White Rabbit Lyrics – The Dormouse Said What?

cute Alice in Wonderland Dormouse

Editor’s Note: This post about White Rabbit lyrics has been sitting in my rough drafts for some time. With the news of the passing of Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, the latest untimely death this Month The Music Died (Lemmy, Bowie, Glenn Frey, Kantner…ay yi yi! Paul and Ringo, PLEASE take care of yourselves!!!), now seems as good a time as any to dust the post off and hit Publish.

The song White Rabbit may be featured in every single movie I have ever seen about the sixties. Usually it’s in a far-out sequence with lava lamps and groovy dancing, or in a trippy montage featuring heavy drug use. It turns out that’s pretty appropriate! Although there is no evidence that Alice author Lewis Carroll ever took recreational drugs, the song’s author Grace Slick was a veritable superfan of such substances.

grace slick wrote white rabbit lyrics

Thankfully, the drugs left no lasting effects.

Apparently, one fateful day Grace Slick took LSD for twenty-four hours while listening to one Miles Davis album over and over, then wrote White Rabbit in an hour. This scenario does not give the impression that Grace had a dog-eared copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland next to her that she was eagerly pawing through to ensure lyrical authenticity. But it’s still really, really fun to interpret the White Rabbit lyrics. And by “interpret the White Rabbit lyrics” I mean “copy and paste the lyrics and add sassy comments.”

Before we get started, let’s get a few things straight: First, the White Rabbit lyrics reference both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Which are two different books, with many different characters. Second, the song is actually called White Rabbit. It is not called Go Ask Alice.

white rabbit is annoyed

Please. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

White Rabbit Lyrics

– written by Grace Slick, performed by her bands Jefferson Airplane and The Great Society

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
Technically, it’s the Eat Me cake that makes you larger, and the Drink Me bottle makes you small.
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Alice’s mother never comes up. She and Lewis Carroll didn’t get along so great.
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall
“Rather more than nine feet high.” But who’s counting?
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
She didn’t KNOW she was going to fall. She followed “never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”
Tell ’em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
I guess the Caterpillar called out to her once…
Call Alice
When she was just small
And she was small when he called out to her! Hey, this is getting authentic up in here!
When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
Never mind. We’re in Looking-Glass land now? When did that happen? Also, it’s a chess-woman who gives Alice most of her directions.
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
It’s true, you can’t get lower than your chin hitting your foot.
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know
I don’t know, she wasn’t chock full of answers when that whole raven and writing desk thing came up…
When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
I think we’re well past that.
And the White Knight is talking backwards
No, he’s not.
And the Red Queen’s off with her head
That’s the Queen of Hearts, lady!
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head

This ending wail, of course, is the biggest conundrum of the whole song. The Dormouse never once said “Feed your head,” much less repeated it like a mantra. If one carefully inspects his entire oral contributions to the Mad Tea-Party, nothing comes close to resembling “Feed your head.” So what in the world could Grace Slick have had on her mind, besides copious amounts of hallucinogenics? Hold onto your lava lamps, because I have this long standing rock and roll mystery figured out!

The Dormouse is of course heavily featured in Chapter 7 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Mad Tea-Party. But many folks forget, he pops up later in the book as well. In Chapter 11 Who Stole the Tarts? the Dormouse enters the courtroom arm-in-arm with the March Hare (adorable) when the Hatter is called as a witness. As Hatter is being questioned by the Judge/King, this memorable exchange happens:

‘Of course twinkling begins with a T!’ said the King sharply. ‘Do you take me for a dunce? Go on!’

‘I’m a poor man,’ the Hatter went on, ‘and most things twinkled after that—only the March Hare said—’

‘I didn’t!’ the March Hare interrupted in a great hurry.

‘You did!’ said the Hatter.

‘I deny it!’ said the March Hare.

‘He denies it,’ said the King: ‘leave out that part.’

‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep.

‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’

‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked.

‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter.

‘You must remember,’ remarked the King, ‘or I’ll have you executed.’

The miserable Hatter dropped his teacup and bread-and-butter, and went down on one knee. ‘I’m a poor man, your Majesty,’ he began.

‘You’re a very poor speaker,’ said the King.

Aha! Here we have a major Alice in Wonderland character unable to remember what the Dormouse said. THIS has to be what inspired Grace Slick! (Aside from the aforementioned absurd amounts of opiates, etc, etc.) In her face melting, piano pounding state, Gracie must have had a moment of acid-induced clarity, channeled the spirit of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and realized of course! The Dormouse wants us to feed our heads with creativity! With original ideas containing both logic and nonsense and Carrollian brain twisters and thoughtful ideas!

Or, feed our heads with drugs. She was probably talking about drugs.

Give the White Rabbit lyrics a listen. What do you think?


About Heather Haigha

Heather Haigha is your intrepid guide for all adventures under ground, through the looking glass, down the rabbit hole and sometimes even real life! Read her whimsical musings on the Alice Is Everywhere blog, and hear the melodious sound of her voice on the Alice is Everywhere podcast.