An immediate sensation when it was first published one hundred fifty years ago, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland revolutionized children’s literature with its delightful disregard for narrative convention and its surreal cast of characters, including the anxious White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the grinning Cheshire Cat, and the notorious Queen of Hearts. Generations of readers, writers, and artists have found enchantment and inspiration in Lewis Carroll’s incredible journey of the imagination from a drowsy riverbank in England to the magical world at the bottom of a rabbit hole and back again.
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About the Author
Lewis Carroll (1832–1898) was an English mathematician and writer best remembered as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Date of Birth:January 27, 1832
Date of Death:January 14, 1898
Place of Birth:Daresbury, Cheshire, England
Place of Death:Guildford, Surrey, England
Education:Richmond School, Christ Church College, Oxford University, B.A., 1854; M.A., 1857
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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll
Oldcastle BooksCopyright © 2015 Oldcastle Books Ltd
All rights reserved.
Down the Rabbit-Hole
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, 'Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!' (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.
The rabbit hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.
Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled 'ORANGE MARMALADE', but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.
'Well!' thought Alice to herself, 'after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they'll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn't say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!' (Which was very likely true.)
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? 'I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?' she said aloud. 'I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think —' (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) '— yes, that's about the right distance — but then I wonder what latitude or longitude I've got to?' (Alice had no idea what latitude was, or longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)
Presently she began again. 'I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think —' (she was rather glad there WAS no one listening, this time, as it didn't sound at all the right word) ' — but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma'am, is this New Zealand or Australia?' (And she tried to curtsey as she spoke — fancy curtseying as you're falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) 'And what an ignorant little girl she'll think me for asking! No, it'll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere.'
Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking again. 'Dinah'll miss me very much tonight, I should think!' (Dinah was the cat.) 'I hope they'll remember her saucer of milk at teatime. Dinah my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There are no mice in the air, I'm afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that's very like a mouse, you know. But do cats eat bats, I wonder?' And here Alice began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way, 'Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?' and sometimes, 'Do bats eat cats?' for, you see, as she couldn't answer either question, it didn't much matter which way she put it. She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Dinah, and saying to her very earnestly, 'Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?' when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.
Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, 'Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!' She was close behind it when she turned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: she found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof.
There were doors all around the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.
Suddenly she came upon a little three-legged table, all made of solid glass; there was nothing on it except a tiny golden key, and Alice's first thought was that it might belong to one of the doors of the hall; but, alas! either the locks were too large, or the key was too small, but at any rate it would not open any of them. However, on the second time round, she came upon a low curtain she had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door about fifteen inches high: she tried the little golden key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted!
Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head through the doorway; 'and even if my head would go through,' thought poor Alice, 'it would be of very little use without my shoulders. Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.' For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.
There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so she went back to the table, half-hoping she might find another key on it, or at any rate a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes: this time she found a little bottle on it, ('which certainly was not here before,' said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words 'DRINK ME' beautifully printed on it in large letters.
It was all very well to say 'Drink me,' but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. 'No, I'll look first,' she said, 'and see whether it's marked "poison" or not'; for she had read several nice little histories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison', it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.
However, this bottle was not marked 'poison', so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.
* * *
'What a curious feeling!' said Alice; 'I must be shutting up like a telescope.'
And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, she waited for a few minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further: she felt a little nervous about this; 'for it might end, you know,' said Alice to herself, 'in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?' And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out, for she could not remember ever having seen such a thing.
After a while, finding that nothing more happened, she decided on going into the garden at once; but, alas for poor Alice! when she got to the door, she found she had forgotten the little golden key, and when she went back to the table for it, she found she could not possibly reach it: she could see it quite plainly through the glass, and she tried her best to climb up one of the legs of the table, but it was too slippery; and when she had tired herself out with trying, the poor little thing sat down and cried.
'Come, there's no use in crying like that!' said Alice to herself, rather sharply; 'I advise you to leave off this minute!' She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. 'But it's no use now,' thought poor Alice, 'to pretend to be two people! Why, there's hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!'
Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words 'EAT ME' were beautifully marked in currants. 'Well, I'll eat it,' said Alice, 'and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!'
She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, 'Which way? Which way?', holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing, and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size: to be sure, this generally happens when one eats cake, but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.
