The Actual Walrus

 
 

John Lennon received a letter from a pupil at Quarry Bank High School, which he had attended. The writer mentioned that the English master was making his class analyse The Beatles‘ lyrics (Lennon wrote an answer, dated 1 September 1967, which was auctioned by Christie’s of London in 1992). Lennon, amused that a teacher was putting so much effort into understanding the Beatles’ lyrics, decided to write in his next song the most confusing lyrics that he could.

The genesis of the lyrics is found in three song ideas that Lennon was working on, the first of which was inspired by hearing a police siren at his home in Weybridge; Lennon wrote the lines “Mis-ter cit-y police-man” to the rhythm and melody of the siren. The second idea was a short rhyme about Lennon sitting in his garden, while the third was a nonsense lyric about sitting on a corn flake. Unable to finish the ideas as three different songs, he eventually combined them into one. The lyrics also included the phrase “Lucy in the sky” from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band earlier in the year.

 
 

The Walrus and The Carpenter as illustrated by John Tenniel

 
 

The walrus is a reference to the walrus in Lewis Carroll‘s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter (from the book Through the Looking-Glass). Lennon later expressed dismay upon belatedly realising that the walrus was a villain in the poem.

The final catalyst of the song occurred when Lennon’s friend and former fellow member of the Quarrymen, Peter Shotton, visited and Lennon asked Shotton about a playground nursery rhyme they sang as children. Shotton remembered:

“Yellow matter custard, green slop pie, All mixed together with a dead dog’s eye, Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick, Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick.”

Lennon borrowed a couple of words, added the three unfinished ideas and the result was I Am the Walrus. The Beatles’ official biographer Hunter Davies was present while the song was being written and wrote an account in his 1968 biography of the Beatles. Lennon remarked to Shotton, “Let the fuckers work that one out.” Shotton was also responsible for suggesting to Lennon to change the lyric “waiting for the man to come” to “waiting for the van to come”.

 
 

The Beatles in costume filming Magical Mystery Tour

 
 

Lennon claimed he wrote the first two lines on separate acid trips; he explained much of the song to Playboy in 1980:

“The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko… I’d seen Allen Ginsberg and some other people who liked Dylan and Jesus going on about Hare Krishna. It was Ginsberg, in particular, I was referring to. The words ‘Element’ry penguin’ meant that it’s naïve to just go around chanting Hare Krishna or putting all your faith in one idol. In those days I was writing obscurely, à la Dylan.”

“It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles’ work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, ‘I am the carpenter.’ But that wouldn’t have been the same, would it? [Sings, laughing] ‘I am the carpenter….'”

Seen in the Magical Mystery Tour film singing the song, Lennon, apparently, is the walrus; on the track-list of the accompanying soundtrack EP/LP however, underneath I Am the Walrus are printed the words ‘ “No you’re not!” said Little Nicola’ (in the film, Nicola is a little girl who keeps contradicting everything the other characters say). Lennon returned to the subject in the lyrics of three of his subsequent songs: in the 1968 Beatles song Glass Onion he sings, “I told you ’bout the walrus and me, man/You know that we’re as close as can be, man/Well here’s another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul”; in the third verse of Come Together he sings the line “he bag production, he got walrus gumboot”; and in his 1970 solo song God, admits “I was the walrus, but now I’m John.”

 
 

To watch the clip from Magical Mystery Tour, please take a gander at The Genealogy of the Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r52ZBx0KMI

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Kind of Twisted and Memorable Characters

Illustration by John Tenniel

 
 

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are fictional characters in an English nursery rhyme and in Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). Their names may have originally come from an epigram written by poet John Byrom. The nursery rhyme has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19800. The names have since become synonymous in western popular culture slang for any two people who look and act in identical ways, generally in a derogatory context.

Carroll, having introduced two fat little men named Tweedledum and Tweedledee, quotes the nursery rhyme, which the two brothers then go on to enact. They agree to have a battle, but never have one. When they see a monstrous black crow swooping down, they take to their heels. The Tweedle brothers never contradict each other, even when one of them, according to the rhyme, “agrees to have a battle”. Rather, they complement each other’s words. This fact has led Tenniel to assume that they are twins, and Martin Gardner goes so far as to claim that Carroll intended them to be enantiomorphs — three-dimensional mirror images. Evidence for these assumptions cannot be found in any of Lewis Carroll’s writings.

The words “Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee” make their first appearance in print in “one of the most celebrated and most frequently quoted (and sometimes misquoted) epigrams”, satirising the disagreements between George Frideric Händel and Giovanni Bononcini, written by John Byrom (1692–1763):

Some say, compar’d to Bononcini
That Mynheer Handel’s but a Ninny
Others aver, that he to Handel
Is scarcely fit to hold a Candle
Strange all this Difference should be’
Twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee!

