After 150 years, Alice in Wonderland still feeds heads

Thu Jul 2, 2015 9:08am EDT
 
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By Nigel Stephenson

LONDON (Reuters) - It's 150 years since a hookah-smoking caterpillar sitting on a mushroom asked a curious young girl called Alice "Who are you?" and readers have been wondering the same thing ever since.

Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", with characters including the Hatter, the White Rabbit and the "off with his head" Queen of Hearts, has delighted generations of children since its publication in 1865.

Carroll first told the story on July 4, 1862 as he and a friend rowed 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her two sisters along the River Thames in Oxford.

The Hatter's mad tea party, the tears of the Mock Turtle and a croquet game in which flamingos are used as mallets make up a topsy-turvy world of delightful nonsense.

But "Alice" and "Through the Looking-Glass", published six years later, continue to captivate adults with their brilliant and subversive portrayal of how the grown-up world might appear to a seven-year old.

"There are really two stories," said Oxford University academic Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, whose new book "The Story of Alice" reveals the history and impact of the stories and the relationships between their author and the real-life Alice for whom they were written.

One is a story to help children grow up "because it is about how confusing and surprising and disturbing the adult world is, but described in a comic and playful way".

"But it is also a book for adults, who want to recapture that sense of wonder that they might have lost."   Continued...

 
Ella poses as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, outside the MCM Comic Con at the Excel Centre in East London, Britain, in this October 25, 2014 file photo. ARTS-ALICE/ REUTERS/Andrew Winning/Files