Monday August 2, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Alice in Wonderland
On this Day:
In 1865, Lewis Carroll published “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel by English author Lewis Carroll (the pseudonym of Charles Dodgson). It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.
One of the best-known and most popular works of English-language fiction, its narrative, structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre. The work has never been out of print and has been translated into at least 97 languages. Its ongoing legacy encompasses many adaptations for stage, screen, radio, art, ballet, theme parks, board games and video games. Carroll published a sequel in 1871, titled Through the Looking-Glass, and a shortened version for young children, The Nursery “Alice”, in 1890.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865. It was inspired when, three years earlier on 4 July, Lewis Carroll and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed up the River Isis in a boat with three young girls. This day was known as the “golden afternoon,” prefaced in the novel as a poem. The poem might be a confusion or even another Alice-tale, for it turns out that particular day was cool, cloudy and rainy. The three girls were the daughters of scholar Henry Liddell: Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13; “Prima” in the book’s prefatory verse); Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10; “Secunda” in the verse); and Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8; “Tertia” in the verse).
The journey began at Folly Bridge, Oxford and ended five miles (8 km) away in the Oxfordshire village of Godstow. During the trip Dodgson told the girls a story that featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her.
He began writing the manuscript of the story the next day, although that earliest version is lost to history. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice, and in November he began working on the manuscript in earnest.
To add the finishing touches he researched natural history in connection with the animals presented in the book, and then had the book examined by other children — particularly those of George MacDonald. Though Dodgson did add his own illustrations, he subsequently approached John Tenniel to illustrate the book for publication, telling him that the story had been well liked by children.
On 26 November 1864, Dodgson gave Alice the handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, with illustrations by Dodgson himself, dedicating it as “A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer’s Day”. Some, including Martin Gardner, speculate that there was an earlier version that was destroyed later by Dodgson when he wrote a more elaborate copy by hand.
Before Alice received her copy, Dodgson was already preparing it for publication and expanding the 15,500-word original to 27,500 words, most notably adding the episodes about the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea Party.
Chapter One – Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice, a seven-year-old girl, is feeling bored and drowsy while sitting on the riverbank with her elder sister. She notices a talking, clothed white rabbit with a pocket watch run past. She follows it down a rabbit hole where she suddenly falls a long way to a curious hall with many locked doors of all sizes. She finds a little key to a door too small for her to fit through, but through it, she sees an attractive garden. She then discovers a bottle on a table labelled “DRINK ME,” the contents of which cause her to shrink too small to reach the key which she had left on the table. She subsequently eats a cake labelled “EAT ME” in currants as the chapter closes.
Chapter Two – The Pool of Tears: The chapter opens with Alice growing to such a tremendous size that her head hits the ceiling. Unhappy, Alice begins to cry and her tears literally flood the hallway. Shrinking down again due to a fan she had picked up, Alice swims through her own tears and meets a mouse, who is swimming as well. Alice, thinking he may be a French mouse, tries to make small talk with him in elementary French. Her opening gambit “Où est ma chatte?” (transl. ”Where is my cat?”), however, offends the mouse, who then tries to escape her.
Chapter Three – The Caucus Race and a Long Tale: The sea of tears becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away by the rising waters. Alice and the other animals convene on the bank and the question among them is how to get dry again. Mouse gives them a very dry lecture on William the Conqueror. A dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race, which consists of everyone running in a circle with no clear winner. Alice eventually frightens all the animals away, unwittingly, by talking about her (moderately ferocious) cat.
Chapter Four – The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill: White Rabbit appears again in search of the Duchess’s gloves and fan. Mistaking her for his maidservant, Mary Ann, Rabbit orders Alice to go into the house and retrieve them. Inside the house she finds another little bottle and drinks from it, immediately beginning to grow again. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, Bill the Lizard, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney. Outside, Alice hears the voices of animals that have gathered to gawk at her giant arm. The crowd hurls pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes. Alice eats them, and they reduce her again in size.
Chapter Five – Advice from a Caterpillar: Alice comes upon a mushroom and sitting on it is a blue caterpillar smoking a hookah. Caterpillar questions Alice, who begins to admit to her current identity crisis, compounded by her inability to remember a poem. Before crawling away, the caterpillar tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller and the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom. One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while another causes her neck to grow high into the trees, where a pigeon mistakes her for a serpent. With some effort, Alice brings herself back to her normal height. She stumbles upon a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height.
Chapter Six – Pig and Pepper: A fish-footman has an invitation for the Duchess of the house, which he delivers to a frog-footman. Alice observes this transaction and, after a perplexing conversation with the frog, lets herself into the house. The Duchess’s cook is throwing dishes and making a soup that has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess, and her baby (but not the cook or grinning Cheshire Cat) to sneeze violently. Alice is given the baby by the Duchess and, to Alice’s surprise, the baby turns into a pig. The Cheshire Cat appears in a tree, directing her to the March Hare’s house. He disappears but his grin remains behind to float on its own in the air prompting Alice to remark that she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat.
Chapter Seven – A Mad Tea-Party: Alice becomes a guest at a “mad” tea party along with the March Hare, the Hatter, and a very tired Dormouse, who falls asleep frequently only to be violently awakened moments later by the March Hare and the Hatter. The characters give Alice many riddles and stories, including the famous “why is a raven like a writing desk?.” The Hatter reveals that they have tea all day because Time has punished him by eternally standing still at 6 PM (tea time). Alice becomes insulted and tired of being bombarded with riddles and she leaves claiming that it was the stupidest tea party that she had ever been to.
