“Johnny Depp has made it cool to like Alice,” was Miss Alice Llandudno Nicol Thompson’s answer to my question — Why do children today still love Alice in Wonderland? With Johnny Depp’s 3-D visual spectacle of a movie currently standing at a worldwide gross of $1,024,299,904, I suspect he made Alice in Wonderland very cool for a lot of Disney executives too.
But what about serious Carroll fans? How do they view Disney’s 21st-century technological efforts to keep the legacy “cool”?
“Despite the errors and license used by Disney in the story, it is Disney that continues to bring Aliceto the children of today,” comments Lewis Carroll Society member Keith Wright (Chairman and Editor, Daresbury Chronicle). “Tim Burton’s Alice, although not an Alice that Lewis Carroll would recognize, did contain the Wonderland characters and used some of the text from the books.”
Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) wrote his Alice books for children. His inspiration for Alice, namely Alice Liddell, is the focus of a magnificent 160th birthday celebration in Llandudno, Wales on May 4, 2012.
“Charles Dodgson was a man who enjoyed teaching children; he liked a child with an inquiring mind but he was not a disciplinarian,” adds Wright. And Alice Liddell was indeed a child with an inquiring mind. Her favorite expression was “Let’s pretend,” and so it didn’t take long for her to become Mr. Dodgson’s favorite child. She adored the fun escape an undisciplined teacher offered in the disciplined world of Victorian life at Christ Church, Oxford during the mid 19th century. Mr. Dodgson would take Alice and her siblings on fun outings, which always included exciting storytelling. The most famous outing of all is the one credited with Dodgson’s first full telling ofAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This took place on Friday, July 4, 1862. Soon after hearing the story, young Alice pestered Mr. Dodgson to write it down for her. Thanks to Alice’s persistence, Mr. Dodgson (who had never written down any of his amazing tales) finally did create the book and presented it to her as an early Christmas gift on Nov. 26, 1864. The book, which took Dodgson 18 months to finish, and which he originally called Alice’s Adventures Underground, was handwritten and hand-illustrated by him.
Miss Alice Llandudno, Nicol Thompson
Over 145 years later, artists and creators are still reaping huge rewards from adapting Lewis Carroll’s classic books for every form of media and for each new generation of audiences. Tim Burton and Disney opted to update the story so that it would be “cool” for today’s younger movie going audience. But how do literary societies such as the Lewis Carroll Society, which strive to preserve Carroll’s classics in their original format, feel about staying “cool” in terms of appealing to younger fans?
“There is no doubt that literary societies in the UK have their backs to the wall,” explains Keith Wright. The younger generations do not join literary societies. They see them as elitist organizations, which does not help. Meetings containing research papers are not accessible to a generation brought up on getting their knowledge in a fairly unchallenging way — that is via TV or the Internet.”
Mr. Wright is a good friend and in ways a teacher to Miss Alice Llandudno, Nicol Thompson, who admits she prefers “reading the book to watching the films.”
There are currently Alice weekends in many towns around England supported by the Lewis Carroll Society, including Oxford (where the book was born), Lyndhurst in Hampshire (where Alice Liddell lived after she was married), Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge, and of course Llandudno in Wales (where Alice Liddell vacationed with her family), which is preparing for its commemorative Alice affair on May 4, 2012. All these towns attempt to appeal to fans both young and old.
Llandudno has historically enjoyed a healthy tourist trade thanks to its connection to Alice Liddell. This connection grew stronger in the 1970s when local residents Muriel Ratcliffe and her husband Murray began to consider an idea for an Alice adventure.
The couple found a basement in a property in the town that was damp and often flooded. With the help of local tradesmen, they created and launched the Rabbit Hole. The Rabbit Hole tourist attraction complete with life-size models of the book’s characters remained very popular with tourists from 1990 until Muriel Ratcliffe decided to retire in 2009.
At this point the content was put up for sale and was purchased by entrepreneurs and owners of Alice In Wonderland Ltd., Barry Mortlock and Simon and Eileen Burrows.
Much like the approach taken by Burton and Disney, Mortlock and the Burrows saw an opportunity to build a bigger and grander Alice adventure, utilizing cutting edge technology to create a 21st-century experience that was both modern and educational for children of all ages.
They worked with local government to conceptualize a Llandudno Alice Trail, which would utilize key locations around the town, including a popular tourist spot known as Happy Valley.