So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.CHAPTER 2
The Pool of Tears
'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); 'now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Goodbye, feet!' (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off). 'Oh, my poor little feet, I wonder who will put on your shoes and stockings for you now, dears? I'm sure I shan't be able! I shall be a great deal too far off to trouble myself about you: you must manage the best way you can; – but I must be kind to them,' thought Alice, 'or perhaps they won't walk the way I want to go! Let me see: I'll give them a new pair of boots every Christmas.'
And she went on planning to herself how she would manage it. 'They must go by the carrier,' she thought; 'and how funny it'll seem, sending presents to one's own feet! And how odd the directions will look!
ALICE'S RIGHT FOOT, ESQ
NEAR THE FENDER,
(WITH ALICE'S LOVE)
Oh dear, what nonsense I'm talking!'
Just then her head struck against the roof of the hall: in fact she was now more than nine feet high, and she at once took up the little golden key and hurried off to the garden door.
Poor Alice! It was as much as she could do, lying down on one side, to look through into the garden with one eye; but to get through was more hopeless than ever: she sat down and began to cry again.
'You ought to be ashamed of yourself,' said Alice, 'a great girl like you,' (she might well say this), 'to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!' But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall.
After a time she heard a little pattering of feet in the distance, and she hastily dried her eyes to see what was coming. It was the White Rabbit returning, splendidly dressed, with a pair of white kid gloves in one hand and a large fan in the other: he came trotting along in a great hurry, muttering to himself as he came, 'Oh! the Duchess, the Duchess! Oh! won't she be savage if I've kept her waiting!' Alice felt so desperate that she was ready to ask help of anyone; so, when the Rabbit came near her, she began, in a low, timid voice, 'If you please, sir –' The Rabbit started violently, dropped the white kid gloves and the fan, and skurried away into the darkness as hard as he could go.
Alice took up the fan and gloves, and, as the hall was very hot, she kept fanning herself all the time she went on talking: 'Dear, dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!' And she began thinking over all the children she knew that were of the same age as herself, to see if she could have been changed for any of them.
'I'm sure I'm not Ada,' she said, 'for her hair goes in such long ringlets, and mine doesn't go in ringlets at all; and I'm sure I can't be Mabel, for I know all sorts of things, and she, oh! she knows such a very little! Besides, she's she, and I'm I, and – oh dear, how puzzling it all is! I'll try if I know all the things I used to know. Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is – oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate! However, the Multiplication Table doesn't signify: let's try Geography. London is the capital of Paris, and Paris is the capital of Rome, and Rome – no, that's all wrong, I'm certain! I must have been changed for Mabel! I'll try and say "How doth the little –"' and she crossed her hands on her lap as if she were saying lessons, and began to repeat it, but her voice sounded hoarse and strange, and the words did not come the same as they used to do: –
'How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
'I'm sure those are not the right words,' said poor Alice, and her eyes filled with tears again as she went on, 'I must be Mabel after all, and I shall have to go and live in that poky little house, and have next to no toys to play with, and oh! ever so many lessons to learn! No, I've made up my mind about it; if I'm Mabel, I'll stay down here! It'll be no use their putting their heads down and saying "Come up again, dear!" I shall only look up and say "Who am I then? Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I'll come up: if not, I'll stay down here till I'm somebody else" – but, oh dear!' cried Alice, with a sudden burst of tears, 'I do wish they would put their heads down! I am so very tired of being all alone here!'
As she said this she looked down at her hands, and was surprised to see that she had put on one of the Rabbit's little white kid gloves while she was talking. 'How can I have done that?' she thought. 'I must be growing small again.' She got up and went to the table to measure herself by it, and found that, as nearly as she could guess, she was now about two feet high, and was going on shrinking rapidly: she soon found out that the cause of this was the fan she was holding, and she dropped it hastily, just in time to avoid shrinking away altogether.
Excerpted from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Copyright © 2015 Oldcastle Books Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Oldcastle Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents1. Down the rabbit hole; 2. The pool of tears; 3. A caucus-race and a long tale; 4. The rabbit sends in a little bill; 5. Advice from a caterpillar; 6. Pig and pepper; 7. A mad tea-party; 8. The queen's croquet-ground; 9. The mock turtle's story; 10. The lobster quadrille; 11. Who stole the tarts; 12. Alice's evidence.
