14 Things You Didn't Know About "Alice in Wonderland"

The history behind the fantasy is fascinating.

Alice, the March Hare, the dormouse and the mad hatter at the latter's tea party. From, 'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll. Alice In Wonderland - 1st Edition - pub. 1865 Illustration by J Tenniel
Getty ImagesRischgitz

In 1865, Lewis Carroll self-published his manuscript of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. To celebrate its 150th birthday, we've gone down the rabbit hole to find some fun facts about this beloved children's classic.

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1 Alice was a real girl.
Alice Liddell original Alice in Wonderland 1858: Alice Liddell (1852 - 1934), the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's fictional character Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland'. She is posing as 'The Beggar-Maid.'
Getty ImagesLewis Carroll

She was the daughter of Carroll's boss: Henry Liddell, the dean of Christ Church College at Oxford, where Carroll taught mathematics.

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2 Her siblings inspired the story, too.
Alice, Ina, Harry and Edith Liddell, probably May or June 1860. By, Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge, aka Lewis Carroll (1932-1898).
National Media Museum/Royal Photographic Society/SSPL/Getty Images

Carroll formed a friendship with Henry Liddell, his wife Lorina, and their entire family. (He took this photograph of Alice, Ina, Harry, and Edith Liddell in the summer of 1860.) The little sisters in the Doormouse's story — Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie — are references to their three daughters. Lorina Charlotte's initials became Elsie, Lacie is an anagram of Alice, and Tillie was short for Matilda, a nickname given to Edith.

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3 It was almost "Alice in Elf Land."
Illustration by Sir John Tenniel (28 February 1820 aa 25 February 1914)19th Century Illustration
Getty ImagesJohn Tenniel

It was originally titled Alice's Adventures Under Ground when he gave a handwritten copy to Alice Liddell. By the time it was published, the name had been changed to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But he went through other titles along the way, including Alice's Hour in Elf Land, Alice Among the Fairies, and Alice Among the Goblins.

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4 Lewis Carroll never would have written them down.
1863: English mathematician, writer and photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898).
Oscar Gustav Rejlander/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On a boating trip up the Thames in the summer of 1862, Carroll spun a fantastic tale for Alice Liddell and her sisters. But after that, the kids pestered him to retell the story — Carroll even wrote in his diary about telling "the interminable Alice's adventures." So he eventually wrote the story down and gave it to Alice for Christmas 1864. (The original was half as long as the version later published and didn't include scenes like the Mad Hatter or Cheshire Cat.)

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5 Carroll based the Dodo bird on himself.
Alice in Wonderland and the Dodo bird Lewis Carroll
Getty ImagesJohn Tenniel

At least according to legend: In the book, Carroll alludes to the pivotal boat trip by putting the participants into the story as birds. He was the Dodo, named after his real last name, Dodgson. The author had a documented tendency to stammer, and the story is that he would introduce himself as "Do-do-dogson."

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6 Carroll saw things the way Alice did.
Alice in Wonderland huge trapped in room giant
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In addition to partial deafness and other health complications, Carroll suffered from a rare neurological disorder that causes hallucinations and makes objects appear larger or smaller than they are. The disease wasn't discovered until 1955 by English psychiatrist John Todd. Eventually, it was named or Todd's Syndrome.

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7 The Cheshire Cat climbed a real tree.
Page scanned from an original book dated 1866, this is a colour illustration by John Tenniel from Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'.
Getty ImagesJohn Tenniel

In the garden behind the Liddell home at Christ Church College, Oxford, stands a tree that is said to have inspired the famous feline's perch.

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8 The author's name wasn't Lewis Carroll.
image
Getty ImagesRischgitz

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson started using the pen name in 1856 when he published a romantic poem. It was a play on a Latin translation of his real first and middle names. Other options he gave the editor to choose from: Edgar Cuthwellis, Edgar U. C. Westhill, and Louis Carroll.

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9 It was first made into a movie in 1903.

Directors Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stowe made the story into a 12-minute film, which made it the longest film produced in Britain at the time. Since then, it's inspired more than 50 TV or film adaptations and sequels.

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10 Thank Carroll for phrases like, "Mad as a Hatter."
Alice in Wonderland tea party with Mad Hatter and March Hare
Getty ImagesJohn Tenniel

No, he didn't invent this term for crazy. The phrase, used to describe how hat makers often got dementia from the mercury used in curing felt, had been around since the early 1800s. But Carroll, a marketing genius, popularized — and licensed it. Alice and her friend adorned cookie tins and postage stamp cases. He was the first children's book author to license characters, so his Mad Hatter took on a life of his own.

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11 ... and "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!"
Illustration by Sir John Tenniel (28 February 1820 aa 25 February 1914)19th Century Illustration
Getty ImagesSir John Tenniel

Other notables: "Tweedledee and Tweedledum," "Cheshire Cat grin," and "down the rabbit hole."

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12 Queen Victoria was a fan.
Queen Victoria
Getty Images

After reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Queen Victoria suggested that Carroll dedicate his next work to her. She probably should have been more specific: Carroll was a mathematician, so his next work was An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equations. He presented it to the Queen. One can only imagine her reaction...

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13 They've been banned before.
Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass
Getty ImagesJohn Tenniel

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, were both banned in China in 1931. Why? On the grounds that "animals should not use human language." Go figure.

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14 The book has never been out of print.
Alice in Wonderland Rifle Paper Co
Rifle Paper Co.

Since it was published in 1865, it has been translated into 176 languages. At the time, the book was so popular that its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, sold out within seven weeks of its publication.

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