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I knew that Lewis Carroll had based the character of Alice in Alice in Wonderland on a real, 10-year-old acquaintance, but my brain, after years of washing by Disney pictured her as the blonde, pageant type of their movies. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Life is running an utterly fascinating photo feature on “The Real Alice in Wonderland”, in which they showcase a series of pretty incredible, early photos taken before and around the time Carroll wrote his book. In particular they feature the picture you’re about to see below, in side-by-side comparison with the Disney version. That is an actual photo of the real Alice, taken in 1858 when she was around the age of 6.
Carroll’s Alice looks nothing like the prim, and proper British girl we’re used to. In fact, she looks more like a rough and tumble tomboy. It makes sense. Proper little girls don’t usually wander down rabbit holes. The real Alice’s name was Alice Liddell, the daughter of an eccentric, suttering, mathematics lecturer and friend of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll.
But Disney’s not really to blame for our misconceptions. If you’ve picked up a copy of “Alice” in print, you’ll see some of the original illustrations crafted for the book and those fit with the blonde, wide-eyed, Disney-flavored girl we’re used to. Where exactly that came from remains uncertain, but rumor has it that it was Carroll who provided the illustrator with the photograph he used to come up with this picture:
And here’s where this gets creepy. The thing is, Lewis Carroll hung out with a lot of different kids. He played with them, photographed them… and sometimes the kids were nude. Alright it’s not as bad as it sounds. Apparently this was a pretty common Victorian thing to do, and Carroll did a lot of it. While most seem to think Carroll had Alice Liddell in mind when he wrote the story, the character no doubt contained elements of a lot of different kids. He had plenty to draw from. If you’ve seen Finding Neverland then you know James Barrie had a weird thing for hanging out with kids too. It resulted in some of the era’s best literature. Just think, today’s pedophiles could be tomorrow’s literary masters.
Head over to Life for their complete, in depth, photo analysis of the history of Alice in Wonderland.