Saturday, 4 July 2009


Apologies in advance to Sharon, Andrew and any other Alice-phobes, but as well as being American Independence Day - Happy 4th July to all my friends in the USA - today is the 147th anniversary of the day, in 1862, on which a character called Alice exerted an independence of her own, broke free of the imagination of a young Oxford don named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and - like a handful of other literary characters - began living an immortal life in her own right.

I have written previously on my blog about the events of that famous day and you can read some of those stories hither, thither and yon!

Alice and the denizens of Wonderland have been envisaged by literally thousands of artists (above right is Arthur Rackham's 1907 interpretation), sculptors, theatre and ballet impresarios and, of course, film-makers beginning in Britain in 1903 with a film by Cecil Hepworth...

A Mad Tea Party

What I love about the Alice books is their ability to spawn any number of enterprises from high art to low porn - and just about everything in between.

One of the most recent extrapolations on the Alice myth is a engaging graphic novel, Wonderland, by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew.

Based (loosely) on the Disney characterisations, Wonderland takes up the story of what happened after Alice left that country - or, as the author would have us believe, she woke up.

What, for example were the ramifications of the King and Queen of Heart's courtroom being invaded by a child who was practically a mile high and who insisted on telling them that they were nothing but a pack of cards?

In Wonderland, suspicion of an anarchist plot arises (largely due to mischief-making by the Tweedle Twins) which is then focused on the supposed treachery of the royal herald, the White Rabbit, and his maid, Mary Ann (a character referred to but never encountered in Lewis Carroll's book), who has the misfortune to bear a superficial resemblance to the troublesome Alice.

In the Tulgey Wood

The wittily illustrated tale (originally published in parts) hovers somewhere between the Carrollian and the Disney versions of Alice's dreamworld and features the Jabberwock who didn't manage to whiffle his way into the film, members of the other royal suites of cards (ignored by Disney and Carroll) and those three little sisters - Elsie Lacie and Tillie - who, according to the Dormouse, lived at the bottom of a treacle well...

You probably need to have a rough idea of Carroll's book and the 1951 movie version if you're going to fully enjoy this diverting entertainment, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of - or affection for - Alice's Adventures will be intrigued to see yet another original (if curiouser-and-curiouser) take on this childhood classic.

Mary Ann at the Tea Party

Mary Ann in Wonderland

Chess and a Cheshire Cat

Advice from a Caterpillar

By the way (as the Cheshire Cat might say), who were Elsie Lacie and Tillie?

Well (and, as you may recall they were "well in"), they represented Alice Liddell and her two sisters Lorina and Edith to who Carroll first told the story: Lorina was 'Lorina Charlotte' or 'LC', hence 'Elsie'; Edith's family nickname was 'Matilda', thus 'Tillie' and Lacie is, obviously, an anagram of...

And here they are - Edith on the left, Lorina in the middle and Alice on the right - photographed by Lewis Carroll...

Edith, Lorina and Alice Liddell by Lewis Carroll

I'm wondering where your wanderings will take you today...

Images uploaded via flickr.


SharonM said...

I might very well take a look at Wonderland one of those days - I'm not totally Alice phobic.

And can I echo your 'Happy Independence Day!' message to all your USA blog readers.

Boris Hiestand said...

Great post!
I've decided to dedicate the upcoming posts on my dusty old blog to Alice... hopefully I'll come up with something interesting. I invite you to take a peek every couple of days!

Brian Sibley said...

SHARON M - My mission, of course, is to convert the world to Wonderlandism!

BORIS - My dear chap! Where have you been? Great to have you drop by: quite like old times! I've just seen the first of your 'dedicated doodles' of Mr W Rabbit! Superb! More! MORE!!