Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

alices-adventures-in-wonderland-and-through-the-looking-glass-and-what-alice-found-thereYou might remember that I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandlast year and fell in love head over heels with it. It actually became one of my favorite books, ever!

Unfortunately I cannot say the same with Through the LookingGlass. I’m not sure if it was the timing or if it’s really a less piece of work, but the magic I found in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a bit lost in the sequel. It was still a pretty good read, but I did not love it as much.

I read the Vintage edition on the right which has both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the LookingGlass, both with illustrations by John Tenniel-the original illustrator. I decided to wait a bit for the second book after reading the first one, hence the gap (they were actually published with 6 years gap anyway).

In Through the LookingGlass I found that characters often appear and disappear too suddenly (literally–like poof!) which I don’t remember happening as much in the first book and kinda baffled me a little bit. I laughed reading the first one a lot more too. Lots more. The second book is probably supposed to be smarter because it integrates chess moves throughout the entire story, but I never have much interest in chess unfortunately!

What I found interesting was a few key events or characters that were taken from Through the Looking Glass and get adapted into the Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland, like:

alice live flowersalice live flowers

the garden of live flowers (John Tenniel’s illustration on the right)

bread and butterfly


tweedledee tweedledumtweedledee tweedledum

tweedledee and tweedledum (John Tenniel’s illustration on the right–as if you’re gonna get it wrong..)

mickey through mirroralice-emerging-from-the-looking-glass

and Mickey Mouse short where he goes through mirror and finds world on the other side of it is an obvious tribute to Through the Looking Glass!

My super favorite passage:

‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.’
‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’” ~ p196

which I think so reflects the fast pace of our modern life.

4 stars
1871, 170pp

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

alices-adventures-in-wonderland-and-through-the-looking-glass-and-what-alice-found-thereI 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.

5 stars
1865, 150 ppAlice's Adventures in Wonderland

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 carrollJohn_Tenniel

Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel

Also check out First Tuesday Book Club episode on Alice in Wonderland. They were all over it!

First line
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?”

Once Upon a Time IV (book #5), Read the Book See the Movie (pair #4), 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Disney Literature Challenge

Also reviewed by
Loved! Ready When You Are, C.B. | Sasha & The Silverfish (with illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia)
Didn’t :(. su[shu]

The Films

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!)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 1972Alice in Wonderland DVD 1999

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.

alice in wonderland DisneyAlice in Wonderland

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?)

Current Score
Disney – 1 vs. Authors – 1


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