Not only is today Thanksgiving, but it’s also the 150th anniversary of “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. Since its publication on November 26, 1865, the story has spawned many adaptations and retellings. So let us give thanks for this weird and wonderful tale with some of the moments that are decidedly curiouser and curiouser.
When a spiffy rabbit checks his pocket watch and talks.
“…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 fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.”
Alice’s wild and wacky journey is kicked off by following a well-dressed rabbit, who is obviously late for a very important date. You know it’s going to be a crazy ride when a bunny is wearing a waistcoat. Check out the portly hare in this first-ever film version made in 1903.
When Alice drinks a mysterious liquid and shrinks to wee size.
“…this time she found a little bottle on it, ('which certainly was not here before,' said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words 'DRINK ME' beautifully printed on it in large letters.”
Sure, Alice pauses to make sure the bottle is not marked ‘poison,’ but I still wonder if she’s in line for a Darwin Award, since she continues to eat and drink any random thing that crosses her path. Including pebbles that turn into cakes. As a consequence, her size keeps shooting up and down, as it does in this 1995 animated version.
When a bunch of talking animals demand prizes for a non-race nobody won.
“They were indeed a queer-looking party that assembled on the bank—the birds with draggled feathers, the animals with their fur clinging close to them, and all dripping wet, cross, and uncomfortable.”
Queer-looking is an understatement where this freaky bunch from the 1986 “Alice in Wonderland” is concerned. After emerging from the pool of giant-Alice’s tears, they decide to have a Caucus-race (running around in random circles) in order to dry off and then declare everyone the winner. Then they demand that Alice provide prizes. I’m pretty sure these creatures will be showing up in my nightmares, crowding around me, clamoring for comfits.
When Alice almost gets attacked for kicking a lizard through a chimney.
“The poor little Lizard, Bill, was in the middle, being held up by two guinea-pigs, who were giving it something out of a bottle. They all made a rush at Alice the moment she appeared; but she ran off as hard as she could, and soon found herself safe in a thick wood.”
This version of the animals from the 1988 adaptation “Alice” makes the previous ones look downright cute and cuddly. After the Rabbit sends Bill the Lizard to retrieve Alice, she kicks Bill through the chimney. The other animals nurse him back to health, but then chase Alice when they see her. If these freaky skeletal animals were after me, I’d turn into Usain Bolt.
When Alice doesn’t “Just Say No” to what a hookah-smoking Caterpillar is offering.
“The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice. 'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'”
Alice continues to show she’s not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer as she asks a caterpillar for help, and then eats mushrooms given to her by the hookah-sucking larva. A questionable act at any time, but it’s especially foolish when it comes from the low-rent looking caterpillar in this 1983 adaptation.
When a cat with an eerie smile fades in and out of reality.
“I wish you wouldn't keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.'
'All right,' said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.
'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'”
The disappearance the Cheshire Cat is both fun and unsettling in this well-known 1951 Disney version. In the story, the cat tells Alice, “We’re all mad here,” and when she’s all like, “You don’t know me, homie,” he burns her with, “You must be, or you wouldn’t have come here.” Sounds like the best explanation so far for the weirdness of Wonderland.
When Alice crashes a perpetual tea party.
“'Have some wine,' the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. 'I don't see any wine,' she remarked.
'There isn't any,' said the March Hare.
'Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it,' said Alice angrily.
'It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited,' said the March Hare.”
Alice’s entire visit with the Hatter, the March Hare, and the sleepy Dormouse is a jumble of riddles, rudeness, and wordplay. No wonder the poor simple girl flounces off in disgust. And in this 1949 version, the Hatter is a far cry from the potential love interest he is in some of the later versions.
When a grumpy queen demands constant decapitation.
“The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round.”
Alice is on the verge of losing her noggin at several points. And while the Queen in the 2010 version of “Alice in Wonderland” is both funny and funny-looking, her go-to response for basically everything is still “Off with her/his/their head!” Her catch phrase would make a great drinking game ... if you want to end up in the hospital.
When a lawn game is played with unruly live animals.
“The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo: she succeeded in getting its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the hedgehog a blow with its head, it would twist itself round and look up in her face, with such a puzzled expression that she could not help bursting out laughing:”
In this 1999 version of “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice struggles with her drama queen flamingo, but my sympathies are with the poor pink bird. Playing croquet with live flamingos and hedgehogs ranks right up there with the weirdest things Alice experiences in Wonderland.