Although Byrom is clearly the author of the epigram, the last two lines have also been attributed to Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. While the familiar form of the rhyme was not printed until around 1805, when it appeared in Original Ditties for the Nursery, it is possible that Byrom was drawing on an existing rhyme.

 
 

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum features as the opening song on Bob Dylan‘s 2001 album Love and Theft.

 
 

The track includes many references to parades in Mardi Gras in New Orleans, where participants are masked, and “determined to go all the way” of the parade route, in spite of being intoxicated. “It rolls in like a storm, drums galloping over the horizon into ear shot, guitar riffs slicing with terse dexterity while a tale about a pair of vagabonds unfolds,” writes Kot. “It ends in death, and sets the stage for an album populated by rogues, con men, outcasts, gamblers, gunfighters and desperados, many of them with nothing to lose, some of them out of their minds, all of them quintessentially American.

They’re the kind of twisted, instantly memorable characters one meets in John Ford‘s westerns, Jack Kerouac‘s road novels, but, most of all, in the blues and country songs of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. This is a tour of American music—jump blues, slow blues, rockabilly, Tin Pan Alley ballads, Country Swing—that evokes the sprawl, fatalism and subversive humor of Dylan’s sacred text, Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, the pre-rock voicings of Hank Williams, Charley Patton and Johnnie Ray, among others, and the ultradry humor of Groucho Marx.

Bread-and-Butterfly

Illustration by John Tenniel

 
 

Stills from Alice in Wonderland (Clyde Geronimi; Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske, 1951). This British-American animated fantasy comedy-adventure film was produced by Walt Disney Productions and based primarily on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with several additional elements from Through the Looking-Glass

 
 

‘And then there’s the Butterfly,’ Alice went on, after she had taken a good look at the insect with its head on fire, and had thought to herself, ‘I wonder if that’s the reason insects are so fond of flying into candles — because they want to turn into Snap-dragon-flies!’

‘Crawling at your feet,’ said the Gnat (Alice drew her feet back in some alarm), ‘you may observe a Bread-and-Butterfly. Its wings are thin slices of Bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar.

‘And what does it live on?’

‘Weak tea with cream in it.’

A new difficulty came into Alice’s head. ‘Supposing it couldn’t find any?’ she suggested.

‘Then it would die, of course.’

‘But that must happen very often,’ Alice remarked thoughtfully.

‘It always happens,’ said the Gnat.

After this, Alice was silent for a minute or two, pondering. The Gnat amused itself meanwhile by humming round and round her head: at last it settled again and remarked, ‘I suppose you don’t want to lose your name?’

‘No, indeed,’ Alice said, a little anxiously.

Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass
Chapter 3, Looking-Glass Insects

A Sort of Thing in His Dream

Illustration by John Tenniel

 
 

…”And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’¹

‘Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice.

‘Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. ‘You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’

‘If that there King was to wake,’ added Tweedledum, ‘you’d go out— bang!—just like a candle!”

Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-glass
Chapter IV
Tweedledum and Tweedledee

 
 

Jorge Luis Borges

 
 

1.  Jorge Luis Borges quoted that line at the beginning of The Circular Ruins, a story about a magician who dreams himself a child, “limb by limb and feature by feature, in a thousand and one secret nights”.

Tender or Mischievous

Albrecht Durer, Young Hare

 
 

Vincent Van Gogh, Field with Two Rabbits

 
 

Drawing from original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Lewis Carroll

 
 

John Tenniel, White Rabbit

 
 

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

 
 

Salvador Dalí, Down the Rabbit Hole

 
 

Norman Rockwell

 
 

According to Arthur Paul, the designer of the playboy logo, he chose the rabbit because of its “humorous sexual connotation” and also because the representation was “frisky and playful”. The playboy logo is undoubtedly mischievous in its nature.

 
 

Robert Crumb’s drawing

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Boy-By-The-Sea1Terence Koh, Boy by the Sea (2008)

 
 

Jeff Koons

 
 

Illustration by Han Hoogerbrugge

 
 

Chuck Jones and Bugs Bunny

 
 

Rabbits (David Lynch,2002)

 
 

John Updike may have chosen the name Rabbit for his character for its echo of Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt (1922).  Previously to Rabbit, Run (1961),Updike had written a short story entitled Ace In The Hole, and to a lesser extent a poem, Ex-Basketball Player, with similar themes to this series.