Chapter Eight – The Queen’s Croquet Ground: Alice leaves the tea party and enters the garden where she comes upon three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because The Queen of Hearts hates white roses. A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice then meets the King and Queen. The Queen, a figure difficult to please, introduces her signature phrase “Off with his head!” which she utters at the slightest dissatisfaction with a subject. Alice is invited (or some might say ordered) to play a game of croquet with the Queen and the rest of her subjects but the game quickly descends into chaos. Live flamingos are used as mallets and hedgehogs as balls and Alice once again meets the Cheshire Cat. The Queen of Hearts then orders the Cat to be beheaded, only to have her executioner complain that this is impossible since the head is all that can be seen of him. Because the cat belongs to the Duchess, the Queen is prompted to release the Duchess from prison to resolve the matter.
Chapter Nine – The Mock Turtle’s Story: The Duchess is brought to the croquet ground at Alice’s request. She ruminates on finding morals in everything around her. The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution and she introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle is very sad, even though he has no sorrow. He tries to tell his story about how he used to be a real turtle in school, which the Gryphon interrupts so they can play a game.
Chapter Ten – Lobster Quadrille: The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, while Alice recites (rather incorrectly) “‘Tis the Voice of the Lobster”. The Mock Turtle sings them “Beautiful Soup” during which the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial.
Chapter Eleven – Who Stole the Tarts?: Alice attends a trial whereby the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The jury is composed of various animals, including Bill the Lizard, the White Rabbit is the court’s trumpeter, and the judge is the King of Hearts. During the proceedings, Alice finds that she is steadily growing larger. The dormouse scolds Alice and tells her she has no right to grow at such a rapid pace and take up all the air. Alice scoffs and calls the dormouse’s accusation ridiculous because everyone grows and she cannot help it. Meanwhile, witnesses at the trial include the Hatter, who displeases and frustrates the King through his indirect answers to the questioning, and the Duchess’s cook.
Chapter Twelve – Alice’s Evidence: Alice is then called up as a witness. She accidentally knocks over the jury box with the animals inside them and the King orders the animals be placed back into their seats before the trial continues. The King and Queen order Alice to be gone, citing Rule 42 (“All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”), but Alice disputes their judgement and refuses to leave. She argues with the King and Queen of Hearts over the ridiculous proceedings, eventually refusing to hold her tongue, only to say, “It’s not that I was the one who stole the tarts in the first place”, in the process. Finally, the Queen confirms that Alice was the culprit responsible for stealing the tarts after all (which automatically pardons the Knave of Hearts of his charges), and shouts, “Off with her head!”, but Alice is unafraid, calling them just a pack of cards; although Alice holds her own for a time, the card guards soon gang up and start to swarm all over her. Alice’s sister wakes her up from a dream, brushing what turns out to be some leaves and not a shower of playing cards from Alice’s face. Alice leaves her sister on the bank to imagine all the curious happenings for herself.
In 2015, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst in The Guardian wrote,
Since the first publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 150 years ago, Lewis Carroll’s work has spawned a whole industry, from films and theme park rides to products such as a ‘cute and sassy’ Alice costume (‘petticoat and stockings not included’). The blank-faced little girl made famous by John Tenniel’s original illustrations has become a cultural inkblot we can interpret in any way we like.”
Alice and the rest of Wonderland continue to inspire or influence many other works of art to this day, sometimes indirectly via the 1951 Disney movie, for example. References, homages, reworkings and derivative works can be found in many works of literature, film, theatre, visual art, music, and games (such as playing cards). Labelled “a dauntless, no-nonsense heroine” by The Guardian, the character of the plucky, yet proper, Alice has proven immensely popular and inspired similar heroines in literature and pop culture, many also named Alice in homage (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
So a fellow asked his girlfriend: “Were there dice in the play Alice in Wonderland?”…
…And his girlfriend says “No, there were cards, why?”
The boyfriend responded, “Oh that’s too bad. If they needed an understudy, the director could say ‘And tonight, the role of dice will be played by…'”
Second, a Song:
Alice in Wonderland is a 1951 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and based on the Alice books by Lewis Carroll. The thirteenth release of Disney’s animated features, the film premiered in London on July 26, 1951, and in New York City on July 28, 1951. The film features the voices of Kathryn Beaumont as Alice, Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat, Verna Felton as the Queen of Hearts, and Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter. Walt Disney first attempted unsuccessfully to adapt Alice into an animated feature film during the 1930s, and he revived the idea in the 1940s. The film was originally intended to be a live-action/animated film; however, Disney decided to make it an all-animated feature in 1946.
The film was considered a disappointment on its initial release, leading to Walt Disney showing it on television as one of the first episodes of his TV series Disneyland. It proved to be very successful on television. It was eventually re-released in theaters which proved to be massively successful. The film became even more successful through merchandising and subsequent home video releases.
While the film was critically panned on its initial release, it has since been regarded as one of Disney’s greatest animated classics, notably one of the biggest cult classics in the animation medium, as well as the best film adaptation of Alice.
A live-action adaptation of Carroll’s works and a live-action sequel of the animated film, Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, was released in 2010. A sequel to the film, Alice Through the Looking Glass, directed by James Bobin, was released in 2016.
Here is the “Painting the Roses Red” scene from Disney’s 1951 Alice in Wonderland. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ said Alice. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all mad here.’ ” – Lewis Carroll
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky