A good question might be; ever since the book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was published in 1865, did Lewis Carroll know how big a success it would really be? Perhaps he did back then, in his time, but he couldn't have known how big an influence it would become over the next 150+ years. And since its first movie adaptations, it's come a long way in reaching new audiences. How far, you might ask? Well, sit down at the Hatter's table, and let's look at it together! (One lump of sugar or two?)
Maybe we should first consider the writer before we dive into the story he became so famous for, and his muse who became the Alice we all came to know so well. Well, at least in the story she was named for, that is.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in Daresbury, Cheshire County, England, January 27th, 1832. He was the eldest son in a family of 13. His father was the vicar of Daresbury, but almost nothing is written about his mother. All that is known about her is that with 11 children to raise, she devoted herself entirely to raising them, and was known to be gentle but firm as a mother. With the industrial revolution about to begin, at the same time as the start of the age of Queen Victoria, the time seemed right for someone like Dodgson to be born in its midst. He was known as the loving oldest sibling who would perform for his brothers and sisters, dressed in a powdered wig and robe and perform magic, and he wrote plays for a puppet theatre he helped build. He was a giver, a nurturer, and he invented games and told countless stories to entertain the others while his father worked and his mother kept track of the other siblings. Dodgson idolized his father, and when he died in 1868, he said, "It was the greatest blow that has ever fallen on my life."
Charles Dodgson the adult was a shy, withdrawn, stuttering mathematician who was an Oxford don at Christ Church, Oxford. He rarely left the college to go anywhere, with the one exception of leaving to tour the Continent. After that, he never left Oxford again. His pen name, Lewis Carroll, was a play on words, which he took from his own name and transposed it. (Don't ask me what that means!) Dodgson was a deeply religious man, he never married, and aside from the faculty that he was affiliated with at Christ Church, he never got along with anyone that wasn't a young child. He loved kids, and became the premier Victorian photographer of children. But it was his muse, Alice Pleasance Liddell, that he told the story of a young girl named Alice who fell down a rabbit hole into a wonderland. Alice the muse was ten, and Dodgson and she both became immortalized by the story. To speculate just how far Dodgson's relationship with Alice the muse went would be irresponsible, but there are many who today would possibly look at him as a story-telling dirty old man. But Dodgson's eccentricities went further than that, not only in his writing but also in his life and work. His "Alice" books were the only ones of which he wrote, although he wrote a series of other books. He wrote "Euclid and His Modern Rivals", "The Hunting of the Snark", "Sylvie and Bruno", a book about fairies, and still others. But after writing "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and its sequel "Through the Looking-Glass", he never wrote another word about Alice, and found himself being plagued by the success of "Alice", so much so that he returned letters that were addressed to Lewis Carroll, and actively distanced himself from any connection to either of those two books in particular. He even went so far as to deny any knowledge of having anything to do with "such children's subjects".
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was first published in 1865, three years after first being told to Alice the muse, to amazing success. The kids loved and the illustrations were a big hit as well, giving great nods of acknowledgement to the writer and the imagination that went into the writing of the book. The characters were vivid and alive in the book, and it would undergo different versions and revisions so as to better accommodate the younger generations. Dodgson, sadly, never went on any book tours, or else he could have truly seen how far his story reached his readers, especially where the kids were concerned. But Dodgson had nothing to do with it, he preferred to let the sales speak for themselves; besides, he wasn't worried about money, his wages for being an Oxford don and professor more than paid for whatever he needed or wanted.
An unfortunate thing about the "Alice" sequel, "Through the Looking Glass", was that it was never as successful as the original "Alice". It's documented as having only earned only a third of the money that "Alice in Wonderland" earned. It was more panned by critics than it was read by kids at the time, and it's possible that was the reason why he didn't write anymore "Alice" stories. Although the imagination was there, so was a profound sense of total nonsense and lack of any real direction. I wondered why this was myself, so I bought a copy of the book and read it, and came to find out why for myself. I had only read it once before, when I was about thirteen or fourteen, and I remembered not liking it much. But this time when I read it, I understood why it was such a dead end to kids and not thought of well as a book.
"Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There)" is written from the point of view of a chess game, which makes it very difficult for anyone to really understand what the point of the story is, or what direction the story is supposed to go. Alice returns to the wonderland, this time by going through the fireplace mirror, only this time she finds herself even more lost than the first time when she visited. Not only is she thrown off by the story, but so is the reader, and all the different sudden episodes that emerge from nowhere makes it near impossible to keep track of anything in order. And, in all honesty, I read the book twice, and I still had trouble trying to figure out what the point was to any of it. I finished the book as confused as when I started it, and with the exception of the very beginning, where Alice and her cat and kittens are playing in her parent's living room, the rest of the book has no reason for having been written. There is something interesting about "Looking Glass", however; it features two well-known poems, "Jabberwocky" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter".