What People are Saying About This
For A Is for Alice:
'Here is the book that Alice herself would have loved, with wonderfully whimsical illustrations by one of Canada's greatest woodcut artists, George Walker.... Combining technical mastery with insight and wit, George has re-created a much loved classic in an old world style. This book will be an essential and cherished possession for every Carrollian collector and lover of children's literature.'
"Frasier masters all of Carroll's verbal gymnastics, from the Dormouse's snores to the dreamy illogic of the Caterpillar, and, of course, the nonsensical verse. This is a great pleasure."-AudioFile
For A Is for Alice:
'Here is the book that Alice herself would have loved, with wonderfully whimsical illustrations by one of Canada's greatest woodcut artists, George Walker.... Combining technical mastery with insight and wit, George has re-created a much loved classic in an old world style. This book will be an essential and cherished possession for every Carrollian collector and lover of children's literature.'
'The delicacy and intelligence of George Walker's print-making seems to have come to us from a bygone age. Fortunately, we have George with us now.'
Reading Group Guide
ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS
by Lewis Carroll
In his diary on July 4, 1862, Lewis Carroll wrote, "Duckworth and I made an expedition up the river to Godstow with the three Liddells: we had tea on the bank there, and did not reach Christ Church again till quarter past eight, when we took them to my rooms to see my collection of micro photographs, and restored them to the Deanery just before nine." Although Carroll did not know at the time, this excursion proved to be the catalyst for the fairy tale which he initially called Alice's Adventures Underground.
In later years, Carroll, his friend Robinson Duckworth, and Alice Liddell all alluded to this day as the origin of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In the opening poem to the story, Carroll wrote:
Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.
In its initial form, this tale told on July 4, 1862, was simply another entry in the oral story tradition that Carroll forged on the numerous expeditions on the "quiet stream." Years later, Carroll wrote, "many a day we had rowed together on that quiet streamthe three little maidens and Iand many a fairy tale had been extemporised for their benefit." He indicates there were numerous other tales that "lived and died like summer midges," but in this single instance "one of my little listeners petitioned that the tale might be written out for her," and thus began Alice's adventures.
Alice's adventures begin on a lazy summer day when a "White Rabbit with pink eyes" races by her. While it was unremarkable for a rabbit to run by her and it was not "very much out of the way" to hear the Rabbit talk, she hurried after the White Rabbit when it "actually took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket." Alice scrambled to her feet and followed it, without a thought, down a large rabbit-hole. Similarly, in Through the Looking-Glass, Alice impulsively goes through the glass over the mantel and into the Looking-Glass room. Later, in both stories, this initial impulsiveness becomes tempered through experience. Although Alice learns from her experiences, the stories were neither moralistic nor written for the purpose of teaching lessons. Instead, they were, and still are, two of the most highly imaginative fairy tales ever conceived.
Both Alice and Looking-Glass, while drawn from Carroll's extemporaneous stories, were later refined and infused with a wealth of allusions to both his own experiences and Alice's. In her travels through Wonderland and the chess-board world behind the Looking-Glass, Alice encounters a multitude of curiosities, many traceable to experiences in her own life. In chapter II of Alice, "The Pool of Tears," she encounters a Duck, a Dodo, a Lory, and an Eaglet. This entire episode in the pool alludes to a trip that Carroll referred to in his diary for June 17, 1862. On this day, during a trip, the traveling party was drenched in a downpour. The animals who appear in the "Pool" chapter represent the trip's participants: the Duck is Carroll's friend Robinson Duckworth, the Dodo is Carroll (a stutterer all his life, Carroll would often pronounce his real name Dodgson as "Do-Do-Dodgson"), and the Lory and the Eaglet are Alice's sisters, Lorina and Edith.
When it was published in 1865, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was reviewed widely in newspapers and journals drawing near universal praise. Among the reviewing publications were The Times, the Spectator, and the Publisher's Circular. The Circular selected the story as "the most original and most charming" of the 200 books for children they were sent that year. When it was published in late 1871, Through the Looking-Glass reaped similar praise.
While Carroll continued to write children's stories, his distinguished place in literary history was firmly established with the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. By the time Carroll died in 1898, there were about 250,000 copies of these stories in print.
