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The girl who inspired the character of Alice in Wonderland

Published: 2017.05.24 - 18:24:29   /  /  Miguel Darío García Porto  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

The girl who inspired the character of Alice in WonderlandIf we talk about children's literature, I'm sure we will not fail to mention the famous novel The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, one of the most popular books of the last century in that genre.

Published in 1865 by Lewis Carroll, it has been translated into 97 languages and in more than 150 years that have passed since it was first printed it has always been in the bookstores of the world.

The magical universe inhabited by unforgettable characters such as the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter or the Cheshire Cat, where the story unfolds has been taken to the movies, video games and the theater.

The girl who inspired the character of Alice in WonderlandIts plot has been the inspiration for cartoon series, songs, video clips by artists such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Gwen Stefani or Aerosmith, as well as for exhibitions and illustrations by universal painters such as Salvador Dalí.

But where did he get the inspiration to create that work? Is the figure of Alice based on a girl of flesh and blood or is it purely invented?

The answer to these questions has first and last names: Alice Liddell, who was born in Westminster, United Kingdom, on May 4, 1852, exactly 165 years ago.

The writer met her when Liddell was 3 years old and at first Dodgson made friends with Harry and Lorina, the little brothers of the little girl, whom he took to several boat trips and snacks in the parks near Oxford, but once Harry started going to school, Alice and her younger sister Edith joined the rides.

The girl who inspired the character of Alice in Wonderland

The outings became habitual during the following years, and little by little Carroll fancied to invent fantastic stories to entertain the girls. On one occasion, during a boat trip on River Thames, he explained to them the adventures of a young girl who was entering a rabbit hole.

Alice loved the story, so she asked him to write it. Carroll lent himself to it and, after two years working on it, adding characters and surrealistic situations, and making drawings to illustrate the manuscript, he gave it to the girl in the Christmas of 1864.

In October 1863, Dodgson showed the manuscript, titled ¨Alice’s Adventures UnderGround¨, to the London publisher Alexander Macmillan, who accepted to publish it, and suggested the collaboration of John Tenniel in the illustrations.

The book, illustrated by Tenniel, finally appeared in 1865, with the title changed as Dodgson preferred to title it "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", and signed it under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, for which he would become famous in the history of literature.

The girl who inspired the character of Alice in WonderlandLater, thanks to the success of the work, Carroll published a second part, "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There", 1871).

The girl who inspired the character of Alice in WonderlandWhatever role Alice Liddell played as an inspirer of the character, it is undeniable that both books are dedicated to Alice Pleasance Liddell and also at the end of "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There" is an acrostic poem that, taking the first letter of each verse, allows to read the full name of the girl.

That poem has no title in "Alice Through the Looking Glass," but it is usually taken as the title of the first verse, "A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky".

Here is the poem so you can see all the details:

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July--

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear--

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream--
Lingering in the golden gleam--
Life, what is it but a dream?


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