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Top 20 Facts You Didn't Know About Alice in Wonderland

How many of these whimsical facts about the classic book Alice in Wonderland did you know? We've put together 20 of the coolest facts all about Alice!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  December 20th 2023

Alice in Wonderland is one of the most famous children's classics of all time. The tale of Alice following the White Rabbit down the hole one summer afternoon is as popular now as it was when it was written over 150 years ago. But how much do you really know about this fascinating book? We've put together 20 top facts you never knew about Alice in Wonderland. Find out all about the author, the real Alice, why it was banned in China and the gross facts behind the Mock Turtle! And if you liked these, you can check out loads more facts here! How about these cool facts about Japanese culture? Or how about these brilliant facts about Vincent Van Gogh? Or perhaps you want to learn all about the gravity defying Isaac Newton!

1. It was written in 1865

The book was published in 1865, in the middle of the Victorian era. It was a time of change and invention, but also a the first time that childhood was seen as something important and distinct. Before then, children were seen as mini-adults, and many of them had to work for a living. Alice in Wonderland was one of the first books written especially for children.

2. Lewis Carroll wasn't the author's real name

Lewis Carroll was actually a pen name for the writer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who was also a professor of Mathematics at Oxford University. He was also an inventor who came up with a stamp organiser, a device to help you read in the dark, and an early version of scrabble!

3. Alice was a real girl

Alice was based on a real life girl, Alice Liddell of Oxford. She and her family were friends with Carroll through her father, who was his boss at the university. Lewis Carroll originally came up with the story whilst trying to entertain Alice and her sisters. Alice in Wonderland is not exactly like Alice Liddell though - and she's also not blonde! The original illustrations by the author show her as having brown hair.

4. It contains lots of mythical creatures

Not only did Lewis Carroll invent lots of creatures like the Jabberwocky, the Cheshire Cat and the Snark, he also included lots of animals and monsters from myths and nursery rhymes, such as the gryphon, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and a unicorn. In addition he added lots of everyday animals and gave them fantastical personalities, like the grumpy caterpillar or the anxious White Rabbit.

5. It coined lots of words

Did you know that Lewis Carroll invented many of the weird words we use today? Yup, in Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, he makes up his own words! These include 'chortle' (laughing), 'galumph' (move clumsily) and 'snark' (to saying something sneeringly). He also coined the phrase 'portmanteau word' meaning a word made of two other words and meanings.

6. John Tenniel illustrated it

The illustrations of Alice in Wonderland are almost as iconic as the book itself. They were created by Sir John Tenniel, who normally did cartoons for newspapers and magazines like 'Punch'. Nowadays you can find his illustrations on almost everything, from tea pots and tea towels to playing cards and children's toys. They might even be more recognisable than the Disney version of Alice!

7. But Lewis Carroll also did his own drawings

Although John Tenniel did the official illustrations, Carroll also drew his own whilst he was working on the book. They show Alice a bit differently, with long dark hair instead of fair. While they aren't as good as the official ones, they add a certain charm to the stories!

8. It has lots of poems

The Alice books are almost as famous for their poems as for their stories. Some of these poems have become so famous people don't even realise they are from Alice in Wonderland! These include You Are Old, Father William, Turtle Soup and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat, and in Alice Through the Looking Glass, Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter. Lots of these poems were actually parodies of well known poems of the day.

9. It uses logic

Alice in Wonderland is often described as a 'nonsense' book that doesn't make sense, but actually lots of the book is about logic. It contains word play, puzzles, puns and parodies, some of the references for which have been lost since it was originally published. For example, when the Mock Turtle talks about learning 'drawling, stretching and fainting in coils' is actually a pun on 'Drawing master' teaching 'drawing, sketches and painting in oils'.

10. Lewis Carroll was a mathematician

One of the reasons there's so much logic in the book is that Lewis Carroll was a mathematician who specialised in algebra. He also taught mathematics, and his pupils recount him using puzzles and riddles to amuse them. Some mathematicians even theorise that scenes in the book, such as the caterpillar, as meant to reference maths.

11. It's never been out of print

Over 150 years after it was first published, Alice in Wonderland is still as popular as it has ever been. It's never been out of print, and it's been translated into nearly 200 languages. Phrases like 'through the looking glass' 'grinning like a Cheshire cat' and 'off with his head!' show that we are just as keen on Wonderland as we've ever been!

12. The Dodo Was Supposedly Based on Carroll

According to some people, the character of the Dodo (whom Alice meets in the caucus race) is based on Lewis Carroll himself. Apparently, the name 'Dodo' was a play on the fact that, due to his stammer, Lewis Carroll would introduce himself as 'Do-Do-Dodgeson' You can also see a human hand sticking out from under his feathers, holding a cane.

13. Some of the weird things in the book are real

Whilst things like talking cats and babies that turn into pigs aren't real, a few of the more unbelievable parts of the story are! This includes mock turtle soup, which was a real Victorian dish! Turtle soup was a popular delicacy at the time, but if you couldn't afford it, you could always make 'mock turtle soup' which used calves meat instead. So although the Mock Turtle wasn't a real animal, the soup was a real food!

14. It was banned in China

It's fair to say that some of Alice in Wonderland is a little bit, well, silly. In fact, during the 1930s, the Chinese government decided that depicting animals talking to humans was not something they wanted people to read about, so they banned the book!

15. It was nearly called 'Alice in Elfland'

Can you imagine? Yup, one of the original title ideas (along with 'Alice's Adventures Underground') was 'Alice in Elfland'. This doesn't really make any sense, since there aren't actually any elves in the book, and we're glad Carroll decided to go with the title that everyone loves so much today.

16. The original manuscript is kept in the British Library

You can still see the original manuscript that Lewis Carroll hand wrote today. It's at the British Library in London, where it is closely guarded! It rarely leaves the museum, except to be exhibited abroad, where it has very tight security!

17. It was one of the first films

Alice in Wonderland was one of the first films ever made - in 1903, a silent version that's only about 9 minutes long (although originally it was 12 minutes). The film uses some brand new special effects techniques to show Alice growing and shrinking, and you can watch all of it for free online!

18. It has a sequel

Although they often get confused with each other, Alice in Wonderland has a sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is all about her time in a world through the mirror. Lots of the characters from that book, such as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Jabberwocky and Humpty Dumpty, are mistaken as being from Alice in Wonderland, but they're actually from this book! Many films like to merge the two stories together.

19. It's been adapted many times

Alice in Wonderland has been filmed many, many times, although some versions, like the 1951 Disney version and the 2010 Disney version, are more famous. There have also been spoofs, spin offs and other stories based on Alice!

20. July 4th is Alice in Wonderland Day

If you want to celebrate all things Alice, you can do on July the 4th, which is known as Alice in Wonderland Day (July 4th being the day that Lewis Carroll originally told the story to Alice Liddell and her sisters). Lots of people celebrate by dressing up, having tea parties and reading the book!