While the Alice books have charmed and excited children ever since their first publication, they have also stimulated a wide array of literary, philosophical, and psychological discussion from twentieth-century writers. As the editor of the Penguin Classics edition, Hugh Haughton, makes clear, at the heart of these children's books lie fascinating questions about meaning. Maneuvering throughout Carroll's puns, word plays, and unconventional prose, the adult reader of these books, often finds him or herself feeling two responses at once: a submission to the spontaneous play of nonsense, to utter meaninglessnessas the Lobster-Quadrille would urgeand a compulsion to interpret, or decode meaning in even the most trivial incidentas Queen Alice might do. For twentieth-century writers like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and W. H. Auden who borrowed freely from Carroll, the Alice books have become models of experimental writing. For other intellectuals, reading Alice's Adventures and Through the Looking-Glass as Surrealist dream books, Freudian case studies, or political allegories, they have become texts brimming with profound insights.
ABOUT LEWIS CARROLL Of Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf said, "since childhood remained in him entire, he could do what no one else has ever been able to dohe could return to that world; he could re-create it, so that we too become children again." Edmund Wilson also recognized Carroll's ability to see from a child's perspective when he noted, "Lewis Carroll is in touch with the real mind of childhood." Wilson linked this understanding to a flair for drawing on "the more primitive elements of the mind of maturity." These characterizations describing the creator of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass exemplify the enigmatic Carroll. However, most casual readers may be unaware that Carroll was also a don at Christ Church, Oxford University where he spent most of his adult life as a Mathematics lecturer. In addition, Carroll was a logician, a renowned photographer, and a prolific letter writer and diarist.
Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832 in the parsonage of Daresbury in Cheshire, England, a small village about twenty miles from Liverpool. The third child and eldest son in a household of seven girls and four boys, Charles spent the first eleven years of his life on this secluded farm. The surroundings of the parsonage were reflected in the characters and images that grace both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. One can imagine a young Charles seeing the White Rabbit, the animals in the Caucus-Race, the Caterpillar and the mushroom, the Mouse, the garden of flowers and much more as he grew up amidst the barnyard and fields of the parsonage.
In 1850, Charles entered Christ Church, Oxford where he would spend the rest of his life as a student, fellow, and lecturer; and where he developed into an accomplished photographer, and met Alice Liddell, the heroine of his great stories. During his lifetime, Charles Dodgson published nearly 300 works on an array of topics. These works included not only children's stories but also books and pamphlets on mathematics, logic, and philosophical debates at Oxford. In addition, he wrote parodies such as "Hints for Etiquette, or Dining Out Made Easy" and constructed games, puzzles, riddles, and acrostics. Among his works are: Euclid and His Modern Rivals, Formulae of Plane Trigonometry, Guide to the Mathematical Student in Reading, and Game of Logic (a method of teaching the principles of logic to children). Allusions to these writings and interests were scattered throughout the Alice books. Both stories, though clearly written to amuse young children, were also replete with puns and allusions to Victorian society, making them 'mature' enough to pique the interest of adults. Interestingly, Dodgson contrived his pen name as a slight puzzle in itself. The pseudonym Lewis Carroll, was created by Latinizing his two given names, Charles Lutwidge, to Carolus Ludovicus, reversing them and translating them back into English.
Besides the array of intellectual pursuits, Charles Dodgson's interests also extended to gadgets, most importantly the photographic camera. Dodgson was introduced to photography by his Uncle Skeffington Lutwidge. In the 1850s and 1860s, prior to the actual development of film, this art form required patience and devotion. Among the persons of his era whom Dodgson persuaded to sit for portraits were the poet Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Millais, Prince Leopold (the youngest son of Queen Victoria), Lord Salisbury (who became Oxford Chancellor in 1870), the Crown Prince of Denmark, John Ruskin, and the actress Ellen Terry. Besides such luminaries, Dodgson also photographed young children he met during his years at Oxford, including Alice Liddell.
However, it is through Charles Dodgson's extensive letters and diaries that a great deal of his life, motivations, and inspiration are revealed. Starting on January 1, 1861, Dodgson began maintaining a register of all the letters he sent and received. Although the register has never been found, the final number that he recorded was 98,721. In a letter to a friend of his, Mary Brown, he estimated he wrote 2,000 letters each year. There are letters to friends, family, his publisher and illustrator, and to endearing young fans. The minutiae of daily life also crept into his correspondence. After the death of his brother-in-law, just days prior to his own, he wrote his nephew, Stuart Collingwood requesting a simple funeral and burial upon his own death. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson died at age 66 on January 14, 1898.
