Alice in Wonderland

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Alice in Wonderland
"How is a raven like a writing desk?"
Original Title: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Written by: Lewis Carroll
Central Theme: The logic (or rather, the lack of it) in everyday life
Synopsis: A girl falls in a weird dream-like world not subject to regular logic nor to Victorian-era common sense.
Genre(s): Fantasy
First published: November 26, 1865
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Source: Read Alice in Wonderland here
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No story in English literature has intrigued me more than Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It fascinated me the first time I read it as a schoolboy and as soon as I possibly could after I started making animated cartoons, I acquired the film rights to it. People in his period had no time to waste on triviality, yet Carroll with his nonsense and fantasy furnished a balance between seriousness and enjoyment which everybody needed then and still needs today.
Walt DisneyAmerican Weekly 1946

"Curiouser and curiouser!"

A parade of the surreal, with all the logic of a dream -- and invoking the madness of quite a lot of mankind's so called 'logic' -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a children's classic, filled with allusions to Victorian trivia, most of which is now long forgotten. (The book The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner explains all of these, from jokes to basic trivia. It contains both volumes, with Tenniel's original illustrations.)

The story was first told by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Pen Name Lewis Carroll) on a boating trip with a friend and three little girls, one of which was Alice Liddell. It was meant as a gift for her and the fictional Alice is based on her.

The story begins when Alice follows a white rabbit, who just happens to be wearing a waistcoat and a pocketwatch, down a rabbit hole. She falls, very slowly, into a corridor lined with doors, all locked, and a key that fits only into the smallest one. After some misadventures with food and drink that make her change size, she escapes in a pool of her own tears. Outside, she finds a land filled with strange creatures and talking animals. Few are entirely rational. After several bizarre incidents, including the Duchess' Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Alice defies the tyrannical Queen of Hearts and wakes up. It was All Just a Dream -- definitely-third person narration clearly states that this is so.

In the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, Alice goes to sleep and then dreams she steps into a mirror, where she becomes a pawn in an allegorical game of Chess. On her march across the board, symbolized as countryside divided up by brooks, Alice meets more strange characters, mostly taken from nursery rhymes, before eventually reaching the other end of the board, becoming a queen, and having a coronation party, which rapidly gets out of hand. Seizing the Red Queen, she wakes up and finds she is holding a kitten.

The books have contributed many phrases to the English language, and, thanks to their large cast of characters, are especially popular for adapting into ensemble films loaded with veteran actors.

There are many, many adaptations and cameos are countless. Many adaptations involve Grimmification to some degree. Due to being out of copyright, Alice is popular base material for commercial transformative works (including a musical porn film).

  • Movie adaptations of the story go back into the earliest days of film: the first adaptation, a short subject made in 1903, contains some of the earliest examples of special effects in film. Walt Disney made some of his first animated films adapted from the Alice tales, and featured a live-action actress against animated characters. Of course, more popular is Disney's 1951 feature film, which is considered among the studio's most surreal titles. Again under Disney, Tim Burton has made a 2010 movie with Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter; though it's actually just as much if not more so based on Through the Looking Glass.
    • An unrelated television movie reimagination, Alice, was produced in 2009 by the Syfy Channel.
  • The Looking Glass Wars is a trilogy of novels by Frank Beddor based on the idea that Alyss was heir to the throne of Wonderland and was forced to flee to our world by her evil Aunt Redd.
  • There's an animated series by Nippon Animation (the same group that made the Biene Maia, Heidi and Dog of Flanders animated series).
  • A pop musical version, simply called Wonderland, was playing in Tampa, Florida in late 2009.
  • The book also inspired various manga. Pandora Hearts and Are You Alice are the two most prominent.
  • Among the many video game adaptations are American McGee's Alice.
  • Wonderland No More, a Savage Worlds setting.
  • Of the literature, there's Złote Popołudnie (Golden Afternoon) by Andrzej Sapkowski - a retelling from the point of view of the Cheshire Cat.
  • Web comic Alice and the Nightmare (starts with the protagonist adopted in the "suit" as Alice Heart, and the Red Queen personally appears to transport her "dearest protégée" from the Heart Church to Phantasmagoria University)
  • Volume 9 of RWBY is set in the "Everafter", a Magical Land which is strongly influenced by the books, including having had its own Alice (a girl named "Alyx") who wrote her own book (The Girl Who Fell Through the World) after her adventures there. It became a beloved children's classic in Remnant.

Now has a Character Sheet under construction. For tropes related to the adaptations, see below the trope list for the books.

