Sunday 28 February 2010

The Wonder of Wonderland

When I was growing up there were so many books that I enjoyed, so many authors. I think I’ve read everything by Anne Fine and Roald Dahl, Matilda being a particular favourite. But the novels I liked best of all go back further, novels supposedly for children that I can still read today; novels like The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

If pressed I would have to say that Lewis Carroll was my favourite writer and Alice my favourite character. Wonderland still amazes me, that crazy, topsy-turvy universe that built around a hard frame of logic; a world, surreal before surrealism, which possibly could only have been created a mathematician and an imaginative genius. Carroll was indeed an imaginative genius, the author of some of my all-time favourite quotes;

'But I don’t want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can’t help that,' said the Cat. 'We’re all mad here

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

"'Speak English!' said the Eaglet. 'I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and I don't believe you do either!'"

`Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, `if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'

Well, now that we HAVE seen each other,' said the Unicorn, `if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?'

And I still know the lyrics of the Walrus and the Carpenter after all this time!

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Tim Burton’s new movie Alice in Wonderland premiers here on Friday. I’m so looking forward to it not just because Alice is such a favourite but because I think he is a super director, one with a playful gothic imagination; an imagination just like my own. :-)


  1. "Their shoes were clean and neat--
    And this was odd, because, you know,
    They hadn't any feet."


  2. Hi Ana,
    They are starting to show the movie here in Jakarta. I haven' seen it though.
    After reading your post, I think I will see it.

  3. It is fantastic. :-)

    Try to read the books first, Harry, it won't take that long. They are full of the most fantastic humour, mind games and games with words.

  4. Yes, OC, that's wonderful. There is just so much in the Alice books that makes me smile, that would make anyone who loves the beauty and the absurdity of English idiom smile. :-)

  5. You have to love some of the parts that Depp picks for roles. You never know what you will get from him next. Hate to say this but I have never read Alice in Wonderland. Isn't that pathetic??

  6. MOB, well you have a treat is store. :-)

  7. One of my favourite stories too. Have got to see this. W. H. Auden devised a list in which he divided people into categories of 2 psychological types. Everybody was either an Alice or a Mable.