Outside of his writing, Dodgson was also known to have a passion for technical gadgets and games. He created several math games, one of which became an early version of what is known today as Scrabble. He also created the game Logic, although it's hard to say that he ever earned any money for it at the time. During the last twenty years of his life, Dodgson's life remained largely unchanged, his fame and wealth only grew bigger, while he remained distanced from the "Alice" books as well as other books he wrote. At one point, he traveled to Russia in 1867, the only time he ever traveled abroad, with the Reverend Henry Liddon, as an ecclesiastic. On his way there and back, he saw different cities in Belgium, Germany, Poland, and France. Unfortunately he died of pneumonia following influenza, at his sister's house, on January 14th, 1898. He was two weeks away from turning 66. Perhaps no one will ever really understand Dodgson's vast eccentricities, or what led to his most famous works. What could have or should have been the beginning of a great series of children's books, beginning with "Alice", also seemed to end with "Through the Looking Glass". With all this observed about the man and the writer, now we can make further observations about the upcoming adaptation of "Through the Looking Glass". More tea, by the way?
"Alice Through the Looking Glass" brings back the gang from Tim Burton's movie "Alice in Wonderland", including Johnny Depp as the Hatter, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, and the late, great Alan Rickman once again lending his voice to the caterpillar Absolem. This was Rickman's last known performance. An interesting fact about "Alice in Wonderland" is that it's been adapted to film and animation some thirty times in its history, including stop-motion animation, live-action films, and various indie animation films. Unfortunately, since the story-line isn't going to be released anytime soon, so the movie can be enjoyed by the fans, I'm having to hope that the story will be more fun than the book never was. We can, however, enjoy thinking about the characters that we enjoyed so much in the 2010 movie.
Alice Kinglseigh herself, the Alice, as all the characters kept referring to her, was introduced as a teenager rather than a young girl of ten. It's a slightly odd change, considering the idea of this being more an adult version than one actually meant for kids. We can speculate that since "Wonderland", Alice has managed to succeed as an apprentice in her father's would-be partner's trading company, and she's managed to enjoy achieving different successes in her life. Alice has always been headstrong, compassionate, and loyal to those she considers her friends. In "Wonderland" she sought out advice from Absolem for his wisdom, and was ready to help the Hatter in his time of need. She might also have been sensitive to him not only because of his insanity, but perhaps because he was someone who could understand her nature. Wasikowa's version of playing Alice is a great casting choice, she plays the embodiment of good very well.
The Red Queen also returns, as evil as in "Wonderland", and I can only guess she and the Knave of Hearts were still in exile together. But seeing as how Crispin Glover isn't in the trailer anywhere, as well as not being cast in the sequel, I wonder if the Red Queen might have killed the Knave at some point. Which would make sense, since he tried to kill her at the end of the first movie. hahaha! The Red Queen is also one of the most famous homicidal dictators ever known, who, I can see wanting the words "OFF WITH HER HEAD!" being etched into her gravestone. Red Queen is selfish, power mad, and will stop at nothing to keep her reign secure and her power in one piece. It was mentioned in "Wonderland" that she murdered her husband, out of fear that he was going to leave her. She is truly deranged and the perfect embodiment for evil in this story. But it seems that she gets an unusual ally when she meets Time, who is played by Sasha Baron Cohen. The movie's description of the character suggests he might actually be more evil and possibly more insane than the Red Queen herself. Red Queen has no compassion to speak of, except for the Knave in the last movie, and she seemed to be truly in love with him. But who knows how far that went after the movie was over. Off with his head, maybe?
Johnny Depp returns as the Mad Hatter, who seems to be the focus of the new movie. I mean, after all, who else could play the Hatter once Johnny's played him, you know? The man rules and owns his characters to the point that no one else could really hope to play them again. But anyway, I digress. (Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!)
The Hatter is one of the more interesting characters, brought to vivid life and colorful energy. As is Alice's way, he is a loyal friend to those he cares about, and he is loyal to the White Queen and Alice as well. Hatter is compassionate, loyal, and someone who would rather have a quiet mind than the crowded one he has. He is quite insane, probably from his trade as a hatter and working for too many years with mercury. But he's also a good guy who refuses to allow harm to his friends as well as himself; he makes a fierce fighter in battle, even though sometimes has to improvise different ideas for different situations. There is also an affection he has toward Alice, but it seems more of a kind of uncertain puppy love that's hard to determine. Although he would like to be more a part of Alice's life possibly, Hatter would never consciously deny her to explore her life and follow her own pursuits.
The White Queen is another interesting character, who serves as the other queen in this story, who may or may not be as crazy as the Red Queen. If you remember in "Wonderland", when Alice and the White Queen were talking, Alice suggested that she couldn't imagine what goes on in the Red Queen's castle, the White Queen tells her very straightforwardly, "Oh, yes, I can." Is it possible that the White Queen is as insane as her sister? Or could it be that because they're sisters and having grown up together, she knows very well what Red Queen is like, inside and out? These and more questions could abound, and can only be answered on May 27th. And yes, I plan to see it as well. Anne Hathaway returns as her.
Matt Lucas, who plays both Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, also returns, who's a great pair of characters. I look forward to seeing them in the new movie. The rest of the gang are also in the movie, from the Cheshire Cat (duh!) all the way to the Dormouse, the White Rabbit and the March Hare. One additional note that is of interest to me, is that we get to meet Hatter's dad in this movie, played by Rhys Ifans. You'll remember him from playing Luna Lovegood's dad in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One".
Sadly, all we can do now is wait for the movie to come out, so we can see how much fun the movie truly is, so as soon as I finish my tea, I'll leave you to ponder that for yourselves. Pass the scones, please? :)