The Walrus and the Carpenter

By Lewis Carrol

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898) is better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. He was an English
writer, mathematician, and photographer. Carroll is most well-known for his book Alice’s Adventures in
Wonderland. “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is a poem recited by two characters in Through the Looking
Glass, Carroll’s sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the poem, a walrus and a carpenter
convince a group of young oysters to follow them. As you read, take notes on how the different Oysters react
to the Walrus and the Carpenter.

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows1
smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,2
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done —
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead —
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”
“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”

  1. a large mass of something, typically a cloud
  2. Sulk (verb) to be silent and bad-tempered
    “I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
    And shed a bitter3
    “O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
    The Walrus did beseech.4
    “A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
    Along the briny5
    We cannot do with more than four,
    To give a hand to each.”
    The eldest Oyster looked at him,
    But never a word he said:
    The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
    And shook his heavy head —
    Meaning to say he did not choose
    To leave the oyster-bed.
    But four young Oysters hurried up,
    All eager for the treat:
    Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
    Their shoes were clean and neat —
    And this was odd, because, you know,
    They hadn’t any feet.
    Four other Oysters followed them,
    And yet another four;
    And thick and fast they came at last,
    And more, and more, and more —
    All hopping through the frothy6
    And scrambling to the shore.
    The Walrus and the Carpenter
    Walked on a mile or so,
    And then they rested on a rock
    Conveniently low:
    And all the little Oysters stood
    And waited in a row.
    “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.”
  3. Bitter (adjective) angry or hurt
  4. Beseech (verb) to beg eagerly
  5. salty
  6. full of or covered with small bubbles
    “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 chiefly7
    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 dismal8
    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.”9
    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 —
  7. above all
  8. Dismal (adjective) showing or causing sadness; very bad or poor
  9. Sympathize (verb) to feel sorry for someone
    And this was scarcely10 odd, because
    They’d eaten every one.
  10. hardly
    Discussion Questions
    Directions: Brainstorm your answers to the following questions in the space provided. Be prepared to
    share your original ideas in a class discussion.
  11. The Carpenter and the Walrus appear to have different ideas about their actions. What is
    good and how do we know? Consider a time when you’ve been unsure of your actions or
    choices. How can we learn from these experiences?
  12. In your experience, what does it mean to grow up? How are the Oysters influenced by their
    young age? Do you think they would have made the same decisions if they were older? Why
    or why not?
  13. Why doesn’t the older oyster go with the walrus and carpenter? Do you think his age helps
    him understand the Walrus’ intentions and, if so, how?