The book is also the source of the name of the Red Queen Effect in evolution.

Alice in Wonderland is the Trope Namer for:
Alice in Wonderland is the Trope Maker for:

The books contain examples of:
  • Adaptation Dye Job: The real Alice Liddell had short, black hair, unlike the girl seen in Tenniel's illustrations. There is some evidence that the illustrator based the character on a photo given to him by Dodgson of another child-friend.
  • An Aesop: Averted. Alice is notable for being the first work of Victorian children's literature that sought to entertain rather than to teach dull morals. Though one could argue that Alice teaches an indirect moral of enjoying your childhood while it lasts, and to never forget it during adulthood.
  • All Just a Dream: One of the few examples where it worked, mostly because Wonderland worked by dream logic.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: There are many, due to the date it was written, along with the nationality of the author:
    • Most modern adaptations have to explain that "treacle" is a word for molasses[1], and that a "cravat" is a piece of menswear that is a forerunner to a man's tie. (One adaptation actually has Alice call it a tie.) Some of the humor might go over the heads of modern readers, like the Hatter claiming Alice's hair "wants cutting" (a comment that would have been incredibly rude in Victorian times) and the Duchess claiming that she was "twice as rich and twice as clever" as Alice. ("Rich" and "clever" were used to describe contradicting concepts, making her comment an impossibility.)
    • Teniel's illustration of the Lion and the Unicorn in the second book depicts the two beasts as caricatures of William Ewart Gladstone and Benjamin Disrael, a depiction that was common among political cartoonists at the time. Whether this was Carroll's intention is impossible to say.
    • Even some British readers may be confused by some references, like the Hatter saying it's always tea time because it's always six o'clock. (Five o'clock tea would not become a tradition in Britain until later.)
    • After the Caucus Race, Alice gives everyone "confits", which are hard fruit candies.
    • The Mock Turtle has a head, hooves, and tail of a calf because mock turtle soup, which the Queen says is made from mock turtles, is made from the discarded parts of a calf (specifically a calf's head), much like the discarded parts of cows are used to make low-grade hamburger in modern times
  • Artistic License Physics: As an algebra professor, Carroll clearly knew that if Alice had truly been in a state of freefall, she could neither have dropped the marmalade jar nor put it in a cupboard as she fell by it. Probably a minor nitpick considering that her descent itself was a rather blatant violation of the laws of physics.
  • Author Appeal: Lewis Carroll's love of mathematics is evident.
  • Author Avatar: The Dodo in the Caucus Race. Dodgson stuttered and so would pronounce his last name "Do-Do-Dodgson", which earned him the nickname. The White Rabbit's fussiness is also based on Dodgson. The White Knight is a possible example, as he is the only character in either book who is 100% kind to Alice.
  • Brick Joke: A few
    • In chapter 7, the Hatter tells Alice how he performed at the Queen's concert (singing a parody of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star") and the Queen ordered him executed for "murdering the time". Later, in chapter 11, when he's called on as a witness at the trial, the Queen looks at him closely, and then asks a servant to bring her a list of the performers from the concert. Clearly, she's remembering the incident he mentioned. The Hatter is noticeably nervous about it.
    • Also, in chapter 6, the Duchess growls, "If everybody minded their own business, the world would go round a deal faster than it does." Then, in chapter 9 (when Alice meets her in a much better mood) there's this exchange between them:

Duchess: Tis so. And the moral of that is, "Oh, 'tis love, 'tis love, that makes the world go round!"
Alice: Somebody said that it's done by everybody minding their own business!

  • As might be expected, the Duchess doesn't get the hint.
  • The second book combines this with foreshadowing. When Alice sees the living chess pieces in miniature form, she writes in the King's notebook, "The White Knight is sliding down the poker; he balances very badly." Several chapters later, when she meets the white Knight in person, he clearly balances horribly, falling off his horse every few steps it makes.
  • Also in the second book, Humpty Dumpty recites a poem of how he went to punish the fish for disobeying him, taking a corkscrew and finding a locked door in his way. Later, the Red and White Queens relate the incident, claiming he had been at the door with a corkscrew looking for a hippopotamus, mentioning they only have one on Tuesdays.

"After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they'll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn't say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!" (Which was very likely true.)

  • Martin Gardner pointed out that an exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty is both the blackest and most easily missed joke in the books:

"Seven years and six months!" Humpty Dumpty repeated thoughtfully. "An uncomfortable sort of age. Now if you'd asked my advice, I'd have said, "Leave off at seven' -- but it's too late now."
"I never ask advice about growing," Alice said indignantly.
"Too proud?" the other enquired.
Alice felt even more indignant at this suggestion. "I mean," she said, "that one can't help growing older."
"One can't, perhaps," said Humpty Dumpty, "but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven."