“The upcoming Alice Day is an excellent opportunity to reaffirm the connection that Llandudno has with Alice, and also with the Alice Trail that the County and Town Councils have funded to be built in the town. This will feature sculptures, a giant pocket watch and a new bandstand in Happy Valley, which will have the various characters from the stories cast into it. We already have a Cheshire Cat in the Happy Valley!” says Llandudno’s Mayor, Greg Robbins.
Mortlock and the Burrows will continue development over the summer with a young creative team of 3D artists and technical wizards. Their big picture concept? A visual spectacle such as has never been seen before in any other attraction in the UK.
So what might Alice Liddell have said about these creative upgrades to her favorite story in her summer vacation town?
I don’t know for sure of course. I do know Alice was a talented artist herself whose favorite expression as a child was “Let’s pretend.” Hence I like to imagine she might be thinking “Cool!”
Photos courtesy of Alice In Wonderland Ltd. and Keith Wright
C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
Alice Pleasance Liddell, Summer 1858. Courtesy of © National Portrait Gallery, London
In the year 2143, will we be able to say Harry Potter lives, Harry Potter is global, or even thatHarry Potter’s enduring legacy continues to inspire all age groups?
None of us really know for sure what will happen to Harry Potter between now and then. What you should know is that there is one book, which, 146 years after it was first published in 1865, has accomplished all these things and is also one of the most loved books in today’s world. The book to which I am referring is of course Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I like to call “Alice.”
A great many people saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie, which, despite its short theatrical window, grossed $1.02 billion worldwide. That was just an appetizer in comparison to the massive global run up to “Alice’s” 150th birthday in the fall of 2015.
Much like the closing ceremony of one Olympics and the heralding of the next one, the road to “Alice’s” sesquicentennial ceremony has already inspired a magnificent exhibition to be seen in some of the world’s greatest museums, with more exhibitions and events in the works along the way to the lighting of “Alice’s” torch in four years time.
As a passionate “Alice” fan and a relative of Alice Pleasance Liddell, the original inspiration for the book, I never tire of immersing myself in the rich culture that was born from Lewis Carroll’s fantastical dream world. In every age since the 19th century, “Alice” has inspired artists and scientists from the worlds of mathematics, fine arts, literature, puzzles, games, toys, film, dance, music, poetry, video games, photography, cartooning, and well, let’s just say you’ve got your work cut out, Harry Potter!
So now…… are you ready for a little more tea?
Come Away From Her (After Lewis Carroll) 2003 — Kiki Smith Acrylic on Paper. Courtesy of © ULAE, Inc.
I had the great pleasure of chatting with Eleanor Clayton, Assistant Curator of the Tate Liverpool’s fantastical new Alice In Wonderland exhibition currently showing in England before heading out to other parts of Europe.
“Alice” lives on — Why is “Alice” so inspiring to all ages and to generation after generation?
One of the things we notice about “Alice” is that it is one of the few books that have never been out of print since it was first published. It has literally stayed in fashion the entire way since 1865. “Alice” just continues to appeal. I think that it’s the nature of the story. You have a child heroine. Alice is beset by trials and tribulations that she has to go through and yet she always remains calm. Whether it’s the Mad Hatter or the Queen (trying to chop off her head), she meets the challenge and prevails. There is something about Alice’s journey that everyone can relate to.
The other thing that we have actually focused a lot on in the exhibition is that when the original manuscript was created, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) included pictures. The pictures were an integral part of the story. There aren’t actually a lot of descriptions of the book’s characters including Alice. Instead, on the first page of the original manuscript, there is a picture of Alice. It doesn’t tell us that Alice wears this kind of a dress or has this kind of hair. It leaves it very open for generation after generation to reinvent Alice. In our exhibition there are Alices from the 1930’s, Alices from the 1960’s, and even more contemporary Alices. Each generation has been able to reinvent Alice in the style of that generation. This says something about the richness of the book too. Each generation finds it appealing and wants to contribute something new.
How many Alices do you have in total in the exhibition?
In just one room we have over 40 illustrated editions of the book from 1907 onwards. I would say we have over a hundred Alices (character depictions) in the exhibition.
“Alice” is global — How represented is “Alice” on a global basis throughout the exhibition?
