On May 4th of some year long ago, a young girl went down a rabbit hole and entered a wonderland, and began an incredible adventure.
That girl was Alice and she descended into Wonderland on the birthday of Alice Pleasance Hargreaves (née Liddell), who was her inspiration as a character. The Liddells were friends with the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carroll). Alice and her two sisters heard the first versions of the story on a “golden afternoon” in 1862, in a rowboat with Dodgson.
The story was originally titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, but was published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in November 1865. It was hit and called “the publishing sensation of Christmas 1865.”
The book has never gone out of print. It has been translated into more than 100 languages, including Latin.
It is one of those “children’s books” that offers other things to adult readers, such as linguistic puzzles, contradictions, and jokes.
Alice is not frightened as she falls down that hole after following a rabbit. In fact, as she makes that long descent, she talks to herself and analyses what is happening and may happen. In Wonderland, she is constantly trying to make sense of nonsensical things and is forced to rethink many of her assumptions and view things differently.
“Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either,
but thought they were nice grand words to say.”
Thinking she may fall through the Earth to Australia or New Zealand, she wonders (as one will do in Wonderland) “How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward!”Today, we still fall down “rabbit holes” – especially online. To aid your own trip down Alice’s rabbit hole, here are a few links.
I am a fan of The Annotated Alice which helps with many of the references that I missed as a child and as an adult.
The Alice in Wonderland Omnibus has Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with the original John Tenniel Illustrations because, as Alice said, “What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?”
Wikipedia has very good articles about the original book, the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and Lewis Carroll.
If you are fearful of falling down a rabbit hole, you might try Through the Looking Glass (full name Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There) where Alice climbs through a mirror into a world where everything is reversed. This is the book that includes the poems “Jabberwocky” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, and introduces the new characters such as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.