Do you have a copy of Alice in Wonderland at home? I do. In fact, when I was little, I had my Mum’s copy, and my own, and another little volume of illustrated poems from the Alice books. I would read them and read them to myself, every night. I read one then the other, memorised all of the poems, and then went back and read them all again.
- Alice in Wonderland
- Lewis Carroll, with illlustrations by Tove Jansson
I started to notice that Alice was everywhere.
Not just in my house, and not just in real-world places like Oxford, where Lewis Carroll met the real Alice Liddell and spent many sunny afternoons telling her the Wonderland stories.
But everywhere. In obvious places like films, other books that tell other stories from Wonderland (and new places, like Blunderland, Quantumland, Numberland and Sunderland), toys and tie-in merchandise.
And in less obvious places.
Have you ever been reading a book that’s not really about Alice, but found situations or characters who are like Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum, or the Caterpillar? Or words that sounds like they come from Wonderland? (The book Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce is full of language that sounds exactly like the type of nonsense you get in Wonderland.)
Even in grown-up films like The Matrix and albums by bands like Aerosmith or singers like Gwen Stefani there are references to Alice in Wonderland.
Curiouser and Curiouser, isn’t it? Perhaps I particularly look for Alice because I spent so much time reading about her. Or maybe there’s something about Alice that makes her stick in our brains.
How many times have you heard someone say ‘follow the white rabbit’ or ‘I’m late, I’m late!’ or even ‘Off with her head?’ The sayings, songs and puzzles from Alice are part of our culture like almost nothing else.
So why does Alice stick around, when there are so many books from that time which we have all forgotten?
There have been so many versions of Alice, and she always looks different. My favourite childhood Alice had red hair and a green dress. Our Wondermind Alice wears a lovely buttercup yellow frock. Peter Blake’s Alice has a white dress with a sash. Helen Oxenbury’s Alice even has a dress that any modern little girl might wear.
- ‘But isn’t it old!’ Tweedledum cried
- Peter Blake
- © Peter Blake 2002. All rights reserved, DACS
So perhaps one thing that makes Alice memorable is that she can be from any time. She could be you, or your sister, or your mum as a little girl!
There’s something else though. Think about the language Alice uses. The actual words Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were written in 1865. Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? There are a lot of jokes in the book which only audiences of the time would get. But now, they all seem like puns, jokes and nonsense.
So is there something about the nonsense that makes us remember it? Something in words like…
Twas brillig, and the slithey toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe
…which catch our attention in a way that most books and poems simply don’t?
Seems like the links between Alice and our minds are even curiouser than we can even imagine… and in Wondermind, we’ve created yet another Alice who will dash about in your brain, getting you to think about things differently, and hopefully remember some amazing facts about your brain in the way that only Alice can.
So: which one is your favourite Alice? Where have you spotted Alice, outside of the books?