Sara Bellum
April 27 2010
Image Courtesy of tWo pInK pOSsuMs

Talking rabbits who are always late, Mad Hatter tea parties, a grinning cat: enter the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s classic book of childhood imagination.

Since Alice was published in 1865, readers and critics have wondered about the author’s own state of mind when he created this “other” world in literature. So here’s the question:

Was Lewis Carroll high when he wrote his most famous books?

Alice’s adventures do sound out of the ordinary—and Tim Burton’s extreme take on the book in his new movie is getting people talking. But no evidence exists that supports the idea that Carroll wrote this story under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In fact, Carroll invented most of the Alice stories during a boat trip with a friend and the real Alice and her sisters before he ever put her adventures down on paper. He recited the story aloud as the others on the boating party rowed.

So, where did this idea come from?

Psychiatrists who introduced LSD into our society may have had a hand in starting this rumor—or at least the supporters of the 1960’s LSD subculture did. But in fact, LSD didn’t even exist when Alice in Wonderland was written!  Besides, Lewis Carroll’s writing is much too imaginative and clever to be done by someone on drugs.  He was an inventive man, fascinated by mathematics, puzzles, wordplay and games, some of which appear in his books.

“‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice. That is what the story of Alice in Wonderland invites us to be. Tim Burton explained it this way in a recent interview: “The reason we did something with it is that it’s captured the imagination of people for a very long time. That’s why all those great stories stay around, because they tap into the things that people probably aren’t even aware of on a conscious level.”

Read Alice again, if you’ve already done so as a kid, or see the new movie. Just remember to keep a clear mind so you get the most you can out of the experience. Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton sure did.

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