We have illustrated editions from the western world but we also have Eastern European and Russian illustrated editions. We have work by an artist called Nalini Malani, who’s done a series called Living in Alice Time. She finds in Alice a figure that relates to the political situation in India and her work is representative of that. Unfortunately, we don’t have “Alices” from Australia and New Zealand but we do have most of the Northern Hemisphere covered.
Alice’s Adventures Underground, the original manuscript, was handwritten and hand illustrated by Lewis Carroll and presented to Alice Liddell as an early Christmas gift. How significant is this manuscript?
I think it is very significant. We’ve found it incredibly interesting as an early form of book art, which became hugely popular in the 1860’s and beyond. The images are such an integral part of the original manuscript that it is a visual work of art in itself. Even Carroll’s text has visual elements. In the 19th century, art was about paintings, and books were books, but when you look at the original manuscript it is definitely an art object in itself, which is why it is really significant. Later on after the “Alice” books were published, Carroll published a facsimile of the original manuscript.
Alice in Wonderland Magic Lantern Slides 1900 - 1925. Courtesy of © University of Exeter
The manuscript’s sale by Alice Pleasance Liddell in 1928 for £15,400 ($77,000) set a new auction record for a book at that time in history, not to mention the fact that the buyer was an American, Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach.
The book has now become so iconic that the original manuscript itself is almost like a relic. We are very lucky to be exhibiting it. It has only left the British Library once (for a trip to New York City) since it was presented as a gift to the British Library by a group of American businessmen. The security we have had to go through to protect it is incredible. It has to be kept in a metal (versus wooden) vitrine with glass that is thicker than 11 millimeters. It also has to have two special Abloy locks. Then there is CCTV on it and security guards. It’s this little book the size of a hand. People come into the exhibit and are drawn to it. Then they very quickly fall down the rabbit hole into all of these artifacts that have built up because of this one little book.
What will people like most about the exhibition?
Children will see the original manuscript, Tenniel’s drawings, toys and games that were around in the 19th century after the publication of the book. There are also beautiful paintings, colorful artworks from people like Max Ernst and Dali as well as other “Alice” art from the 1960’s. There is a reading area in the exhibition. There’s also a participative artwork by Allen Ruppersberg where visitors can make their own books.
Highlights or personal favorites of the exhibition?
One of the highlights is an opportunity to learn more about Dodgson’s photography. We have his photographic equipment and a number of his own beautiful photographs. Charles Dodgson was a writer but he was also an artist who thought in pictures, and it makes you realize why the imagery in “Alice” is so vivid.
A personal favorite is a beautiful oil painting called Alice by Max Ernst from 1941. In Ernst’s painting, Alice, we see the figure of Alice being reinvented for the first time as a young woman, no longer a young girl. Ernst started the artwork when he was a prisoner of war in France and then completed it in New York after he escaped; and so it brings out this important image of Alice as a symbol of hope.
My final favorite is the enormous painting of Wonderland by Luc Tuymans. When you stand in front of if you feel as if you could just walk into Wonderland. It was made in 2007, and it just shows again that even today, artists are still finding the idea of Wonderland such an inspiration.
For more information: Tate Liverpool
On January 29, 2012, Alice in Wonderland leaves the Tate Liverpool and travels to the MART (The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) in Trento and Rovereto, Italy before moving to the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany.
Eleanor Clayton and C. M. Rubin
C.M. Rubin is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
The book given by Lewis Carroll to Alice Liddell for Christmas
On November 26, 1864, Lewis Carroll gave my relative, Alice Pleasance Liddell, a book he had written for her. He called the book Alice’s Adventures Underground after considering titles such asAlice’s Golden House, Alice Among the Elves, Alice Among the Goblins, and Alice’s Doings In Wonderland. Carroll had spent over two years writing and illustrating the book for Alice. It consisted of ninety-two pages covered with his print like writing as well as thirty-seven of his own pen and ink drawings. The book given to Alice Liddell would change her life forever.
It all began (as Carroll reminded his followers on a number of occasions) because of a 10 year-old girl who had encouraged Carroll’s storytelling for years, and in particular a story he told about Alice in Wonderland during a summer day’s picnic on July 4, 1862. Alice was continuously insistent that Carroll write the story down for her, which he eventually did and ultimately presented to her as an early Christmas gift. The book would also change Carroll’s life forever, but it might never have happened if a young girl had not inspired the previously unpublished children’s book author to write the greatest children’s book of all time.
