Spotlight on Wonderland: The Caterpillar


Whooooo are you? The Caterpillar confronts Alice with this question over and over in Lewis Carroll’s timeless tale,  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Perched on a mushroom and smoking his hookah, the Caterpillar is known for his abrupt, impolite, overly inquisitive, and frustratingly contradictory conversation.

“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself!”

“I can’t explain MYSELF, I’m afraid, sir” said Alice, “because I’m not myself, you see.”

“I don’t see,” said the Caterpillar.

Despite his rudeness, the Caterpillar provides Alice with helpful advice, such as “Keep your temper” and “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.” Thanks to his mushroom, Alice is able to grow from 3 inches to the towering height of the trees with a small bite. As a cue to readers when you read Carroll’s text, you will notice a pattern of asterisks on the page whenever she suddenly changes sizes.

According to Carroll’s text, the Caterpillar is blue and exactly three inches high (a very good height indeed). Countless artists have re-imagined the Caterpillar in creative and unexpected ways, appearing as a realistic insect, an intimidating, brooding monster,or a charming woodland creature.

Who would you want to run into in Wonderland?

Did you Know:

  • According to Charles Mackay, “Who are you?” became a catchphrase in London during Lewis Carroll’s time due to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s popularity.
  • If you look closely at Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations, the Caterpillar’s nose and chin are actually two of its legs.

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Visit the Maryland Room gallery in Hornbake Library from October 2105-July 2016 to discover more about the Caterpillar and the rest of the Wonderland cast of characters in the exhibit Alice 150 Years and County…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.

Send Testudo a postcard over Spring Break!

Testudo loves postcards. Make his day: write a postcard to Testudo from your Spring Vacation!

 Testudo puts his postcards in the mailbox

Whether you travel to a beach, participate in a service event, or relax in your home town, send our mascot a postcard with a picture of your spring break vacation destination.

Address the postcard to Testudo with a short note about your vacation. Your postcard could be featured on our blog!

Address your postcard to:

Special Collections

Hornbake Library

University of Maryland

College Park, MD 20742

 Did you know? We hold tens of thousands of postcards in our collections. We’ll soon be the largest academic center for postcard research in the country.

William Morris Wayzegoose at Special Collections


Join the University of Maryland Libraries’ Special Collections for a night of revelry and merriment–William Morris style! Enjoy entertainment, food, and an exhibit featuring the works of this incredible artist. Click on the invitation to the left for details!

Featured Novelist from Special Collections: Jack Hoffenberg

Nanowrimo bannerWriting: “the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” –Jack Hoffenberg

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – occurs annually every November. Join us each week as we celebrate the life of a novelist represented in the University of Maryland Special Collections!

This week’s novelist is Jack Hoffenberg. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Hoffenberg served in the military and worked as an advertising executive before relocating to California in the 1950’s and writing ten novels, including:

  • A Thunder at Dawn
  • Sow Not in Anger
  • Anvil of Passion
  • The Desperate Adversaries
  • 17 Ben Gurion
  • A Time for Pagans
reviews of the desperate adversaries

Reviews of the Desperate Adversaries. From the Jack Hoffenberg Papers at the Special Collections, University of Maryland.

About Jack Hoffenberg:
(from the Jack Hoffenberg Papers: Historical Note)

Hoffenberg spent ten months with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, riding in patrol cars and working with homicide, narcotics, burglary, and vice crews, to gather information for The Desperate Adversaries.

He attended Baltimore City College, the University of Maryland, and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He served three terms as president of the West Coast chapter of P.E.N. (Poets, Editors, and Novelists) International.

Hoffenberg was devoted to sports throughout his life–first as an athlete and then as a spectator. He took time from his arduous writing schedule to enjoy professional football and baseball games.

As a young man, he enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps and served as an officer under General Frank A. Evans in the U. S. Constabulary in “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s Haiti for three and one-half years. A Thunder At Dawn is based on his military experiences in the Caribbean. He returned to military service during World War II, serving in the U. S. Army in Italy; at war’s end, he left the army as a major.

Hoffenberg’s award from P.E.N. From the Jack Hoffenberg Papers at the Special Collections, University of Maryland.


Jack Hoffenberg Papers, Special Collections at University of Maryland Libraries
De drugmagnaten, translation of A Time for Pagans, Special Collections at University of Maryland Libraries

Featured Novelist from Special Collections: Hope Mirrlees

Nanowrimo banner

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – occurs annually every November. Join us each week as we celebrate the life of a novelist represented in the University of Maryland Special Collections!

This week’s novelist is Hope Mirrlees. Her fiction includes  Madeleine: One of Love’s Jansenists, Lud-in-the-Mist, and Counterplot. Although printed copies of Mirrlees’s work are rare, Lud-in-the-Mist gained more recent popularity as a science fiction novel.

Learn more about Hope Mirrlees

Hope Mirrlees and Jane Harrison


Hope Mirrlees papers at UMD

Collected Poems, by Hope Mirrlees; ed. Sandeep Parmar.

‘The Lure of the Archive’: Dr Sandeep Parmar on the Archives of Hope Mirrlees and Mina Loy
The Carcanet Blog

Hope-in-the-mist : the extraordinary career and mysterious life of Hope Mirrlees
by Michael Swanwick (nearest copy available at Library of Congress)

Jane Harrison Collection: the Hope Mirrlees Papers
Newnham College Archives, Cambridge

T.S. Eliot Collection and Lady Ottoline Morrell papers at UMD

Neil Gaiman reccommends Hope Mirrlees’s Lud-in-the-Mist