Tweedledum and Tweedledee

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Tweedledum)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Tweedledum and Tweedledee"
John Tenniel's illustration, from Through the Looking-Glass (1871), chapter 4
Nursery rhyme

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are characters in an English nursery rhyme and in Lewis Carroll's 1871 book Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. 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.


Common versions of the nursery rhyme include:

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
    Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
    Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
    As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
    They quite forgot their quarrel.[1]


The words "Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee" make their first appearance in print as names applied to the composers George Frideric Handel and Giovanni Bononcini in "one of the most celebrated and most frequently quoted (and sometimes misquoted) epigrams", satirising disagreements between Handel and Bononcini,[2] written by John Byrom (1692–1763):[3] in his satire, from 1725.

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![4]

Although Byrom is clearly the author of the epigram, the last two lines have also been attributed to Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.[1] 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.[5]

Through The Looking-Glass[edit]

The characters are perhaps best known from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice Found There (1871). 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, which led John Tenniel to portray them as twins in his illustrations for the book.

Other depictions[edit]


  1. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 418.
  2. ^ Knowles, Elizabeth KnowlesElizabeth (2006-01-01), "Tweedledum and Tweedledee", The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198609810.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-860981-0, retrieved 2020-08-17
  3. ^ C.Edgar Thomas: Some Musical Epigrams and Poems, The Musical Times, November 1, (1915), p. 661.
  4. ^ John Byrom: Epigram on the Feuds between Handel and Bononcini, The Poems, The Chetham Society 1894–1895. Source: Literature Online.
  5. ^ M. Gardner, ed., The Annotated Alice (New York: Meridian, 1963).
  6. ^ James Joyce: Letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver. 24 June 1921
  7. ^ Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States Harper Perennial Classics, 2005. p.345 ISBN 0-06-083865-5.
  8. ^ J. Beck, The Animated Movie Guide (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2005), p. 11.
  9. ^ Griffin, S. (2000). Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: the Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out. New York: New York University Press. p. 228. ISBN 0-8147-3122-8.
  10. ^ "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum". Retrieved 2009-04-18.
  11. ^ "All Bets Are Off in British Campaign". New York Times. 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2010-04-26. “Tweedledum talking to Tweedledee, who is talking to Tweedledem”
  12. ^ "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland".
  13. ^ Sky Catalogue 2000.0, Volume 2: Double Stars, Variable Stars, and Nonstellar Objects (edited by Alan Hirshfeld and Roger W. Sinnott, 1985), Chapter 3: Glossary of Selected Astronomical Names.
  14. ^ Sky and Telescope, November 1961, page 263.
  15. ^ Deep-Sky Name Index 2000.0 - Hugh C. Maddocks (Foxon-Maddocks Associates, 1991).