- Traditionally, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are both considered stories intended for children. If you were asked to support the contention that these are actually stories for adults, how would you defend this?
- Alice Liddell, the model for Carroll's fairy tale heroine, was a young child when these stories were first told. Although a child in the story, Alice often exhibits mature characteristics; and the adult characters often exhibit childish behavior. Do you consider these books to be an adult's view of childhood, or a child's view of adulthood?
- Alice rarely speaks nonsense and rarely enjoys it when it is spoken to her. In fact, her speech and manners are as proper as those of any Jane Austen heroine. How is Alice's perception of the world changed when confronted with the world and characters of nonsense?
- The Cheshire Cat suggests that everything Alice experiences in Wonderland is a dream or the result of madness. Prefiguring Freud's theories, Carroll, in a diary entry, defined "insanity as an inability to distinguish which is the waking and which the sleeping life." Besides the obvious absurdities in imagery what other aspects of these books mimic a dream state?
- "Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves." This play on the proverb, "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves," is a good example of Carroll's word play. Often these word plays end up with a nonsensical locution; but at other times, as is the case here, they create a completely different, often subversive, meaning. Discuss other examples of Carroll's word play.
- Throughout her adventures, Alice grapples with her identity. While this is a common feature of most children's books, Alice's questioning often inadvertently invokes the ideas of western philosophers from Plato to Bishop Berkeley. What philosophical issues about identity does Alice raise?
- Throughout both Alice and Looking-Glass, Alice usually exhibits a passivity to the incomprehensible events around her. However, at critical times, she learns to assume control of her circumstances. When does this occur and what actions does she take?
- What is the significance of the mushroom that Alice eats during her adventures?
- Let's assume that in Lewis Carroll's original telling of these stories, he viewed himself as a teacher/mentor to Alice Liddell. How do the ways in which the fictional Alice adapts to her shifting and unusual circumstances translate into meaningful lessons for a child of Alice Liddell's age?
- If the Caterpillar from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland were to give advice to Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Through the Looking-Glass on how to solve their differences without having "a bit of a fight," what might the Caterpillar advise?
- Since their publication, many readers have found material in Carroll's book unsuitable for children. Which parts of the Alice books, if any, do you think are unfit, or even harmful, to children today?
An Interview with Helen Oxenbury
Barnes & Noble.com: When you were a child, did you always know you'd be an artist of some sort when you grew up? How did you get your start illustrating kids' books?
Helen Oxenbury: No, I didn't think I would be an artist, but my father was an architect, so drawing in one way or another was very familiar to me. I drew all the time -- but I didn't really think anything of it. It was just something I thought everybody did. What I wanted to be was a dancer. I learned ballet from the age of three and absolutely loved it. And later on, I wanted to be a tennis player. I made it to Junior Wimbledon, but when you go somewhere like that, you realize when you haven't got it -- that you're not good enough. I wasn't -- so that was the end of that. Then when I left secondary school, my father encouraged me to go to art school. I loved every minute of the course I took in art. And I suppose it was at that moment that I thought I would carry on and try for a career in art. But not in illustration at that point. I specialized in theater design. And I worked in the theater for a few years and in television, and it was only after I had married John [Burningham], who was an illustrator and had already produced about two books, that I got the idea. I saw what was involved and how it was done and when we married and started a family, I really wanted to carry on working, so I tried to illustrate children's books -- because I could do it at home. I didn't have to leave the babies. And that's how I started illustrating.
B&N.com:What made you want to take on Alice in Wonderland as a project?
HO: My mother read Alice to me when I was a little girl, and I'm not sure that I particularly understood it all, but I just caught her enthusiasm for it. She loved it. And then I went back to it as an adult and saw all the things that she had loved in it. I, too, loved it on another level. But how this Alice came about was that a television company wanted to make an animated film about it, and they asked a few people to submit illustrations; I think mine were the most suitable. So I did a lot of work and a lot of research on Alice, and that's when I found my ideal Alice. And the project was all sort of going ahead...and then the team left. So I thought, I've done so much work on this, this must be the moment that I go ahead and try and do it on my own. So I took my work to my publisher, and he said, "yes, fine, go ahead."