There are over 20,000 books, films, operas, plays and video games based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. It is estimated that over 8 billion people have read or seen presentations of the “Alice” books. Lewis Carroll is behind only the Bible and Shakespeare in the number of quotations from the “Alice” books that appear in published discourse. In addition to the new adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll’s and Liddell’s lives continue to inspire numerous new books, works of art, and film projects. And all because of “a book given.”
If the book given to Alice in 1864 was given today, just imagine the variety of different ways a creative chap like Lewis Carroll might have presented it to his Alice. Quantum leaps in technology have completely changed the way we write, illustrate, publish, market, promote and consume books. I find myself (like Alice) constantly curious and excited about discovering all the new products in the digital books wonderland, while at the same time overwhelmed by all the new found freedoms the technology revolution promises to offer me. Is the device simple stupid enough for me to connect with quickly in my already complicated life? Is it time to buy this tablet or this e-reader? Will I look out of date to my bridge pals when the new updated version is released in 6 months time? I also wonder whether any of us will recognize the content of yesterday’s “book” once the revolution settles down. Will writing for Google become such an integral part of the book marketing culture that creative processes are dramatically changed?
Amazon’s Kindle Fire
Between you and me, I yearn for some form of consolidation in all the craziness that would enable me to feel I can comment intelligently on what appears to be the longer term trends in the publishing model. One thing I know for sure: An entertainment business career which kept me moving through the theatrical, television, video, DVD, pay on demand and pay television formats taught me that we don’t stop watching great movies. As a passionate movie lover, I would argue that the changing technology enabled me to watch more great and even not so great movies than ever before, since I was able to do it more often thanks to a variety of formats that accommodated my ever-changing hectic lifestyle. In addition, those great movies that made that unforgettable connection and changed my life forever, I not only watched again and again, but I insisted on owning them in every possible format I could fit onto the living room shelf.
And so I don’t believe that passionate readers, like passionate movie lovers, will ever disappear. The way readers read will of course continue to evolve and change, but certain things about the cultural experience will not. For example, everything will still begin with the written word, and if that written word is to survive the test of time and change lives forever (like the book given to my relative in 1864), it will happen because of rare talent and creativity and innovative thinking in an age that is redefining how we shall read.
C. M. Rubin
(Photos courtesy of Amazon.com, Inc. and Henmead Enterprises, Inc.)
C.M. Rubin has more than two decades of professional experience in development, marketing, and art direction for a diverse range of media businesses. She is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
The Beggar Maid
THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSE OF ALL TIME by C. M. Rubin
Throughout history, the muse has provided an essential element required to inspire and motivate artists to create their very best work. From Manet’s Victorine Meurent, to Dali’s Gala Diakonova, to Lennon’s Yoko Ono - the complex psychology of the special connection between artist and muse has been discussed and debated in terms of its importance in the overall creative process. Then there are the muses that continue to influence and promote the legacy of that art throughout the course of their lifetimes and long afterwards.
In the lives of the great muses, there has never been a muse more recognized for the role she played as inspiration than that of Alice Liddell in the creation of Charles Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. On many occasions, Lewis Carroll reminded his followers that his inspiration had come from a 10 year old girl, the magical Alice Liddell, who had encouraged his story telling for years, and in particular the story he told about Alice in Wonderland during a summer day’s picnic on July 4, 1862. The real Alice was the daughter of Henry Liddell, the author of the celebrated Greek English Lexicon and the powerful Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford, where Dodgson taught mathematics. After hearing the story, Alice was continously persistent that Dodgson write it down for her, which he eventually did. He ultimately presented it to her (hand written and hand illustrated) as a Christmas gift 18 months later. In 1883, Carroll stated clearly in a letter to Alice’s mother that without Alice, he “might possibly never have written at all.”
Years before that golden afternoon, Dodgson was hired as Liddell family photographer to take portraits of Alice and her siblings. No picture taken by Dodgson (who became one of the most respected child photographers of his day) is more famous than his photograph of Alice — the portrait of Alice Liddell as the Beggar Maid. Alfred Lord Tennyson declared it the most beautiful photograph that he had ever seen. Indeed, it was then and still is today, one of the most famous photographs of all time. The gifted model, after all, was exceptionally beautiful, with an intensity and maturity that seems surreal for a child aged only seven at the time. She was a girl capable of inspiring a previously unpublished children’s book author to write the greatest children’s story of all time.