White Knight: You see, it's as well to be provided for everything. That's the reason the horse has all those anklets round his feet.
Alice: But what are they for?
White Knight: To guard against the bites of sharks.

  • Dances and Balls: The Lobster Quadrille.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole
  • Dream Apocalypse: Tweedledum and Tweedledee tells Alice this will happen to Alice herself if the Red King wakes up.
  • Dream Land
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Besides Alice, only a few minor or unseen characters have names. The rest are only known by their species (the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mock Turtle etc.), their title (the King, Queen and Knave of Hearts, the Duchess) or their profession (the Hatter, the Cook, the Footmen).
  • Expy: From one book to the other. The White King's messengers in "Through the Looking Glass" are Hatta and Haigha (Hatter and Hare).
  • Faeries Don't Believe in Humans, Either: When Alice meets the Unicorn, it asks what she is. When told that she is a child, it replies, stunned, "I always thought they were fabulous monsters!" When Alice confesses that she always believed that unicorns were fabulous monsters, the Unicorn says, "Well, if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you," to which Alice agrees.
  • The Fair Folk: Not in appearance mind you; but in their erratic Blue and Orange Morality and Lack of Empathy? Oh hell yes definitely.
  • Follow the White Rabbit: The Trope Namer.
  • Forgotten Trope: Carroll's Alice stories have outlived much of the Victorian trappings they satirize. His poem about the "little crocodile" parodies Isaac Watts's saccharine original about the "little busy bee" -- an example of a whole class of Victorian poems that children were taught in order to instill virtue.
  • God Save Us From the Queen: Queen of Hearts, well known for her catchphrase, "Off with their heads!" In her defense, she's hardly much worse than the other residents of Wonderland (the Duchess calls for Alice to be beheaded as well, for no reason at all) and is pretty much ignored when it comes to her orders for executions. On the other hand, the White Queen and Red Queen fully subvert this. Despite being respectively nutty and stern with Alice, both are still quite kind.
  • Gonk: The Duchess and the Queen of Hearts.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The White Rabbit, in the darker adaptations.
  • Hanging Judge: The Queen of Hearts, although according to the Gryphon, there really aren't that many executions that go on.
  • How Is That Even Possible?: From the second book:

White Queen: Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.
Alice: I can’t believe that!
White Queen: Can’t you? Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.
Alice: There’s no use trying, one can’t believe impossible things.
White Queen: I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

  • This was, by the way, a major plot point of the Tim Burton movie.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Mock Turtle.
  • Identical Twin ID Tags: The Tweedles have their names embroidered on their suits.
  • I Fell for Hours: Alice's descent down the rabbit hole, which takes an incredibly long time.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Well, kind of. It is stated that "Alice often gave herself very good advice, but she very seldom followed it."
  • Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The Gnat isn't very good at making jokes.
  • Inherently Funny Words:
    • In the first book, Alice uses the words "latitude" and "longitude", despite not knowing what they mean, because she likes the sound of those words.
    • In the second book, after her conversation with Humpty Dumpty, Alice says, "Of all the unsatisfactory people I have ever met -" emphasizing the word "unsatisfactory" because she likes being able to say it.
  • Inner Monologue Conversation: When Alice is on the train in Through the Looking-Glass, the other passengers can apparently hear her thinking, and respond by thinking in chorus. Even the narrator isn't quite sure how.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Humorously faulty logic is a running theme throughout the books, and this is clearly a case of Author Appeal. For example, the Pigeon thinks Alice is a snake. Why? Because Alice eats eggs. And you know what else eats eggs? A snake! In the Pigeon's defense, though, Alice also had a long neck because of the Caterpillar's growing mushroom.
    • Also: Cheshire Cat - Dogs are sane. Dogs wags their tails when they are happy and growl when they are angry. Cats wag their tails when they are angry and growl (purr) when they are happy. Cats are the opposite of dogs. Cats are therefore mad.
  • I Resemble That Remark:

"You never had fits, my dear, I think?" [the King of Hearts] said to the Queen.
"Never!" said the Queen furiously, throwing an inkstand at the Lizard as she spoke.