 
 

“It had a bed, a table, and a chair. The table had a lamp on it, a lamp that had never stopped burning in anticipation of her return, and on the lamp perched a butterfly with two large eyes painted on its widespread wings. Tereza knew she was at her goal. She lay down on the bed and pressed the rabbit to her face.”

 
 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Robert Zemeckis, 1989). The Wolf and other characters were based on Tex Avery’s Red Hot Ridding Hood.

 
 

The animation of Cool World (Ralph Bakshi, 1992) was strongly influenced by the house styles of Fleischer Studios and Terrytoons. Bakshi had originally intended to cast Drew Barrymore instead Kim Bassinger  in the film’s leading role.

Where The Things Have No Name

Portrait of Pablo Neruda by Luis Xeiroto

 
 

“Before I loved you, Love, nothing was my own:

I wavered through the streets, among objects:

nothing mattered or had a name:

the world was made of air, which waited.”
 
SONNET XXV
Pablo Neruda

 
 

Illustration by John Tenniel

 
 

“This must be the wood,’ she said thoughtfully to herself, ‘where
things have no names. I wonder what’ll become of MY name when I go in?
I shouldn’t like to lose it at all–because they’d have to give me
another, and it would be almost certain to be an ugly one. But then
the fun would be trying to find the creature that had got my old
name! That’s just like the advertisements, you know, when people lose
dogs…”
 
Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking-Glass
CHAPTER III
Looking-Glass Insects

 
 

Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)

 
 

“-I don’t know what to call you.

-I don’t have a name.

– Do you want to know mine?

– No, no! I don’t. I don’t want to know your name. You don’t have a name and I don’t have a name either. No one name.

-You’re crazy!

-Maybe I am, but I don’t want to know anything about you. I don’t wanna know where you live or where you come from. I wanna know nothing.

– You scare me.

– Nothing. You and I are gonna meet here without knowing anything that goes on outside here. OK?

-But why?

-Because… Because we don’t need names here. Don’t you see? We’re gonna forget… everything that we knew. Every… All the people,… all that we do,… wherever we live.

-We’re going to forget that, everything, everything.”
 
Dialogue between Paul (Marlon Brando) and Jeanne (Maria Schneider)

 
 

One Hundred Years of Solitude book cover by Ben Rothery- Penguin Design Awards 2011

 
 

“When Jose Arcadio Buendia realized that the plague had invaded the town, he gathered together the heads of families to explain to them what he knew about the sickness of insomnia, and they agreed on methods to prevent the scourge from spreading to other towns in the swamp. That was why they took the bells off the goats, bells that the Arabs had swapped them for macaws, and put them at the entrance to town at the disposal of those who would not listen to the advice and entreaties of the sentinels and insisted on visiting the town. All strangers who passed, through the streets of Macondo at that time had to ring their bells so that the sick people would know that they were healthy. They were not allowed to eat or drink anything during their stay, for there was no doubt but that the illness was transmitted by mouth, and all food and drink had been contaminated by insomnia. In that way they kept the plague restricted to the perimeter of the town. So effective was the quarantine that the day came when the emergency situation was accepted as a natural thing and life was organized in such a way that work picked up its rhythm again and no one worried any more about the useless habit of sleeping.

 
 

Illustration by Rodrigo Avilés

 
 

It was Aureliano who conceived the formula that was to protect them against loss of memory for several months. He discovered it by chance. An expert insomniac, having been one of the first, he had learned the art of silver work to perfection. One day he was looking for the small anvil that he used for laminating metals and he could not remember its name. His father told him: “Stake.” Aureliano wrote the name on a piece of paper that he pasted to the base of the small anvil: stake. In that way he was sure of not forgetting it in the future. It did not occur to him that this was the first manifestation of a loss of memory, because the object had a difficult name to remember. But a few days later he discovered that he had trouble remembering almost every object in the laboratory. Then he marked them with their respective names so that all he had to do was read the inscription in order to identify them. When his father told him about his alarm at having forgotten even the most impressive happenings of his childhood, Aureliano explained his method to him, and Jose Arcadio Buendia put it into practice all through the house and later on imposed it on the whole village. With an inked brush he marked everything with its name: table, chair; clock, door; wall, bed, pan. He went to the corral and marked the animals and plants: cow, goat, pig, hen, cassava, caladium, banana. Little by little, studying the infinite possibilities of a loss of memory, he realized that the day might come when things would be recognized by their inscriptions but that no one would remember their use. Then he was more explicit. The sign that he hung on the neck of the cow was an exemplary proof of the way in which the inhabitants of Macondo were prepared to fight against loss of memory: This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk. Thus they went on living in a reality that was slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they forgot the values of the written letters.”
 
Fragment taken from One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez