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Differences Between the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen: "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" Reference

LastRoseofSummer2 writes about TV shows and film and has written online content for over three years.

In this article, we examine the differences between the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen.

In this article, we examine the differences between the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen.

The Murderous Red Queen

I love the ABC series Once Upon a Time, and I am equally enjoying the spinoff series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. I was a bit confused, however, when I saw the first promo for the latter series where mention is made of a “murderous Red Queen."

John Tenniel's illustration of Looking-Glass Land

John Tenniel's illustration of Looking-Glass Land

At first I assumed they had simply created another mash-up character because the more widely known Queen of Hearts had already appeared in the original Once Upon a Time series. I am sure I was not the only one who thought something along these lines. But it didn’t take much research for me to realize that Lewis Carroll had in fact created two different antagonistic queens, one of whom is almost always forgotten.

The confusion most likely arises from the fact that a lot of people do not know there are two different Alice in Wonderland stories. The original and most renowned is titled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This was published in 1865. Six years later Lewis Carroll published a sequel called Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (often shortened to just Through the Looking Glass). Unless I am mistaken, there are no characters which overlap, with the exception of Alice herself. The simple way of understanding the difference between these two novels is to realize that in the first, Alice enters Wonderland by falling down a rabbit hole. In the sequel, Alice enters another world by going through a looking glass. This other world, however, is not Wonderland, but rather a parallel or mirror image of it and is known as Looking-Glass Land.

Manuscript handwritten and illustrated by Lewis Carroll

Manuscript handwritten and illustrated by Lewis Carroll

The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, began screaming “Off with her head!”Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter VII

But the Red Queen drew herself up rather stiffly, and said “Queens never make bargains.” Through the Looking Glass, Chapter IX

And so, even though the characters are not identical, some are very much similar. In Through the Looking Glass, the Red Queen is the counterpart to the first novel’s Queen of Hearts. The Queen of Hearts is part of a court of live playing cards. The Red Queen is part of what is basically a live chess set. Both queens are quite antagonistic, if not downright evil. Both are identified by the color red, which could be symbolic of many things, the most obvious being anger or fury. The Queen of Hearts is arguably most famous for inexplicably crying out Off with her head!. The Red Queen, on the other hand, is not famous at all. To be perfectly honest, she really doesn’t say or do anything that is particularly memorable.

So what is the difference between the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts? First of all, the Queen of Hearts, both though illustrations and through the description of her in the novel, comes across as an older woman. The Red Queen very much seems younger and more seductive. The main difference, however, is that although both woman are presented as being rather nasty, the Queen of Hearts comes across as having an unbridled and unrelenting passion while the Red Queen is more cold and calculating (following the Through the Looking Glass chess motif).

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John Tenniel's illustration of the Red Queen

John Tenniel's illustration of the Red Queen

In Once Upon a Time and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

Once Upon a Time has visited Wonderland only a couple of times so far. During these visits, they have used Cora, the wicked mother of evil queen Regina, to portray the Queen of Hearts. Cora is played by Barbara Hershey. Season 2 of Once Upon a Time showed us how she arrived in Wonderland by being pushed through a magical looking glass by her angry daughter. Cora or the Queen of Hearts will appear in the spinoff series as well.

The Red Queen in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is played by Emma Rigby. Barbara Hershey is very, very beautiful. But her character is still an older woman and seems to resort, not so much to a blind fury and an “Off with her head!”, but rather to blindly ripping out the heart of anyone who gets in her way.

Another similarity between Cora and Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts is that each lady has a rather easy going and longsuffering husband. Cora’s husband, Henry, is rather trampled upon but does his best to take care of their daughter, Regina. The King of Hearts is a rather quiet character and his main use is to go behind the Queen’s back and pardon her potential victims before their heads can be taken off.

Emma Rigby, on the other hand, is very young, and she portrays a queen who is much more broody. She keeps much of her emotions to herself and concentrates on strategy. In Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the Red Queen even lives in a castle which is shaped like a chess set (and apparently listens to opera???). The towers are made out of different pieces and the floor is like a black and white checker board. The chess motif continues, often antagonistically, with a continual back and forth between her and Jafar, as if they really were playing a two sided game which involves the fates of Alice and Cyrus.

Season 1: Episode 3, Forget Me Not, revealed that the Red Queen, like the Queen of Hearts, arrived in Wonderland by going through a looking glass.

Neither Once Upon a Time series is meant to portray particularly pure adaptations of old stories. But as far as Lewis Carroll’s Alice, Kitsis and Horowitz have done much more than many other screenwriters. How many people even knew there was another queen besides the Queen of Hearts? Some elements of the Red Queen have been included in several film portrayals of Alice in Wonderland, and there is a rather bizarre Red Queen-type character in Tim Burton’s 2010 movie. But so far that has been all.

© 2013 LastRoseofSummer2


Sarahslivinsji on November 01, 2013:

Wow! Thanks for the info! When I started watching the spin off series (in wonderland) I had no idea there were two queens!

Lisa Stover from Pittsburgh PA on September 09, 2013:

Interesting, I didn't realize there were two stories.

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