  • It Was a Gift
  • Kangaroo Court
  • Kid Hero
  • Lilliputians: Everyone in Wonderland. Alice has to drink the potion to fit the size of the place.
  • The Mad Hatter: Oddly, the Hatter does not seem to fit the Trope any more than most characters in Wonderland; possibly the one who most fits it is the Cheshire Cat.
  • Magic Mushroom: The Caterpillar's mushroom is probably the Trope Maker. Eating one side of it made Alice taller, eating the other made her shorter.
  • Magic Pants: In the original John Tenniel illustrations and in nearly all adaptations, Alice's dress grows and shrinks with her. It's Wonderland -- nothing else makes sense, so why should this? Averted in the Tim Burton version, however.
  • Meaningful Name: Alice has a name that means "Noble". Although this may have been a coincidence, as the name was that of a girl Carroll knew in real life, it becomes appropriate in the ending of Through the Looking-Glass.
  • Memetic Outfit: Alice's dress in John Tenniel's original colored illustrations. It even has its own Wikipedia article.
  • Merlin Sickness: The White Queen.
  • Mirror Chemistry: Alice wonders if looking-glass milk is good to drink; this is likely the Ur Example as it predates the scientific basis for the trope.
  • Murder Ballad: "The Walrus and the Carpenter."
  • Nervous Wreck: The White Rabbit.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Alice is kind and polite to pretty much everyone she meets. This is in contrast to the White Rabbit, who apparently is upper-class enough for a servant, to whom he speaks rudely, and we later see him boot-licking the Queen of Hearts.
    • Actually, in the Victorian era, Alice would have been considered a rude and impatient little girl. Etiquette has changed over the years.
  • No Name Given: Alice's sister.
  • Nursery Rhyme: Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum are characters from nursery rhymes.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: Put together, chapters 10 and 11 of Through the Looking-Glass (in which Alice wakes and the Red Queen becomes a kitten) have only 57 words (and two pictures).
  • Only Sane Man: Alice often plays this role to the various characters she meets along her adventures, though she herself sometimes does things that are a little peculiar (Talks to herself, wonders whether she is Mabel, recites original whimsical poetry, has previously tried to box her own ears for cheating in a game of croquet against herself, and, in Through the Looking Glass, she constantly converses with her cats). The Cheshire Cat asserts that everyone in Wonderland, including Alice, is "mad."
  • Power-Up Food: "Eat Me", "Drink Me"
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Most adaptations cut out the satirical elements the books were originally known for. In many cases, this is since satire on mid-nineteenth century English politics and culture is going to be lost on 99% of the audience. (In fact, many of the poems Carroll satirized only survive because he did so in the books. And in some cases, even that wasn't enough!)
  • Public Domain Character: Though Disney would have you think it was their property.
  • Ravens and Crows
  • Riddle for the Ages: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" The riddle was never intended to have an actual answer, but authors have hazarded several famous answers, including:
    • They both have inky quills.
    • Because Poe wrote on both.
    • Because there's a B in both and an N in neither.
    • Because it slopes with a flap.
    • They both only work right if put on their legs.
    • One is a rest for pens, the other is a pest for wrens.
    • Because they should be shut up.
    • Eventually Carrol supplied his own: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front." ("nevar" being "raven" spelled backwards.)
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly
  • Shapeshifting
  • Spoof Aesop: In one chapter the Duchess responds to every piece of news with a moral, ranging from statements which are sensible but irrelevant to complete nonsense.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: The entire book was cooked up off the top of Carrol's head; it would only be later, and after some persisting, that he'd write the whole thing down.
  • "There and Back" Story: Of a sort, though the "there" entirely existed only in Alice's dreams. Adaptations tend to run with this basic plot in different directions.
  • Trapped in Another World
  • Twin Banter: The Tweedles, naturally
  • Unicorn
  • Victorian Britain: The setting of the real world portions -- obviously, The Present Day when it was written, but notable since most adaptations keep the time period.
  • Viewers are Morons: In the chapter where the Gryphon first appears, Carroll felt the need to write (in the actual text) "If you don't know what a gryphon is, look at the picture." Ironically, there are likely far more modern readers who know what it is than there are those who know what a dodo or larkspur is.
  • White Bunny: The White Rabbit
  • The Wonderland: Trope Namer.
  • World of Chaos

Adaptations with their own trope pages include:

Other adaptations of Alice in Wonderland contain examples of:

  • All-Star Cast
    • The 1999 adaptation features a lot of well-known faces, including Martin Short as the Mad Hatter, Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat, Christopher Lloyd as the White Knight, Gene Wilder as the Mock Turtle, and a breakout role for Tina Majorino.
    • The 1985 version also features a lot of names in the cast, like Sammy Davis Jr as the Caterpillar, Telly Savalas as the Cheshire Cat, Carol Channing as the White Queen, Roddy McDowall as the March Hare, and Ringo Starr as the Mock Turtle.
    • A 1933 version includes W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle and Gary Cooper as the White Knight, among other stars.
  • And You Were There: In the 1999 Hallmark TV movie, the guests at the party being held by Alice's parents become the characters in Wonderland. The same goes for some of the toys in Alice's room.
    • Toys in Alice's room being Wonderland characters was also used as a motif in Jan Svankmajer's version, though in a more sinister way.
    • An early silent film version also features this where Alice attempts to steal some tarts from the cook before her sister calls her out for an outing where she sees things like a cat in a tree. Caption: Things we do and see before we sleep often influence our dreams.
  • Behind a Stick: Happens in the 1999 version when Alice is looking for her flamingo.
  • Coming of Age Story: The 1985 TV musical has Alice learning to become a fearless, grown-up girl. The 1999 version also does this, but to a less obvious extent.
  • Covers Always Lie: Some video stores do this with the Fiona Fullerton film, where they take Peter Sellers's face, slap it on the cover and attempt to claim he's the star so they can make a sale.
  • Either or Title: Hanna-Barbera's 1967 revisionist special (aired on ABC) was called Alice In Wonderland, or: What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?
  • Gender Flip: In Frank Wildhorn's musical Wonderland, the Mad Hatter is a woman. In-universe, this is a Gender Bender (the Hatter is "new and improved"), brought on because the Hatter is Alice's Enemy Without.
  • No Name Given: Averted in the 1999 TV adaptation. It's shown that the White Rabbit's name is Frederick, The King's name is Cedric, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee's first names are Ned and Fred respectively.
  • Noodle Incident: In the 1999 version, The Great Cat Massacre of '28 and the Flamingo Plague of '26 are referred to.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: In the 1999 TV version, after Alice has gained confidence from her trip to Wonderland and has performed The Lobster Quadrille to an applauding audience, she sees the Cheshire Cat among the crowd, who gives her a congratulatory smile.
    • In Jan Svankmajer's adaptation, Alice wakes up in her room and everything seems fine, except the rabbit display cage is empty and glass broken. She finds a pair of scissors in the Rabbit's secret drawer and contemplates cutting his head off next time. Brr...
  • Puppy Love: BKN's Alice in Wonderland: What's the Matter with Hatter features Alice befriending a younger Mad Hatter.
  • Running Gag: In Svankmajer's adaption, Alice has really bad luck with drawers. Whenever she tries to open one, she ends up pulling the knob out.
  • Visual Pun: In the 1999 version:

Hatter: Well then, I rest my case.
March Hare: Where?
Hatter: There. *points to a pile of suitcases that appeared out of nowhere*

There was also an animated series by Nippon Animation, fondly remembered by many in Europe and other parts of the world not the US. English dub of first episode:

  • Butt Monkey: Little Bill. If there is a problem that needs to be solved, just call him. Even if you have to drag him kicking and screaming to it.
  • Cain and Abel: The Queen of Hearts and her sister, the Queen of Spades. One episode reveals that the Queen of Spades threatened to invade Wonderland if it ever snowed during the summer. Which she does when Alice accidentally breaks a weather house controlling Wonderland's weather.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: In a realm full of them, the croquet-obsessed White Queen is often the most blatantly out there.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Only during the first episode and a few after it. The rest of the series has Alice primarily fading out our world and into Wonderland in the blink of an eye.
  • Jerkass: The Wonderlanders' treatment of Humpty Dumpty as he's hanging by his bowtie from a tree, actively placing bets on whether he'll fall or not, does seem rather cruel.
  • Large and In Charge: The Queen of Hearts naturally.
  • No Name Given: Averted. Alice's sister is named Celia.
  • Only Sane Man: Often Alice, but she just as often jumps right into the madness. Uncharacteristically, the Queen of Hearts also often fulfills this role.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Arguably, the King and Queen of Hearts. The King leads the charge to try and save his old friend Humpty Dumpty from a gruesome end, and the Queen of Hearts actively participates in the daily goings-on of the Wonderlanders (whether the Wonderlanders like it or not is another story though).
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: There was a hilarious scene that lasted a whole minute during the second episode in the hall of doors, which involved the White Rabbit tricking Alice into going through one door while he exits through another, and the two of them running into each other and twirling around, arms linked, unable to stop themselves.
  1. Also a case of Separated by a Common Language - it's still called treacle in the UK