Symbolism in Lewis Carroll's 'The Walrus and the Carpenter'

Children stories often carry a moral message. This is not a new thing,and has been the case from millenia past, and across many culturesacross the globe.

Sometimes, the moral story is not direct, and indeed can be very deep,and sometimes it is enveloped in satire or even cynicist philosophy.

One such deeply symbolic and satirical story is Lewis Carroll'spoem of The Walrus and the Carpenter. In his famous book Alice in Wonderland, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee tell this storyto Alice.

Here is an excerpt of the relevant parts from the poem. The full poem can be read at the above link.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

The very telling verses are where the Walrus says:

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:"I deeply sympathize."With sobs and tears he sorted outThose of the largest size,Holding his pocket-handkerchiefBefore his streaming eyes.

How often do we see Walruses with tears in their eyes?

Whether they are persons, or companies, or nations!

Those who pretend that they are doing what is best, but in reality doing exactly the opposite, but trying to present evil as good?

For example, is the US invasion and occupation of Iraq really for democracy and freedom?

If one takes a darker view, the Walrus and the Carpenter can be symbolic of intentionally luring other people with sweet talk, then preying on them (or their money, or their emotions, ...etc.)

Other interpretations can be found on the Wikipedia article




more to this

cant they mean more in a religious sence where as the walrus plays the part of those eastern religions representing a big god like creatures such as the elephant in hinduism or buddah himself with his kindness.
and the carpenter could mean christianity because jesus himself was a son of a carpenter and they dupe these unknowning masses into following them and then once they are lured in they devour whats left of their brittle souls.
but then again, what do i know.

The movie "Dogma"

This is a story line from the movie Dogma, where it takes that exact interpretation.

But it is just a comedy/satire movie, so take it with a grain of salt.
Khalid Baheyeldin

ur stupid

ur stupid


obviously not what you speak of, as you have directly quoted the movie Dogma


Yeah 'what do you know' at least credit the movie instead of tryin to pass it as your own

OK so yeah he took the idea

OK so yeah he took the idea but this is the direct Quote....Just saying.. Personally i do agree with the idea but i doubt he revel'd the idea unto himself

"Oh, but there is - it colorfully details the sham
that is organized religion. The Walrus - with his
girth and good-nature - obviously refers to either
the Buddha, or - with his tusks - the lovable
Hindu elephant god, Lord Ganesha. This takes care
of the Eastern religions. The Carpenter is an
Obvious reference to Jesus Christ, who was
purportedly raised the son of a carpenter. He
represents the Western religions. And in the poem,
what do they do? They dupe all the oysters into
following them. Then, when the oysters collective
guard is down, the Walrus and the Carpenter shuck
and devour the helpless creatures, en masse. I
don't know what that says to you, but to me it
says that following faiths based on these
mythological figures insures the destruction of
one's inner-being."


Interestingly enough though, Lewis Carrol didn't choose to make him a carpenter.

"when Carroll gave the manuscript for Looking Glass to illustrator John Tenniel, he gave him the choice of drawing a carpenter, a butterfly, or a baronet (since each word would fit the poem's metre)" wikipedia :D

You have left out the next

You have left out the next lines in the movie, which help put the criticism in greater context:

Bartleby: "You know, here's what I don't get about you. You know for a fact that there is a God. You've been in His presence. He's spoken to you personally. Yet I just heard you claim to be an atheist."
Loki: "I just like to f*ck with the clergy, man. I just love it, I love to keep those guys on their toes."

I think while this poem has deeper meaning, it's beyond "religion". It is simply "be careful who you trust".

The Walrus and the Carpenter

This poem certainly could have the symbolic meaning of exposing false religion, and it's aim to destroy mankind. However we must not confuse false religion with true religion revealed in the Bible.This wise Book warns in great detail of religious leaders duping their followers into self-destructive behaviors such as living by dangerous beliefs, sacrificing their children to "religious" sexual predators, and blindly following without investigating, as the oysters do. And what about forced contributions, while the leaders live in luxury("we made them trot so quick")? Sometimes a member will realize they're being distracted by the entertainment of these frauds("do you admire the view") while being spiritually devoured by these phony teachers. But unlike the poor oysters, we can listen to the Bible's warning before it's too late.