Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Happy 150th Birthday, Alice!

Jill Silverberg

It’s almost hard to believe that it has been 150 years since Lewis Carroll’s Alice fell down the rabbit hole and tumbled into the weird, mad, and impossible world of Wonderland. Since its publication in 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has not only become part of the literary classic but also a figure that squarely represents the innocence of childhood.

Considering its age, it’s understandable that there have been quite a few interpretations on Carroll’s -or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s- most famous character. Indeed, the metaphorical journey of Alice has almost become as iconic as the girl herself. So, in honor of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland turning the big 1-5-0, I’ve compiled a top five list of Alices. But before I reveal the list, let’s get some things out of the way.
  1. This list and its ranking has been created based on my own personal opinions. So yes, expect some biases
  2. For the sake of simplicity, I’m only sticking to Alices from direct adaptions. There are simply too many Alices from works that are allusions or influenced by Carroll’s novel to count
  3. Yes I am excluding the ‘Once Upon a Time’ miniseries since I didn’t watch it
  4. All characters featured on this list are from works that I have personally seen, read, or played
Alright enough stalling. Here’s my list!
5. Alice from Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951)
I figured that no Alice list would be complete without the lead from Disney’s classic film. While I am not a super big fan of the movie itself; I find it rather slow paced and think Alice is a bit annoying, for many, this is the first version of Alice in Wonderland they experienced. Despite my personal qualms with the character, she is the only Alice on the list that’s closest to the original age of the novel’s Alice. Considering that, it makes sense that she acts the way she does; she is a child after all. In a recent NPR interview with a Lewis Carroll scholar, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst talked about how the story itself was crafted and injected with the love that Dodgson has for children. Perhaps that’s why the story has continued to resonate with modern society today. We were all children once, each with our own wild imaginations. Alice’s adventures could very well be one’s interpretations of an afternoon spent inside the imagination of a child. It’s wild and crazy yet beautiful and magical. Yet despite its charms, at the end of the day, there is nothing better than being back home in reality. With the right balance of whimsy, weirdness, and Disney magic, the movie does a fantastic job at translating the original work into a cinematic masterpiece.  
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4. Alice from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Tim Burton’s take on the story deserves kudos for trying to be the sequel to the original set of stories that we didn’t ask for or need. Rather than being the story of a young girl falling down the rabbit hole, Alice is a teenager stuck in the mundanity of life, an unconventional person being suffocated by conventionality. This time, when Alice lands in Wonderland -Underland- , it’s because she is some prophesied hero who will ultimately take down the Queen of Hearts and will slay the Jabberwock. However, there is a catch: is she the right Alice? While I wasn’t in love with this Burton film, I did enjoy the fact that Alice is simply just too out-of-the-box for Victorian England and that, despite social pressures to conform, doesn’t. As someone who also doesn’t always feels like she fits in, it was cool to see this uncomfortableness reflected on the silver screen within the context of Alice in Wonderland. Also, unlike the former Alice, this one actually DOES something rather than sitting down, crying, and waiting for help. As will become apparent, I have a preference for characters that are proactive with solving their problems. However, this Alice does sport the best fashion. I really wish I had access to her closet…

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3. Alice from the Syfy miniseries Alice (2009)
I’ll confess right off the bat, I am a big fan of Syfy’s miniseries. Tin Men was amazing and Alice, at least for me, served as a great follow-up to the channel’s reimaginations of classic works. So what about this Alice? Well, for one thing she is a judo sensei which means that this Alice can actually kick some butt. For the most part, this is an Alice that doesn’t need no saving. Another reason I really love this Alice and take on the story is the fact that she has both a personality and a compelling backstory. We learn at the beginning that Alice’s father disappeared when she was just a child. Within the first half hour, we see that this is something that has continued to haunt her into her adult life. When she finally tumbles into Wonderland, Alice learns its dark secrets and that her father could be one of the many people trapped there. Her journey through Wonderland becomes more than just an adventure to get home; it becomes a race against time to save the lives of those she loves. The story in Alice is an intense journey that spans across the unique landscape of Wonderland and involves a plethora of amazing characters. Unlike the former entries on this list, this story isn’t for kids and I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Taking away the limitations of being a children’s story, the tale of Alice has a lot of room to play around with the concept of a girl or woman’s adventure underground in a world that doesn’t make sense.

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2. Alice from American McGee’s Alice (2000) and Alice: Madness Returns (2011)
What if Alice’s childhood adventures in Wonderland all occurred in her mind? What if, due to a horrific tragedy, her mind and Wonderland, have been corrupted by insanity? By far the darkest incarnation of Alice on this list, this Alice does not mess around. Armed with the legendary Vorpal Blade, Alice hacks and slashes her way through the warped and dangerous landscape of Wonderland, vanquishing her enemies in a flurry of flourish and blood. As someone who loves reimaginations of my favorite stories, American McGee’s Alice and its sequel are everything I love rolled into two amazing video games. While the former two Alices aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, this Alice is the one who gives the concept of getting one’s hands dirty an all new meaning. This game is as beautiful as it is violent and I love the fact that it is a twisted take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice that stands at its center, bloody blade in hand. 
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1. Alyss from The Looking Glass Wars series (2004) by Frank Beddor

This three book series centers on the adventures of Alyss Heart, princess of Wonderland. After a violent coup caused by her Aunt Redd, a child Alyss finds herself passing through a portal into Victorian England where no one believes her story save for a kind Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who transforms her story into a work of fiction, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. After being trapped on earth for many years, Alyss convinces herself her former life was just a dream, only to be pulled back into her old world after reuniting with old friends. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this series and this take on Alice. Alyss starts out as a child and we see her grow into both a woman and an eventual queen. Armed with her powerful imagination, Alyss is a force to be reckoned with, and only grows stronger over the course of the series. If you are looking for a new take on the story of Alice and her adventures combined with a complex and unique leading lady and settings and characters that are unforgettable, this is the book series for you! 

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