The first thing the Red Queen says to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass tells us everything we need to know about the story and the hidden messages encoded within. When the Red Queen says all the ways belong to her, she’s referring to her power on the chessboard, as she has the most mobility, being able to move in all eight directions.
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But when the game emerged in the 7th century in the area of Persia and India, chess had no queen. Instead of one mate standing next to him, the King had two companions on either side: a vizier, or “advisor,” (the “visor” part of his title, describing his ability to see) and a ferz or counselor. Back then, the vizier moved like a rook and the ferz like a bishop, but each moved only one square at a time. It wasn’t until at least 1000 A.D. that the Queen had replaced them both, and almost 500 years later, still, that the Queen became all-powerful, owning all the ways or directions on the board. We’re told this new role was inspired by Isabella of Spain, also a very powerful and mobile queen and the woman behind what some call Isabella’s Inquisition. [continue reading]