The Mock Turtle is a fictional character devised by Lewis Carroll from his popular book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Its name is taken from a dish that was popular in the Victorian period, mock turtle soup.
- Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, "Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?"
- "No," said Alice. "I don't even know what a Mock Turtle is."
- "It's the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from," said the Queen.
(Alice in Wonderland, chapter 9)
Carroll enjoyed such puns on Victorian fashions and etiquette, and showed this frequently. The description and drawing by John Tenniel gives comedic value to the Mock Turtle, as he is clearly an assemblage of creatures, therefore not a real turtle as his name rightly suggests.
The Mock Turtle is a very melancholy character, it is thought because he used to be a real turtle. He tells Alice his history of going to school in the sea, but cannot understand the school system that Alice describes to him- least of all the poetry she recites. Ironically, she cannot understand it either. This is a pun on the two meanings of "school", referring in the turtle's usage to a school of fish or marine animals, and by Alice to an institute of learning (see school). He says teacher was an old Sea Turtle called Tortoise and when Alice asks him why he was called Tortoise if he was a Turtle the Mock Turtle answers "We called him tortoise because he taught us!".
To say that the Mock Turtle's name is a pun on the name of the soup is incomplete. The Tenniel illustration of the Mock Turtle specifically depicts it as a collection of creatures that make up the ingredients of mock turtle soup; they are not random. The pun is not only of the name, but of the nature of the soup itself.
Traditionally, mock turtle soup takes the parts of a calf that were not frequently used and often discarded, including the head, hooves, and tail; and uses the non-muscular meat to imitate turtle meat. Tenniel's illustration shows the Mock Turtle with the body of a turtle, and the head, hooves, and tail of a calf. The complicated pun, then, is both word-play and picture-play.
Script error The Mock Turtle makes an appearance in the computer game American McGee's Alice, having the head of a bull and the body of a turtle. In the beginning, Alice has to help the Mock Turtle find his shell, which was stolen by the Duchess.
There is also a Mock Turtle in The Elder Scrolls Legends: Battlespire. It is an Easter egg hidden in the first level of the game, and its name backwards is the answer to a riddle. The turtle will tell you its life story, about how it was once a real turtle and studied various obscure turtle disciplines such as Speculative Ontology, Mystery, Seaography, and Laughing and Grief.
"The Mock Turtle" was the name of a costumed criminal obsessed with Alice in Wonderland and other fantasies in the Astro City universe (as a possible reference to DC comics' similarly Wonderland-obsessed villain, the Mad Hatter). He was introduced (and promptly killed) in the Tarnished Angel story arc.
Steely Dan recorded a demo entitled "The Mock Turtle Song"; this song was never recorded for a studio album but has been released on compilations and the band has played it live. The lyrics were directly taken from a song in the section in the book ("The Lobster Quadrille").
Jazz fusion band Bruford recorded a song entitled "Fainting in Coils", which is included as the fifth track of the band's 1979 release One of a Kind. The song includes narration by band founder Bill Bruford consisting of a 74-word excerpt from "The Mock Turtle's Story." In this excerpt, the Mock Turtle tells Alice about some of things he studied in school, which among other things included "...Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils."
In Batman: The Animated Series, the episode "Mad as a Hatter" introduces The Mad Hatter. During his date with a young coworker, Alice, he asks her if she recalls the song of the Mock Turtle. He begins to dance gleefully, singing, "Will you, won't you, will you, won't you join the dance?" At the end, after he loses Alice, he sings, "Would not, could not, would not, could not join my dance..." as the camera pans out and focuses on a statue of the Mock Turtle shedding a tear.
In the 1940 film His Girl Friday, when Earl Williams attempts to get out of the rolltop desk he's been hiding in, Walter (played by Cary Grant) says, "Get back in there, you Mock Turtle." Grant played the eponymous character in the 1933 film version of Alice in Wonderland.
Film & Television Incarnations
- Alice in Wonderland (1999) (TV) Played by Gene Wilder
- Alice in Wonderland (1986) (TV) Played by Roy Skelton
- Alice in Wonderland (1985) (TV) Played by Ringo Starr
- Dreamchild (1985) Played by Alan Bennett
- "Great Performances: Alice in Wonderland" (1983) (TV Episode) Played by Donald O'Connor
- Alicja (1982) Played by Jack Wild
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972) with Fiona Fullerton & Michael Hordern
- "The Wednesday Play: Alice in Wonderland" (1966) (TV Episode) Played by John Gielgud
- "The Wednesday Play: Alice" (1965) (TV Episode) Played by Norman Scace
- Alice in Wonderland (1955) (TV) Played by Burr Tillstrom
- "Hallmark Hall of Fame: Alice in Wonderland" (1955) (TV Episode) Played by Burr Tillstrom
- Alice in Wonderland (1933) Played by Cary Grant
- Alice in Wonderland Played by Gus Alexander
- Alice in Wonderland (1951) Was almost put in but deleted. However, did appear in Disney produced Jello commercials based around Alice in 1957.
- Alice in Wonderland (2010) Does not appear, but a portrait of him can be seen clearly in the Hatter's room to the left of the Knave when he breaks in.