Jefferson Airplane — “White Rabbit”

By Xah Lee. Date: ,
alice 01a-white rabbit
Wonderland: Chapter 1: Down the Rabbit-Hole

Dearly beloved logicians, amateur and pro among us,

We've been slaving in newsgroup all day and night over dry academic subjects. I thought we could now have some amusement on logic at this moment!

Yesterday, while literally slaving in Second Life, i discovered a song from the 1960s that is based on the book Alice In Wonderland. The song is called White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane.

I SO love it.

Of all books i've red in my life, may it be formal logic treatise, may it be non-fiction as encyclopedia Britannica, may it be technical manuals such as GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual, may it be fictitious such as The Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus, may it be artistic of Emily Dickinson's Poems, may it be comics Batman, may it be porn like the Story of O or Penthouse Mag, may it be, may it be, but that if i'm pressed to pick one book as my all-time favorite, that would be — “Alice In Wonderland”.

[began unconsciously starting to write on (possible few thousands words) my reasons … but STOP!]

Ok, i don't mean to ramble, but what i wanted to say in this post, was that i sooo love the song. And, i spent about 1 hour to write some commentaries on the lyrics. Without further ado, here it is.

White Rabbit (song) (1967) by sung and wrote by Grace Slick (born 1939).

Jefferson Airplane — “White Rabbit”


pill Actually, pill doesn't appear in Wonderland. It was a drink and a cake, fan, and later mushroom, that makes Alice grow larger or smaller. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Chapter 1)
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall
rabbits Alice chased a White Rabbit and fell into a hole, where her dream-like adventure began. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Chapter 1)
caterpillar The caterpillar is somewhat a mysterious sage-like character, who smokes a hookah. He appeared in Chapter 4. Note that caterpillar never gave Alice a call.
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Recall Alice
When she was just small
chessboard Chess is not mentioned in the first book, but in the sequal: Through The Looking Glass, every character is a chess piece (except Alice).
mushroom first appears at the end of chapter 4, then 5. Caterpillar told Alice that the mushroom: “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.”. In later chapters 6 and 7, Alice kept the pieces in her pocket so she can nibble and grow/shrink at will. In this lyrics, the mushroom alludes to Psilocybin mushrooms, popularized by Timothy Leary.
When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving slow
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know
logic Logic is a central theme in the 2 Wonderland books. Its author Lewis Carroll is a logician. For example, here's a quote from Chapter 4 where the word “logic” in mentioned explicitly : «“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.”»
White Knight The Red Knight and White Knight are main charaters in the Looking-glass. The Knights are most prominently featured in Through The Looking Glass (Chapter 8).
backwards Backwards, as in reversal, inversion, mirroring, is a central theme in Looking-glass. It is implicitly applied to time, shape, speech. For example, in Chapter 5, excerpt: «“That's the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “it always makes one a little giddy at first—”»
off with her head The Queen is a central character in Wonderland. She is Queen of Hearts of playing card (thus “Red” Queen). The Queen is fond of execution by shouting “Off with his/her/their head”, first spoke in Chapter 7, and said it the most in Chapter 8. In Looking-glass, there's the White Queen and Red Queen (of Chess). However, the phrase “off with … head” or execution didn't appear in Looking-glass. In Looking-glass, Alice start as a pawn, and in the end became a Queen herself too.
dormouse Dormouse is a main character in Chapter 7, and also appeared in Chapter 11. The Dormouse is most of the time asleep or dormant and in that state got abused by the March Hare and Mad Hatter. The dormouse never said “feed your head” or anything like it. However, “feeding” and “head” are recurrent themes.
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's “off with her head!”
Remember what the dormouse said:
alice 05a-caterpillar
Wonderland: Chapter 5: Advice from a Caterpillar

See also: Wonderland Alice Art Gallery.

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