I absolutely did not expect to love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as much as I did! I grew up with the Disney version of Alice, and while it is always fun and evokes all sense of wonderment, it is never funny, I don’t think. How surprised I was to find the book incredibly amazingly hilariously laugh-out-loud FUNNY. Oh how I enjoyed every page, reading it a little bit every night before sleeping, just so I could savor it slowly and keep it unread a bit longer!
Before reading the book, I never had much impression of Alice. She was a rather dull observant in a wacky world. How pleasantly surprised I was to find that the character Alice in book has so much more! She is opinionated, she likes to daydream and talk to herself, she likes to assert everybody (which makes the creatures around her unhappy more often than not), she is adventurous, but also has impeccable manners. In short, she has personality! Which is really what is lacking in the movies.
And the language! How delightful, playful, and surprisingly, modern! It does not at all read like a classic (not that there’s anything wrong with classic). It just felt so familiar, as if it is written in our times. I could not believe the book is written in 1800s.
Then the world! We are all familiar with Alice’s world from various sources, but I was so happy to finally know how it was originally presented. There are a few creatures that never made the cut into the Disney movie, namely the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle. Though probably for a good reason as I thought it was the least exciting part of the book. Then the Duchess, her pig baby, and the excessive-pepper cook. And do you know that Tweedledee and Tweedledum are not in the original Alice? I was waiting for their appearance as they’re ones of my favorite characters, yet they never came up. Apparently they appear in the sequel (Through the Looking Glass), which is included in the same Vintage copy I have, but I’ve decided to save it for later and write a separate post as I loved the first one so much I can’t wait to talk about it here.
My favorite parts are the scene after Alice cries and falls into her own pool of tears and meet all the birds and mouse. The part where the Mouse starts to give what according to him is the driest speech and where they have running competition in circle almost made me fall off my chair laughing (figuratively speaking, as I read in bed). Then the trial in the last two chapters! My gosh the trial is just out-of-this-world hilarious! I don’t think it can get any funnier! My words can’t explain how funny the whole scene is!
I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up this book and why I missed it as a child (I’m guessing it never got translated in my birth country). But really, I have a feeling that it’s one of those books that you may appreciate more as an adult. For me it is anyway. Now I understand how the story could stand the test of time for so long (145 years this year). I honestly think Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is work of a genius.
1865, 150 pp
My Vintage copy of Alice contains the original illustrations by John Tenniel (above). I read it in conjunction with another copy of Alice I borrowed off the library which was published in 2009 by Walker Books (Australia), illustrated by Robert Ingpen (right). The new illustrations use colored pencils and look absolutely amazing. However Alice and everybody in it looks so grave to the point of looking sad, which seems like an odd decision. Why would you draw such solemn characters for such a funny tale? The contemporary illustrator gave such high praises for Tenniel, the original illustrator, and it warmed my heart. He stated that the creative partnership between Carroll and Tenniel is “unmatched in the history of our literature”.
“It is for these reasons that my pictorial collection of Alice through her dream underground for these modern times, is dedicated in awe to John Tenniel, whose skill and imagination made his work shine out at a time when black and white engraving from drawings was the only practical means of print reproduction for the illustrator.” ~ Robert Ingpen
I rarely quote a dedication, but this one just touched me. Such a humble man.
Alice and the Caterpillar, by John Tenniel
Some interesting facts about Alice. Lewis Carroll is the pen name used by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for three daughters of a Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford, one of them named Alice Pleasance Liddell, the middle of three sisters. Carroll was a mathematician and worked as mathematics lecturer until his death. When Caroll first wrote the story by hand, he purposely left space for 37 illustrations which were added later by John Tenniel. After coming out of copyright in 1907, 42 years after its publication, over 200 illustrators other than Tenniel have interpreted the story, many paid homage to the original visions of Carroll and Tenniel through their depictions of Alice and the other characters. Carroll realized that the book’s illustrations were as important as his words, for, as Alice herself muses in the opening paragraph of the book, “… what is the use of a book… without pictures or conversation?”
Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel
Also check out First Tuesday Book Club episode on Alice in Wonderland. They were all over it!
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 conversations?”
I watched Tim Burton’s Alice months ago, but I think I’m going to talk about that one after I read Through the Looking Glass. This time around hubby and I were curious about the other adaptations of Alice apart from the Disney cartoon. So we tried two versions: the 1972 and 1999 (there are an incredible amount of movie adaptations of Alice!)
We tried the 1999 version first (right), the one with Whoopi Goldberg and Ben Kingsley, but quickly got bored. So after 20 minutes or so we tried the 1972 one (left), which we liked more and watched until the end. It stays quite true to the story, with the appearance of the Gryphon, Mock Turtle, the Duchess and Pepper-woman (who are missing in the Disney cartoon).
But you see, the problem is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one hell of a book to turn into a movie. I do think it is quite impossible to adapt the book, no matter how many times people try. The humour and the deft language is completely lost. Sure the world is full of strange creatures, but that’s about it.
I haven’t watched all the adaptations ever made (and I don’t think I will), but I will bet a good money that the Disney version is probably the best of the lot and as best as you can get for Alice. Though it surely has not beaten the book, nuh-uh. I haven’t re-watched the Disney version for this round of my Disney Literature Challenge (mostly because I just realized I don’t own the DVD. How can that be? I thought I owned all Classic Disney DVDs.) but I don’t need to. We have a clear winner.
Disney Literature Challenge Round 2
Disney vs. Carroll
on Alice Adventure’s in Wonderland
Well, what do you know? Carroll won the battle. (What, you mean I wasn’t clear enough?)
Disney – 1 vs. Authors – 1