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He thought he saw an Elephant

That practised on a fife:

He looked again, and found it was

A letter from his wife.

'At length I realize,' he said,

'The bitterness of Life!'
First stanza of "The Mad Gardener's Song", about the only part of Sylvie and Bruno that is widely known.

One of the lesser-known works of Lewis Carroll, this novel runs two parallel plots, one in something like the real world and one in Elf-land, both accessed by the not-particularly-interesting-in-himself narrator. The Elf-land plot involves the King standing down, for obscure reasons, in favour of his Most Definitely Not a Villain brother and "Sub-Warden", and his chancellor, leaving his two kids, the titular Sylvie and Bruno, as HeartWarmingOrphans. The sort-of-real world plot involves a romance slightly complicated by a third party and oddly unaffected by the presence of a visitor from another planet/plane called Mein Herr, who is for some reason German-accented.

This work contains examples of:


  Why, of course, my dear! We shan't bother with those wretches!


 "And what reasons have you heard of for breaking off the engagement?"

"A good many," Arthur replied, and proceeded to count them on his fingers. "First, it was found that she was dying of--something; so he broke it off. Then it was found that he was dying of--some other thing; so she broke it off. Then the Major turned out to be a confirmed gamester; so the Earl broke it off. Then the Earl insulted him; so the Major broke it off. It got a good deal broken off, all things considered!"

"You have all this on the very best authority, of course?"

"Oh, certainly! And communicated in the strictest confidence! Whatever defects Elveston society suffers from, want of information isn't one of them!"


 "So, either I've been dreaming about Sylvie," I said to myself, "and this is the reality. Or else I've really been with Sylvie, and this is a dream! Is Life itself a dream, I wonder?"

  • Significant Name: Sibimet is Latin for "to them themselves", fittingly for a character who is concerned only for himself and his Unholy Matrimony partner - he doesn't even seem to like his own child much.
  • Spoiled Brat and Royal Brat: Uggug, who also serves as a Spear Counterpart of an ugly step-sister.
  • Take That: Sibimet the Sub-Warden is believed to be based on Dean Liddell, father of Alice, whom he had by this point effectively cut Carroll off from seeing.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Memorably parodied by the fake demonstrators organized by Sibimet and the Chancellor, who can't remember whether their slogan is "More Bread, Less Taxes", or vice versa.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Villain couple Sibimet and Tabikat, complete with cutesy couple names for each other (Sibby and Tabby), and a Spoiled Brat child (Uggug). Albeit Tabby is significantly less bright than Sibby, who is also not deluded about Uggug's unpleasantness.
  • Vile Villain Saccharine Show
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