Alice Liddell 1860, photo cc/Charles Dodgson
The Victorian childhood classic, “Alice in Wonderland”, has been retold in movie themes many times over. The most recent is a glorious confection of visionary technical delights in 3D. But, did you know that Alice was not a figment purely of imagination? Alice was a real girl.
Her name was Alice Pleasance Liddell. And, she was immortalized by Charles Dodgson, aka: Lewis Carroll. Carroll taught mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford. Alice was one of the daughters of the dean of Christ Church. Carroll was shy and a stutterer who was ill at ease among most adults, but reveled in the company of children. Alice was one of his favorites.
There are some wonderful books available chronicling the life of Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson. Here are a few favorites: “The Other Alice” by Christiana Bjork and Inga-Karin Ericksson, “The Real Alice” by Anne Clark and “Beyond the Looking Glass” by Colin Gordon.
Carroll would frequently entertain his young friends with stories, outings and mathematical game puzzles. One day while on a picnic with Alice and some of her siblings they were surprised by a very wet sky. Fleeing for shelter and waiting out the storm Carroll wove a fabrication incorporating themselves, inside jokes and places they knew around and about Oxford. Two years later, through Alice’s encouragement, he presented her with a written copy of this tale as a Christmas gift. We know this story today as “Alice in Wonderland”. To gain insight on the story behind the story and a privileged look into Victorian social history peruse a copy of “The Annotated Alice” compiled by Martin Gardner.
“Alice in Wonderland” was self published. Surprising, isn’t it?
Do you take your children on outings, share nicknames and inside jokes? Do you tell bedtime stories with your child as the heroine? Do you have access to a computer and a camera where the film can be developed on a CD? Hello, Lewis Carroll.
Much like Lewis Carroll you can weave some story telling magic in your Chicago surroundings. Take your child to a forest preserve like Ryerson Conservation Area and learn about the spring flowers and bird migration. Have the flowers come to life and the birds engage in conversation. Spend a day at Brookfield Zoo and retell the tale of the wild beast tamer who devised the ingenious plot to free all the four legged hostages. Trek though Millennium Park and delight in the mad scientist who turns aliens into public monuments. Then publish your own book. You can do it and Lulu or other sites like it can help you self publish.
Can you think of anything better then immortalizing your child in his or her own story? Create a memory. Build your child’s self esteem. Watch joy reflected in the telling of their story. Every child should be the hero in the adventure of his or her own life.