Sunday September 27, 2015

Exposing the curious world of Alice in Wonderland

Alice Liddell at age 6, posing as "The Beggar Maid." This photo, taken by Lewis Carroll, has given rise to speculation about the relationship between the Oxford don and the precocious little girl who inspired him to write "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Alice Liddell at age 6, posing as "The Beggar Maid." This photo, taken by Lewis Carroll, has given rise to speculation about the relationship between the Oxford don and the precocious little girl who inspired him to write "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Listen 45:06

On the 150th anniversary of its publication, we celebrate -- and dissect -- Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, one of the most powerful and influential works of literature ever written. Michael talks to Vanessa Tait, the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, who inspired the fictional Alice, and to David Day, the Canadian author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Decoded.

Alice Liddell and Vanessa Tait

Alice Liddell in 1858/Vanessa Tait dressed as her great-grandmother. (Source: "The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll" by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood/Vanessa Tait)

After the Bible and Shakespeare, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is the most widely-quoted book in the Western world. It has been translated into at least 174 languages.

In this fascinating hour-long special, we learn about the world in which Alice and her family lived; her relationship with the Oxford mathematician, Charles Dodgson (aka, Lewis Carroll), and the characters that inhabited their world.

Who was real-life model for The Red Queen? The hookah-smoking caterpillar? And why did the Cheshire Cat have such an oddly-shaped smile?

Alice meets the caterpillar

Alice meets the hookah-smoking caterpillar.

On November 13, 2015, we received this note from The British Library:

The precursor to the Alice In Wonderland manuscript, called Alice Under Ground, has been in our possession since 1948 and we have now made it available for all to browse.

This edition is unique in that it was created by Charles Dodgson as a gift for Alice Liddell in 1864 rather than for publication, for which he adapted it a year later.