Alice in Wonderland

Thursday, Aug 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, dear Alice

It has been 150 years since Alice in Wonderland was introduced to the world

An immediate success upon publication in November of 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, remain enduring favourites today.

Why do the Alice stories continue to fascinate, generation after generation?  I think we can look to several factors that contribute to its timelessness.

We all loved fairy tales and myths as children, and many of us retain that love through adulthood; hence the popularity of the modern fantasy genre which is rooted in fairy tales and mythology.  When Lewis Carroll was deciding whether to publish Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he was encouraged to so do by George MacDonald – a Scottish author and minister who wrote fairy tales himself, among many other works.  Both MacDonald and Lewis Carroll had a deep effect on later authors such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeline L’Engle, all writers of fantasy.

In addition, some speculate that a reason many of us continue to read the Alice stories as adults is the logic that hides behind the seeming nonsense.  Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in real life) was a mathematician and logician, and many believe he worked into the Alice book attacks on abstract mathematical concepts, as he was a proponent of the more established, and traditional, Euclidean math.

Finally, I believe the Alice stories are a wonderful example of the marriage of a delightful text with the perfect illustrations.  The original Alice books were illustrated by John Tenniel, and his illustrations are so wedded to the text that, while many illustrators have turned their attention to Alice over many years (including one of my personal favourites, the great Arthur Rackham), the images many of us see in our minds are those of Tenniel.  

So in this, the 150th year of publication, pick up a copy of Alice and re-read her wonderful Adventures, and smile at her madcap adventures; after all, we all need to fall down a rabbit hole occasionally.