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Chapter 11

Chapter 11 - Who Stole the Tarts?

The Gryphon has brought Alice into a courtroom, where a trial is about to take place. The King and Queen of Hearts are presiding (and the King looks very silly, since he is wearing his crown on top of a judge's wig). The Knave of Hearts -- that is, the Jack -- whom we saw briefly in Chapter 8, is standing in chains, apparently accused of some crime. The White Rabbit is acting as court herald, holding a scroll in one hand and a trumpet in the other, and in the jury box sit twelve little animals, acting as jurors. On a table stands a plate of tarts -- delicious-looking fruit pastries -- whose presence makes Alice very hungry.

Alice notices that the twelve jurors have slates and pencils (that is, little chalkboards and pieces of chalk, for taking notes). When she asks the Gryphon what they are writing before the trial has even begun, the Gryphon explains that they are writing down their own names, in case they forget them during the trial. Alice, startled by this idiocy, exclaims out loud, "Stupid things!", and sees to her amazement that they are so suggestible that they write down whatever she says.

Irritated by the squeaking pencil of one of the jurors -- it is Bill the Lizard, in fact (who came down the Rabbit's chimney in Chapter 4) -- Alice sneaks up and takes it away from him, so the confused Bill tries during the rest of the trial to write on his slate with his finger.

The King orders the White Rabbit to read the "accusation." The Rabbit unrolls his scroll, and reads the beginning of the nursery rhyme that goes: "The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer day; / The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts and took them quite away!" It seems that this is the accusation against the Knave of Hearts. The King asks the jury for its verdict, but the Rabbit reminds him that they have to hear the evidence first. So the Rabbit blows his trumpet to summon the first witness -- who turns out to be the Mad Hatter.

The King interrogates the terrified Hatter, but the questioning is ridiculous and no real information comes of it. While this is going on, Alice suddenly finds that she has started to grow again, and is getting large every quickly. The Dormouse, who is sitting next to her, complains that he's being squished and moves to another seat.

The interrogation continues, but the Hatter can't remember anything he's asked, and never gets to finish his sentences anyway. Members of the audience -- namely, two guinea pigs -- keep cheering, and are suppressed by the officers of the court. (Carroll explains that this is done by putting the guinea pigs into a large canvas bag, and sitting on them. This is not, of course, how people are "suppressed" in courtrooms anywhere outside of Wonderland.) Losing her temper, the Queen orders the Hatter beheaded, but the King allows him to leave.

The next witness is the Duchess's cook (from Chapter 6), who refuses to answer any questions at all. When the King tries to cross-examine her by asking her what tarts are made of, she replies, "Pepper." The Dormouse -- which is talking in its sleep -- suddenly says "Treacle" (it must be thinking of the story about the molasses-well which it told Alice in Chapter 7), and the Queen loses her temper completely. By the time the Dormouse has been tossed out of the court, the Cook has disappeared. The King tells the Queen she must cross-examine the next witness. Alice, very curious as to who will be called next in this ludicrous trial, is shocked to hear the Rabbit read off its scroll: "Alice!"

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know?
Plot Summary
Opening Poem
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12


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