B&N.com:Was it difficult to illustrate Alice in Wonderland?
HO: Yes. There were several times when I wanted to give it up or to shelve it and go back to it in six months. But my publisher was very encouraging, and they said, "Oh come on, Helen, you can do it...get on with it -- do it." So I did. And that's how it came about.
B&N.com:How long did it take you to illustrate Alice in Wonderland?
HO: It took a good two years to do. But all the research and working, thinking it was going to be an animated film, was about a year before that. So I'd say three years in all. It was difficult because Alice in Wonderland comes with so much baggage; the most wonderful people have illustrated it. And of course I was brought up with the Tenniel illustrations -- which I loved -- but I had to think of how to make it different from Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland. His version was quite sparsely illustrated, so I thought for today's children, because the language is a little bit difficult, they probably could be helped along the way with pictures. So I made my Alice in Wonderland quite densely illustrated. I also wanted to bring to the fore the peripheral characters like the little creatures, which Tenniel didn't do. And to make my illustrations a little warmer and a little more humorous than Tenniel's.
B&N.com:Throughout your career, you've worked on books geared toward a wide range of ages. Is there a type of book that is more difficult for you to illustrate?
HO: The board books, I suppose [I Can, I Hear, I See, I Touch]. It's quite difficult to pare down and simplify. It looks easy, but it isn't. Like an author with his writing, it's extremely difficult to take something down to the bare bones. It took quite a time to get a style going for those board books.
B&N.com:What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not working?
HO: Well, I still play tennis. I kept it up...but it's on a really pathetic level now. I also do yoga, and I love exploring antique shops and junk shops.
B&N.com:What advice do you have for kids who say they want to be illustrators?
HO: Well, I say, "Go ahead!" It is so much more difficult today than it was in my day. I mean, I wouldn't like to have to start now. It's so competitive, and there are so many children's books around. But don't not do it because of that, if you really want to.
B&N.com:Can you tell me some of your favorite kids' books?
HO: That's jolly difficult. I love the work of Edward Ardizzone and Dr. Seuss, who's an absolute genius. But no specific books are coming to me right now. I know, when I put the phone down, it will all come to me....
B&N.com:That's all right, we'll leave it at that. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. Your Wonderland is simply wonderful, and it's been great getting to know you. (Jamie Levine)
It is difficult to explain in words what the pictures are trying to say, and therefore my explanations are not precisely what I had in mind because they add shades of meaning which are not there. The reader can only interpret them in his own way, bringing his own observations to bear on the image he is looking at, so that he may agree or disagree with what I have tried to convey. When I set out to draw an idea, part of that idea is not yet formed and only takes shape and reveals itself as the drawing progresses. Consequently, the drawing acquires a life of its own and virtually takes over the direction it will follow -- or so it seems.
I have made a few notes about some of the pictures. The rest are self explanatory or purely illustrations.
THE WHITE RABBIT. Worried by time, hurrying and scurrying. Sane within a routine, slightly insane but more engaging when the routine is upset. Today's commuter.
THE DODO in this picture reminded me of an Archbishop and being as "dead as a dodo" it fitted perfectly. The other animals remind me of people I know, rather as Lewis Carroll apparently created them around friends and associates. The reader can place his own interpretation on them. It was never my intention to set everything in concrete.
I rather hate dogs. They seem to have soaked up all the worst in human nature. They are more human and even more stupid. In place of Tenniel's pug dog which perhaps was the fashionable dog when he drew the pictures, the poodle seems the most apt substitute. The dog is the perfect feed for the man who wants his ego pumped. He can take for granted the dog's blind loyalty and obedience. The dog fouls the pavementand the man fouls the rest of the world.
THE YOUNG INTELLECTUAL. Smoking hash, pedantic, who thinks he has something to say and sheds his opinions as easily as his skins.
THE FATHER WILLIAM set to me is the arrogance of youth versus the certainty of an old man's memories.
- The young man reinforces his arrogance by using the old man's experience as a crutch.
- Whilst throwing past standards out of the window the young man may often come back in through the door if he finds his
- yardstick less than three feet.
