Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (now more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland) was published in 1865. The sequel Through the Looking Glass came out six years later. Lewis Carroll, the author of these much loved children’s novels, was actually called Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and he was a mathematics lecturer at Oxford University.
Why is Alice in Wonderland such a popular book?
I can clearly remember when I read Alice in Wonderland for the first time. The story terrified and fascinated me all at once. John Tenniel’s illustrations contributed to my terror (especially his depiction of the Duchess, see below).
Alice’s adventures are anything but boring. She follows a very stressed rabbit and, after a little bit of running about, falls down a rabbit hole.
Almost unconcerned over obvious dangers (don’t follow a rabbit with a watch, don’t join the party of a mad hatter, don’t drink a bottle filled with unknown fluids…and so on), very curious Alice begins her adventure by exploring her peculiar surroundings and by meeting unusual characters.
Especially in the 19th century, when children’s books did not exist in the way we known them today, Carroll’s novel must have had an incredible impact on children and adults alike. Even today Alice in Wonderland is still a original and popular tale.
Of course, the many film adaptations (most famously the Disney movie) contribute to its popularity and probably inspire many to read the actual novel. The first short film came out in 1903. The BFI had to restore it as it was badly damaged. It is only ten minutes long, so have a wee watch:
Yes, the rabbit is creepy…. and I definitely wouldn’t have followed a human-sized one. But hey, as we all know, Alice is exceptionally brave.
Alice also influenced not only the film but also the art and music world. For instance, Salvador Dali created multiple Alice in Wonderland inspired paintings and Taylor Swift mused about love and the Wonderland in her song called…. Wonderland.
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Who was the real Alice?
Lewis Carroll came up with elements of the story on a boat trip with his friend Robinson Duckworth and three girls that were the children of Duckworth’s friend Harry Liddell. The girls were called Edith, who was 8 years old, Alice, who was 10 and Lorina, who was 13 at the time. Carroll gave the protagonist of the story the name Alice. After the boat trip, Alice apparently asked Carroll to take note of the story and so he wrote down the first version, Alice’s Adventured Under Ground.
Perhaps you have heard that Lewis Carroll was a bit of an odd character. Carroll really got into photography and he took many photos of young girls (especially of Alice Liddell and her sisters). In the 2015 BBC documentary The Secret World of Lewis Carroll one particularly shocking image was unearthed….Yet, some researchers argue that experts might misinterpret Carroll’s photography and his strong bond to the Liddell children. You can watch the documentary on YouTube.