”
My favourite portrayal however is by Charles Robinson, who disregards everything above and gives us a literal goose, taking literally the way the rabbit calls him out for being silly.
“An arm, you goose! Who ever saw one that size? Why, it fills the whole window!”
“Sure, it does, yer honour: but it’s an arm for all that.”
The same Charles Robinson, who has a knack for giving a high relevance to minor scenes, also gives us one of those beautiful full-page illustrations we’re used to (remember the one with the gardens at the very beginning of the story?).
The hand coming out of the window is one of the most frequent way of illustrating this scene, starting from John Tenniel.
Another nice one is by Margaret Tarrant, in a nice oval-shaped frame.
A good dramatic take on the subject is provided by Russian illustrator Irina Kazakova: we are lucky enough to find one of her pages on-line.
The same idea of seeing only one hand is also picked up by Tove Jansson.
One of my personal favourite, however, is the double spreader by digital artist Zdenko Basic.
While Alice is trying her best, here comes Bill the Chimney Sweeper. But I’m afraid those are illustrations for another time.