The Illustrated

Down the Rabbit Hole

 
‘I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’ Alice to the Caterpillar.
 
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For a character so firmly fixed in the popular imagination as a blonde girl in a blue pinafore dress, with a white apron, Alice has undergone more changes than you’d get out of a mysterious bottle with a drink me label.
 
 
It’s a story that no illustrator of note can resist: Mervyn Peake, Mary Blair, Ralph Steadman, Tove Jansson, Helen Oxenbury… And despite the Tenniel Alice being such an icon, it turns out you can do practically anything to her and still something of the essence comes shining through.
 

 
So vivid are the characters and so dizzying is the imagery that surrounds Alice, that you can take the stories right out of their English context and apply them to a vast array of ethnic styles. Below you’ll see examples from Japan, India, Sweden, Egypt and Germany – all totally different but still very much Alice.
 
So join us as we go…
 
 

 

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do. Once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

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There was nothing so very remarkable in that, nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” But when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket and looked at it and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole, under the hedge. In another moment, down went Alice after it!

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time, as she went down, to look about her. First, she tried to make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs.

She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed. It was labeled “ORANGE MARMALADE,” but, to her great disappointment, it was empty; she did not like to drop the jar, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

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Down, down, down! Would the fall never come to an end? There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking to herself. “Dinah’ll miss me very much to-night, I should think!” (Dinah was the cat.) “I hope they’ll remember her saucer of milk at tea-time. Dinah, my dear, I wish you were down here with me!” Alice felt that she was dozing off, when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.

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Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up in a moment. She looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost. Away went Alice like the wind and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner, “Oh, my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!” She was close behind it when she turned the corner, but the Rabbit was no longer to be seen.

She found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof. There were doors all ’round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.

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Suddenly she came upon a little table, all made of solid glass. There was nothing on it but a tiny golden key, and Alice’s first idea was that this might belong to one of the doors of the hall; but, alas! either the locks were too large, or the key was too small, but, at any rate, it would not open any of them. However, on the second time ’round, she came upon a low curtain she had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door about fifteen inches high. She tried the little golden key in the lock, and to her great delight, it fitted!

Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole; she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head through the doorway. “Oh,” said Alice, “how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.”

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Alice went back to the table, half hoping she might find another key on it, or at any rate, a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes. This time she found a little bottle on it (“which certainly was not here before,” said Alice), and tied ’round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words “DRINK ME” beautifully printed on it in large letters.

 

“No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison’ or not,” for she had never forgotten that, if you drink from a bottle marked “poison,” it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later. However, this bottle was not marked “poison,” so Alice ventured to taste it, and, finding it very nice (it had a sort of mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffy and hot buttered toast), she very soon finished it off.

“What a curious feeling!” said Alice. “I must be shutting up like a telescope!”

And so it was indeed! She was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden.

After awhile, finding that nothing more happened, she decided on going into the garden at once; but, alas for poor Alice! When she got to the door, she found she had forgotten the little golden key, and when she went back to the table for it, she found she could not possibly reach it: she could see it quite plainly through the glass and she tried her best to climb up one of the legs of the table, but it was too slippery, and when she had tired herself out with trying, the poor little thing sat down and cried.

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“Come, there’s no use in crying like that!” said Alice to herself rather sharply. “I advise you to leave off this minute!” She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes.

Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it and found in it a very small cake, on which the words “EAT ME” were beautifully marked in currants. “Well, I’ll eat it,” said Alice, “and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door: so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!”

She ate a little bit and said anxiously to herself, “Which way? Which way?” holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way she was growing; and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size. So she set to work and very soon finished off the cake.

More Alice stuff over on pinterest

 

One thought on “Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Pingback: Fantastic Libraries | tygertale

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