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The Red King is a character who appears in Lewis Carroll's fantasy story Through the Looking-Glass. Since the whole story revolves around a game of chess, he is characteristic of the king in such a game in that he has all of the pieces on his side available to perform the work for him; unlike his white counterpart, though, he does not move at all throughout the story. Indeed, when Alice first meets him he is fast asleep ("fit to snore his head off", as Tweedledum says) and Alice, even prior to seeing him, mistakes the sound he is making for "lions or tigers". (During this time, Tweedledum and Tweedledee state that if she is part of the Red King's dream, as they suspect, then she will "go out—bang!—like a candle" when he wakes.)

The match ends by Alice's checkmating of the king, an action coincident with the taking of the Red Queen. In the final chapter of the book, Alice acknowledges that the Red King had, after all, been asleep throughout the whole game, and is left wondering whether the whole experience was her dream or his.

Due to his inactivity, some authors, such as Martin Gardner in The Annotated Alice, have speculated that if Carroll intended to portray the red side of the chess-game as being representative of the negative sides of human nature, then the vice he had in mind for the Red King was idleness.

In the 1999 film the king is seen sleeping in the forest as he does in the book. It is also revealed that the Red King is the King of Hearts' cousin.

References


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