- An old man can become intense talking about right and wrong, and a youth can become bored as a result.
- The old man showing he hasn't lost his touch but the young man finds it is all a big joke.
THE DUCHESS is an ex-starlet who married the aristocrat. A high-class tart gone to seed. Her tiny mind has developed a home-spun philosophy within a cultured environment in an effort to keep up appearances.
THE COOK found fame in the kitchen and enjoys her prima donna tendencies.
THE CHESHIRE CAT makes an ideal TV Announcer whose smile remains as the rest of the programme fades out.
The growth of the tea party tree turns logic upside down. It begins in a puzzle at its top and grows down to its roots.
THE HATTER represents the unpleasant sides of human nature. The unreasoned argument screams at you. The bully, the glib quiz game compère who rattles off endless reels of unanswerable riddles and asks you to come back next week and make a bloody fool of yourself again.
THE MARCH HARE is always standing close by. The "egger-on" urging the banality to plumb even greater depths. He always seems to be around to push someone into a fight.
THE DORMOUSE is always the dormouse. Harmless and nice. The man anyone in the office can take a rise out of. If you tread on his face he will smile right back at you.
THE BRITISH WORKMAN. Bickering about who splashed who and standing in the stuff all the time anyway.
THE MONARCH having evolved or developed into a shapeless mass of hangers-on, the State, H.M. Forces, the Church, the establishment walking on one pair of very well-worn legs. The King and Queen born into it and enveloped in it and lost in it, obliged to go through the motions automatically but surprising even themselves by their own outbursts.
The Duchess again The old con trying to glean from Alice some of the objectivity and honesty she lost years ago.
The croquet game when internal confusion disrupts the xvhole structure. Practically showing its knickers, the heaving mass struggles vainly to maintain its dignity and avoid humiliation.
THE GRYPHON to me is the commissionaire of a modern office block. His epaulettes are his wings. He is slow thinking, sometimes ignorant. If you walk into the building in a humble manner, he exercises his authority to the full and crushes you, but if you walk in looking important he will lick your boots. The only man in the building he can order about is the caretaker, so he is the mock turtle who may have more intelligence but is satisfied with his lot, or at least has accepted it graciously. They may also be quite good friends. The dance would express their nicer sides when they are.
THE LOBSTER wearing the old school tie joins exclusive clubs and reckons he is pretty sharp until a real shark comes along.
My only regret is that I didn't write the story.
Ralph Steadman - London - 1967
Yes, I did! I did write the story, in my other life. It was all so familiar when I picked it up and read it for the first time in 1967. For the first time, as I thought, but don't you ever get that strange sensation that what you are reading or watching is something you already know? Something that is in your mind already? Bells of recognition ring as you welcome an old friend. All good ideas are like that. You already know them. The familiarity is part of the enjoyment. The words someone has taken the trouble to write down merely reveal the contents of your own mind. The picture someone has struggled to create is something you have already seen, otherwise how would you ever recognise its content?
You have already experienced the sum of its parts. You have lived them, or maybe you have dreamed them. They are the vocabulary of a vast collective consciousness which it is your everyday choice to delve into or ignore at will. What we choose to emphasise forms the structure of our lives, and what an artist chooses to depict forms the basis of his work -- but of course not the sum total, for in an artist's world two and two make five. And what an artist says three times is true! Familiarity breeds acceptance. The greater the artist, the greater number of reference points are offered for the rest of us to recognise. The more we recognise, the better we feel. We experience a greater satisfaction because we have contributed to the whole. The spectator has fulfilled his role to a greater or lesser degree depending on his or her receptive faculties.
As far as my pictures are concerned in their role as extensions of Lewis Carroll's stories, they stand up for me as well today as they did when I first made them nearly two decades ago. It would be interesting if the reader could identify (no prizes, of course) the new pictures I have drawn for this edition. I have tried to remain true to originals, and I defy anyone to detect the difference. Lewis Carroll has unravelled some of the complicated conundrums that bedevil our daily lives and our dream-worlds. My pictures are one man's response between the lines.
What can be said in pictures cannot necessarily be said in words, and vice versa. "Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."
"I know what you're thinking about, but it isn't so, nohow."
Ralph Steadman - Maidstone Bird Sanctuary - September 1986