As the books became more famous, so did the author, and so did Alice Liddell. During her teenage years, her beauty and fame inspired Julia Margaret Cameron’s acclaimed series of photographs entitled Alethea (1872). As a wife and mother, eminent writers and artists would visit her home in Hampshire, England to meet the Alice of Wonderland fame. In 1883, Alice gave Carroll permission to publish the original manuscript given to her as a Christmas gift, providing that the proceeds were given to children’s hospitals. This led to Alice becoming even more engaged as a spokesperson both for these new causes and the Alice books. In 1932, the President of Columbia University in New York City honored Alice in front of the world as “the moving cause of this truly noteworthy contribution to English literature.”
There are over 20,000 books, films, operas, plays and video games based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It is estimated that over 8 billion people have read or seen presentations of the Alice books. Lewis Carroll is behind only the Bible and Shakespeare in the number of quotations from the Alice books that appear in everyday published discourse. In addition to the new adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll’s and Liddell’s lives continue to inspire numerous new books, works of art, and film projects. In my mind, it is this ongoing fascination with not just the books, but the story behind the story, that make Liddell the most influential muse of all time.
Portrait of Alice - Julia Margaret Cameron
Lewis Carroll and His Muse, Alice Liddell: The Controversial Relationship Relatives of the Real Alice in Wonderland Speak Out
Let’s put an end to this controversy, after 150 years. There is no smoking gun.
Hear our views on YouTube: Lewis and Alice
Mothers Day is just around the corner. It is a special day that has been around for nearly 100 years. This Mothers Day, I want you to think about this question - Who is your Alice? Everyone has an Alice and yes she should be honored on this Mothers Day.
When I say Alice, I am personally honoring my relative, Alice Liddell. Trust me, you too know Alice. You just may not realize that you know her. Alice is Alice Liddell. The REAL Alice in Wonderland. You would have had to grow up on another planet not to know the greatest childrens story of all time. If it were not for Liddell, Alice in Wonderland would not exist. Liddells life is actually more fascinating than the character she inspired. She was real and she was an amazing woman and mother - not only to her own children but to children around the world.
Alice Liddell met the author of Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dodgson, better known by the pen name Lewis Carroll. He would tell her and her siblings fascinating tales. Alice asked him to put those stories in writing and thus two years later, he delivered to Alice a hand written manuscript that became a childrens classic and most recently, another blockbuster movie.
Alice Liddell had an impressive line of suitors, including Queen Victorias son Prince Leopold. She was also adored by the twelfth Earl of Winchelsea. It was not until another wealthy country gentleman by the name of Reginald Hargreaves fell head over heels in love with Alice and finally won her hand that she eventually married in 1880. They later had three sons.
Normally a woman of Alices stature would have delegated the care and education of her sons to nannies and governesses. Not this Alice. She was a modern day woman and mother. She was involved in all her childrens activities, cheered for them at their sporting events, and even read her famous Alices Adventures Underground to them before bed. Her involvement was important in forming each sons character. This was her priority as a mother.
Unfortunately, not everybodys life can be a complete fairy tale, not even Alices. It was during World War One that she suffered the greatest pain any mother can endure. She lost two of her sons and worried about the third making it home safely. She and her husband were absolutely grief stricken. Alice was devastated, but held her head high. Her husband, on the other hand, was forever broken. Alice remained strong for herself and her husband. He suffered from failing health and Alice remained by his side until he slowly passed away.
Alice proved to be a strong foundation for her family. This role was not normally picked up by mothers of her generation. She was a great mother and even helped children besides her own. Lewis Carroll asked Alice for permission to publish her original manuscript, “Alices Adventures Underground,” and Alice agreed, provided that all proceeds were given to childrens hospitals and sick children. As the book became more successful, she was a spokesperson for childrens causes and went on to become patron of two childrens organizations, namely the Helpers of Wonderland and the Alice in Wonderland League. More than a hundred years later, their incredible work inspires others to help children in need.
Alice Liddells inspiring story had never been fully told. That is why my daughter Gabriella and I wanted to tell it. That is the story of our new book, The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Gabriella recently gave me the best compliment a mother could ever have. She told me that I was her Alice. So that is why I ask you: Who is your Alice? On this Mothers Day, tell your mother or the woman in your life who inspires you that she is your Alice - the woman who encourages you to reach higher, inspires you to experience your own adventures, and to give back so that children can experience real life fairy tales.