It’s true. We are obsessed with Alice. That pleasant day in 1862, spent on a river trip up the Thames with a picnic, served as a launching point for something that would change the literary world forever. The enduring popularity of Alice in Wonderland for over 150 years is truly a phenomenon and during its history, it has been translated into 174 major languages in varying dialects. The book’s delightful wordplay makes it a torment for translators but that has not stopped its spread of popularity around the world since its original publication date back in 1865.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, best known by his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll, was born in the village of Daresbury, England, on January 27, 1832. As a boy, Carroll excelled in mathematics and often entertained his 10 siblings with elaborate stories. He suffered from a serious stammer, but was quite fluent when speaking with children and it was Alice, the daughter of Henry George Liddell, who can be credited with his inspiration. During that afternoon picnic on the riverbank with Alice and her two sisters, Carroll created a dream-like place and Wonderland was born as an adventure playground for the imagination.
Filled with puzzles, riddles and conundrums, his story was one to delight the children while intriguing the dark curiosities of adults. Amid his nonsensical world, there was room for everyone. His fantastical tale of magic potions, secret doors and grinning cats, has never been out of print since it was first published in 1865. Over the course of a century and a half, his tale has inspired countless works from ballets to paintings to films and computer games. Critics have delved into dark theories of drugs and Freudian frolic and his work continues to resonate and infuse every corner of popular culture. Despite the diversity of the audience, one thing remains the same. We have all found ourselves lured down the rabbit hole and have fallen helplessly in love with the strange world of Wonderland.
Carroll had a unique ability to create a curious childhood dream where we could lose ourselves. We are allowed to escape our reality and tumble into a whimsical world of nonsense where rules do not exist and madness is around every corner. Whether it is a survival guide for enduring our current state of societal chaos or just a bedtime story, the debates and theories will continue to flurry around the epic tale of nonsensical humor and unforgettable characters. Once the door to wonderland is open, it never completely shuts behind us. After 150 years, we are all still mad about Alice and Carroll’s enduring literary work was, and remains to be, an invitation to play.